Category Archives: Updates

Rise Up Together – Day 6

Our group woke up this morning looking forward to today’s closing worship service, during which we would be part of the largest Lutheran congregation on the planet. 30,000 people gathered to praise God, hear the word preached powerfully by our presiding bishop, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, and receive the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Bishop Eaton’s message focused on the call for us to praise God in the midst of adversity and struggle, and to see God’s power and presence revealed in places of hopelessness and despair. She spoke of the Spirit’s movement among the people of Detroit and our participation in the Spirit’s on-going work of resurrection and renewal, and she called us to bring the news and hope of Christ’s transforming power to our homes and communities.

The service ended with the announcement that the next ELCA Youth Gathering will be held June 27-July 1, 2018, in Houston, Texas, and a thank you to Heidi Hagstrom, who has served as the director of the Gathering since 1994.


Following worship, we traveled back to Cobo to catch a bus to our hotel, where we would be picked up by Pastor Andrew’s father for a tour of the city and a barbecue at Pastor Andrew’s family home in Northwest Detroit.

A relaxing afternoon, including dinner, a walk through the neighborhood, and some games, served as a nice wrap up to the day. We enjoyed our last evening together in the hotel, and got ourselves packed for the return trip home, beginning with our 5:00 am shuttle to the airport.

We are grateful for the experiences we had during this trip, and look forward to sharing more stories about our time in Detroit soon!

Rise Up Together – Day 5

Another day, another great time at the ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit. On Saturday, we joined with 10,000 other Gathering friends to “Proclaim Community” as we explored the interactive learning and service activities at the Cobo Center.

The day began again with worship (with Holy Communion) featuring great music by Rachel Kurtz and *Agape. Following worship, we got to work checking out Cobo in more detail. Some of the activities we did together included walking an exhibit chronicling the plight of Central American refugees fleeing to the United States and other countries; making fleece hats for local shelters and schools;



painting board art that will be used to cover windows in abandoned houses; hanging out with Sophia Weinert, who was in town volunteering with the Gathering; and posing for a picture as participants in the Last Supper.


One of the highlights of the day was helping with a service project sponsored by Lutheran Campus Ministry. Throughout the three full days of the Gathering, groups were able to sign up to work an hour at a time to frame up walls for four houses that would be built for low-income families. At the end of the day, our group was invited to help get those wall segments prepared for loading and transport. Here we are in action:




We had a chance to sample some delicious Detroit – style pizza (recommended by Pastor Andrew), and everyone agreed that it was great!


Evening found us making our nightly trek back to Ford Field for Mass Gathering, this time featuring the following speakers:

Rozella White, the director of the ELCA’s Young Adult Ministry, who spoke poignantly about her struggle with anxiety and depression and her conviction that these and other challenges must be faced openly and honestly because they are part of our identity as people created in the image of God and loved by God.

Kyle Larson, former Young Adult in Global Ministry in Mexico City, who talked about how God meets us in the places where “the real world” and the “ideal world” intersect, and about how our past doesn’t need to define us because Christ has broken the chains that hold us back.

Veronika Scott, the 24-year-old CEO of the Empowerment Plan, a company employing people from homeless shelters to help create stability in their lives and provide them with tools for continued employment and improvement.

Marian Wright Edelman, a civil rights pioneer and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, who spoke passionately about the cause of childhood poverty and the call for young people to be active in addressing the problems that face our society, such as racism, hunger, poverty, sexism, and political apathy.

The evening closed with a performance by Skillet, a popular Christian rock group that brought the whole arena to its feet.



After our nightly devotions, we headed to bed to prepare ourselves for the last day of Gathering and our final full day in Detroit. We continue to give thanks for your prayers, support, and interest in our trip.

Rise Up Together – Day 4

Good morning, everyone!

On Friday we had a chance to explore the city a bit before we gathered with our Synod for our “Proclaim Story” Day.

We arrived downtown around 8:20 and slipped into worship with several hundred of our new friends. After receiving communion and a great message from a local pastor, we spent some more time around Cobo Hall checking out the interactive learning center.

When 11:00 rolled around, we decided to head out for an early lunch, which we found at Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Greektown. We all enjoyed a great meal, and then headed back to Cobo. On the way, we made a quick stop at the GM Building (also known as the Renaissance Center) to check out a new Corvette and a Silverado pickup.

