Eleven year old Rebekah Bruesehoff stood in front of 30,837 youth, adult leaders, volunteers and shared her story of transitioning to female. Rebekah was born a male. She is an advocate protesting for equal rights for all. This 11 year stood with such confidence; more confidence than many adults I know and proclaimed the promises found in the gospel: “Love one another.” Rebekah created a wave of hope as we all texted a friend the words “May God hold you in the grip of grace.” 30000 plus cell phone lights lit up and illuminated NRG stadium.
Rebekah, her mom Jamie, Tuhina, Nadia, and so many of the speakers were attacked because of their messages. Yet their messages are messages this church desperately needs and needed to hear. These messages proclaim the gospel as they speak the truth in love and call us to be a better church.
Approximately 31,000 youth, adults, etc heard that they were loved; that they are welcomed in this church. Approximately 31,000 individuals served in various ways throughout the city; being the hands and feet of Jesus. And these same individuals worshipped together as we lifted our voices to the Lord. It is these moments and so many more that continually give me hope for our church.
Yet the world is still full of people who believe that we are a church that doesn’t proclaim the gospel. They need to take a closer look because the truth is we are a church that is working hard to embody the words “all are welcome here!” We are a church that I am willing to stand up for until the day I did. In the words of Martin Luther, “Here we stand. I can do no other.”
The ELCA Youth Gathering is a powerful witness to what it means to live as the body of Christ. It is a place where truly all are welcome. It is a place where two or three or 30000 are gathered in Christ’s name. It is a place that teaches us to truly listen to those who are different than us. It is a place where the Holy Spirit is completely evident!
Rebekah reminded us of this incredible witness and hope as she proclaimed, “We don’t have to wait until we are all grown up to make an impact. We can be hope for the church and for all people. They need us.” She is right. This church is hope!
So to Molly Beck Dean, the whole gathering team, and all others, thank you! Thank You for creating an incredible event. Thank You for choosing speakers that cause us to ponder and maybe even challenge our own views. Thank You for creating hope for the future. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
(And to those who constantly feel the need to attack our church, look again! This church/my church and especially our youth are a gift in this broken messed up world. Honestly, you’ve got nothing on us!)