Worship at The Gathering
By Pastor Carrie
Every night of the National Youth Gathering, we piled into NRG Stadium with the over 31,000 other youth and adults for Mass Gathering, a kind of worship service to end the day.
Each night would always start with a great D.J. making sure that even though it was the end of the day, we were pumped up and ready. After we danced and got re-energized, we would settle in for speakers who bravely shared their stories every night. We would hear from about five people each night that came from a variety of backgrounds spanning age, race, gender, culture, etc.
We heard about following God’s call from Reverend Tuhina Rasche, a Lutheran pastor who grew up Hindu.
We heard from military chaplains, deacons, and bishops. You could hear a pin drop in that giant stadium as we heard young people share their stories of addiction, eating disorders, and sexual assault.
We heard from Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber, learning that “...there’s a word for when our tears turn into joy, there’s a word for when our own pain is a balm for those who also hurt, there's a word for when our failings are redeemed into something beautiful, and that word, my Lutheran friends, is grace.”
We heard from a young transgender girl and her mother speak about how young people can be the hope of the church and all people.
Our youth were challenged, encouraged, and inspired to go out into the world as their authentic selves.
Between speakers, we witnessed a variety of music and arts. We were led into singing by a house band every night, rapped along with Agape, and crooned with Rachel Kurtz. We heard from a marching band. We got to participate in a full-on rock concert as Tenth Avenue North closed out a night belting out songs about redemption. We watched dancers twirl with lighted capes and express a physical manifestation of their prayers. The crowd lit up the stadium with cell phone lights, and we even started the trend of lighting up water bottles with flashlights, watching with glee as this phenomenon was spread from section to section.
In short, Mass Gathering was a time where we learned that we are loved for exactly who we are, that we are all God’s beloved children, and that we can all have an incredible influence on this world. It was a delight to watch as our youth took these things to heart, and I am excited to see where God leads them.
A few Houston Hiccups faced with positivity from our Youth
By D.J. Chatelaine (Youth Coordinator)
“Houston: we have a problem.” One of the most-quoted movie lines of all time, this reference from Apollo 13 reflects upon our time in Texas. When you’ve got bus problems on the way to and from the Gathering, “Houston: we have a problem.” When you wait in a long line for 2 hours in the scorching heat to get into NRG Stadium for the opening night Mass Gathering, “Houston: we have a problem.”
Yet, for all the problems we faced, the kids and adult leaders were there to roll with them. What’s more, our flexibility turned frustration into laughter and helped us make the most of our time, whether it was lounging in the Texas-shaped lazy river, playing multiple games of floor hockey, learning from our siblings in Christ who were there to share their stories and vocations at various booths and events in the Interactive Learning Center, or by getting the best tacos any of us have ever eaten (beef tongue is worth a try).
As this was my first meaningful time spent with the kids, I was impressed with their maturity in dealing with our problems and willingness to engage in all the Gathering experience had to offer. In doing so, they modeled a Mass Gathering idea that “God’s Grace Changes Everything.” Having the patience to trust things would work out in time, they had a grace-filled outlook, in thanking stadium workers, partnering with a Virginia Beach Church and the staff at Kashmere High School on our service day, and really not complaining about any of the hiccups that occurred. Knowing things wouldn’t be perfect, they showed that when we do have a problem, God’s Grace is there to not only get us through, but to also impact our neighbors in ways we could not imagine.