Proclaim Story was our opportunity to gather as a Synod to explore how our individual stories are woven into God’s Story revealed in Scripture. We made personal time lines of high and low points in our lives, heard the story of the healing of a paralyzed man from three different perspectives, and placed ourselves into the story by imagining how we have been like various people in the narrative.


At 4:00, our guys wanted to do some work to help out the community, so they headed to the Lutheran Campus Ministry build site in Cobo Center to help frame walls that will become part of new homes around the city.





Then it was time to make the walk to Ford Field for Mass Gathering. It was busy downtown with the Tigers in town and scheduled to play a game against the Orioles beginning at 7:08, but we all got along together and made it to the Field. Once inside, we grabbed dinner at a concession stand and climbed up to the second deck for a different view of the evening’s festivities.



Tonight’s speakers included:

Rani Abdulmasih, a Palestinian Christian pastor serving two Arabic – speaking congregations in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, which boasts the largest population of people of Arab descent outside the Mideast. Pr. Abdulmasih talked to us about the need to be bridge-builders in our communities, using the “dynamite” of the Gospel to break down barriers that divide.

Sarah Funkhouser, who served in Israel – Palestine with the Young Adults In Global Mission program of the ELCA. She spoke about how seeing God through the eyes of others helps to expand our vision of who God is for us and for the world.

Steve Jerbi, a pastor in Milwaukee who spoke of the tragedy surrounding the racially-motivated murder of a 12 year old boy in his congregation, the call to name the evil of racism, and the power of Jesus’ presence and name to transform us and our world.

The powerful speakers were surpassed only by the amazing music that we heard throughout the evening. It started with *Agape, a Lutheran – Christian rap/hip-hop artist. It continued with Royal Tailor, an eclectic band that brought songs of praise to the arena.

None of that could have prepared us for what came near the end of the evening. The highlight of the night was a surprise performance by the Motown All-Stars, a group made up of four Motown legends – original members of the Temptations, the Miracles, and the Capitols.


The place was absolutely nuts as thousands danced and sang along to classic Motown hits from the Temptations, Diana Ross, and the Jackson Five. All of us agreed that it was an incredible experience that we’re not likely to forget.

The Mass Gathering ended with a stirring performance calling us to reach out in love and bridge the gaps that divide us from one another. During the song, hundreds of people descended to the floor carrying lighted orbs that eventually formed a powerful image in the midst of the crowd.




Once the Mass Gathering was done, the party wasn’t over. We poured into the streets and followed the route to our buses that had been prepared for us. With most of the streets we walked closed down for our trip through downtown, we basically had a huge party in the streets, a party joined by fans and residents who sang and cheered and danced with us as we made our way toward the Detroit Riverfront. It was a lot of fun!



Great devotions closed out our day, and we went to sleep looking forward to a whole day of proclaiming Community at Cobo Center and our final evening Mass Gathering.

Rise Up Together – Day 3

Sorry for the delay, but yesterday was so exhausting that it has taken a while to collect my thoughts.

For Day 3, our group was assigned participate in the first Proclaim Justice projects. This day was our time to scatter throughout the city and serve alongside the people of Detroit. Unfortunately, the day broke with ominous news from elsewhere in the Detroit metro area. A fatal car accident involving a pedestrian shut down a large section of I-96, a major freeway that runs from downtown through to the northwestern suburbs. As a result, many of the buses that were scheduled  to transport us to our work sites arrived extremely late, throwing the morning into confusion.

The traffic problems, combined with other unforseen circumstances, led to heavy delays in everyone’s projects and, eventually, the cancelation of projects for the last 50 bus loads of participants – including ours.

Again, our guys handled the long delay (over 4.5 hours) in the sun with amazing patience, and we determined to make the best of our day. We headed up to American Coney Island, one party to a decades-long rivalry between restaurants located directly beside each other and owned by a pair of brothers. The dispute: who has the best Coney Dog in Detroit. We sampled America’s contribution to the debate – hot dogs covered with chili, mustard, and diced onions – and thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

After lunch, we returned to Cobo Center, stopping to take pictures of the famous Fist of Joe Louis sculpture  and Spirit of Detroit statue.



We jumped on the Detroit People Mover, an elevated train that runs in a loop around downtown Detroit, and had a nice chat with some folks from North Carolina. After we got back, we spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out around Cobo until it was time to head to Ford Field for Mass Gathering.

