Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The National Convention of the Lutheran Youth Organization

by Nina

It was a surprisingly quiet bus ride from New Orleans Hattiesburg, Mississippi for the National Convention of the Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO). All the young people were wiped from a week in the New Orleans heat and humidity with not very much sleep.

Approximately 200 youth from 41 synods, 50 adults in synodical/LYO leadership, and an assortment of LYO Board members, ELCA Churchwide staff, musicians, and chaplains found themselves on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi for the better part of a week.

We attended workshops and discussion on everything from environmentalism, to church polity, to disaster relief. We spent the better part of a day learning about the Freedom Schools held in Hattiesburg in the summer of 1964. Local residents who had been part of these schools and young people who have been part of their rebirth spoke with us about the Civil Rights movement in their context. (For a powerful peek into the setting of the Freedom Summer - check out the movie The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till.) The young people elected a new board and spent time in worship. They played ultimate Frisbee at 7 AM and had random dance parties during plenary sessions. These young leaders in our church wrote, discussed, and voted on resolutions on issues from humanitarian issues in Darfur to discouraging the use of disposable plastic water bottles. Through all the debates and discussions over issues, I never heard the kind of argumentative and abrasive conduct that happens when adults get together to do these things. I was both relieved and impressed by the peaceful maturity exhibited in the LYO plenary discussions.

I am amazed at how much policy-work was done in the midst of having fun, meeting new people, intense learning experiences, and worship. Well...I'm actually not that surprised - young people are pretty amazing leaders. If only our synod and churchwide assemblies could be this combination of fun, learning, fellowship, and mutual working for justice as Christ's body in the world. We (adults) have a lot to learn from our young people.


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