We got great seats on the floor of the arena, and the guys had a great time joining the conga lines and dancing.


The speakers included Natasha T. Miller, a poet who offered a passionate and raw reflection on the city of Detroit; Kris Ailabouni, who spoke of her time with the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission program in Madagascar, time she spent lwarning about others’ experiences of poverty and the way that those same people committed to bearing burdens for one another; the Rev. Dr. Eric Barreto, who reminded us that diversity is a God-given gift to be celebrated and enjoyed; and Alexia Salvatierra, a pastor, preacher, and advocate for justice who proclaimed her convictiom that bearing the burdens of others- particularly immigrants fleeing danger and violence – is our call, and that being disconnected from one another is evidence of disease in the body of Christ. Near the end of our gathering, a Puerto Rican singer named Blanca rocked the house, sharing her message that each of us are strong, beautiful, and enough in the eyes of God.

We headed back to our hotel for devotions and some time to hang out before we turned in for the night.

Look for the entry about Friday, when we spent time with our Nebraska Synod brothers and sisters to “Proclaim Story” on Saturday..

Rise Up Together – Day 2

Good morning, everyone! Wednesday was an eye-opening day for our youth, as more participants from all over the country (and the world) continued to arrive in Detroit for the Gathering. Our day started with another transportation delay, this time having to do with our shuttle downtown. I don’t envy the job that the Gathering Team has trying to coordinate the movements of 30,000 people throughout a major American city! Once again, our group spent the time chatting and getting to know people from other groups (shout out to the folks from Harrisburg (PA), Greensboro (NC), and Jacksonville (FL)). Around 11:00 we hit the road for the Cobo Center, where we were treated to views like this:


The guys found the sports activity area pretty quickly and spent much of the day there, which was fine because many of the educational exhibits weren’t open yet.

Around 4:30, we headed toward Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, where we will meet up all together each evening for Mass Gathering.


Once we got ourselves inside and found our seats, we got a look at the stage for that evening’s events.


The house was rocking, with a performance from Lost and Found, and the amazing house band leading us in song. We had a great time getting ready for the evening speakers who included the following:

The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, and the Rev. Dr. Donald Kreiss, Bishop of the Southeast Michigan Synod, welcoming us to Detroit.

An unnamed young woman sharing a poetic reflection on the question “Why?” and how we might answer it in our own lives.

Mikka McCracken, ELCA World Hunger, sharing her conviction that ending hunger and poverty is possible because we worship a God of abundance and possibility.

The Rev. Dr. Luke Powery, Duke Divinity School, preaching powerfully about the “end” of Mark’s Gospel and our call to be “resurrection revolutionaries” who will not remain silent in the face of the problems that face our society and world.

The Mass Gathering ended with an incredible performance from Detroit’s famous “Selected of God” Gospel Choir (featuring Lutheran rap/hip-hop artist *Agape).

We hit the streets again to get to our hotel shuttles, arriving back in Sterling Heights around 11pm just in time for our Final 15 devotions and some instructions for Thursday’s “Proclaim Justice” day. We’ll see what today brings as we continue to Rise Up Together.

If you’re interested in checking out a Mass Gathering, they are available to view live online. Find a link at Music starts at 6pm CDT, and speakers begin shortly after 7!

Rise Up Together – Day 1

Early this morning, after months of preparation, seven members of the STSX3 Group began our journey to the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering, being held this year in Detroit, Michigan.

The fun began at 2:00 am when we gathered at St. Paul’s to load up our vehicle (graciously lent to us by Jan and Terry Lotter).


After a word of prayer and our last goodbyes, we hit the road for Kansas City, where we would board our first flight bound for Atlanta, Georgia.


Once we made it to the ATL, things got interesting. Two delays pushed our depature back from 9:50 to 12:50.



Then, after boarding the plane and heading for the runway, another mechanical failure forced us to turn around and return to the gate, where we sat for over an hour. Finally, around 2:30, we took off for Detroit, arriving around 4:15 – after we were just minutes from being diverted to Milwaukee.

When we got into Detroit, we definitely felt the love!


The city is ready to welcome us and to work with us this week. The people we’ve met so far couldn’t be nicer or more open about the city they love, and it has been a real gift to hear their stories.

We finally got to our hotel about 5 1/2 hours after we were scheduled to arrive. We checked into our rooms and the Gathering (thanks to volunteers Tom and Donica from Northeast Kansas!), then grabbed dinner at a restaurant across the street from the hotel, before settling in for a relaxing evening.

It has been a very trying day, but the group handled it with remarkable patience and grace, and we are looking forward to meeting more of our brothers and sisters from across the ELCA tomorrow as the Gathering officially starts.

For more info on our trip, stay tuned to our Facebook page ( or follow Pr. Andrew (@achavy007) or St. Paul’s (@FCSaintPauls) on Twitter. You can also watch either FB or Twitter using #RiseUpELCA.

Good night, Falls City! STSX3 signing off from the Motor City.

Scripture in Worship – The Narrative Lectionary

This past Sunday, Pastor Andrew announced that St. Paul’s will be making a change to our Sunday worship services, specifically regarding our use of Scripture in worship.

Most “mainline” Christian congregations in the United States have adopted a set of prescribed Scripture readings for Sunday mornings. The vast majority of those congregations have adopted the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year cycle of texts drawing each week from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Gospels, and other New Testament material each week. To achieve that goal, each Sunday has three appointed texts (along with a Psalm text chosen to respond to the first reading, which is generally from the Old Testament). These different readings sometimes connect thematically, but in many instances they don’t, and the result is that significant portions of the Scripture read in worship receives no comment during the weekly sermon.

In an effort to use Scripture differently and reacquaint people with the broad narrative sweep of the Scriptures, a group of scholars at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, have developed an alternative series of readings called the Narrative Lectionary. This lectionary allows congregations to focus on one primary preaching text each Sunday, and moves more or less sequentially through the Biblical narrative over the course of the nine-month “program year” (September through the Day of Pentecost, most often in May). During that time, the preaching texts are drawn from the following parts of Scripture:

September – Advent III: Old Testament
Advent IIII – Easter – Gospel
Easter II – Pentecost: Acts/New Testament Letters/Revelation

The Narrative Lectionary features a four-year cycle of texts, allowing each Gospel’s unique voice to heard throughout the year. This year we begin again with Year 1, and dwell with the Gospel of Matthew. During those weeks in which the primary preaching text is from somewhere other than Matthew, an accompanying reading from that gospel will be read to support (but not replace) the preaching text.

This will be a noticeable change in our worship services, but we hope that it will be a welcome change as well. The decision to move forward with this transition was made after conversation with the Worship and Music Committee and the Congregation Council. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Pastor Andrew. We look forward to exploring God’s story together this year at St. Paul’s using the Narrative Lectionary, beginning this Sunday, September 7, when we reflect on the flood and the promise of God that follows.

Journey to Jersey: Day Eight

As of this writing, our group is driving down Highway 50 toward Syracuse. It is great to be back in Nebraska, and we have stories to tell of the amazing people we met and accompanied, the friends we made, and the things we learned about serving in Christ’s name.

Today, we thanked our bus drivers, especially Al, Allen, Ron, and Kevin, who drove us all the way from Nebraska to New Jersey and back again. Their flexibility and concern for our group and the experience our youth would have was simply amazing. If you ever need to travel long distance by charter bus, Windstar Lines out of Lincoln is second to none.

We also thanked our planning team, our bus leaders, and everyone who made this trip such a memorable experience.

Most especially, we thank God for the incredible privilege of being called and claimed in the waters of baptism and sent out by the power of the Holy Spirit to be the body of Christ for the sake of the world. So often we are brought up short by questions of meaning and purpose. We wonder if our lives can truly make a difference for this suffering world. But then we are reminded of the words of Scripture and the heritage we have received as Lutheran Christians: that because of the grace we have received in Jesus Christ, we are freed from sin and death, freed for lives of loving service to God and neighbor, freed to joyfully do God’s work with our hands. May that lesson be the lasting legacy of this Journey to Jersey, and may our experiences guide us to see opportunities each day to go out with good courage, knowing that the Holy Spirit is always there to grant us strength, endurance, wisdom, and grace unbounded. Thanks be to God for those indescribable gifts. Amen.

Journey to Jersey: Day Seven

After our final day of service in New Jersey, today was the first of our travel days back to Nebraska. It was also a day to say “thank you” to all the people who made our stay in the Garden State so great. We were blown away by the hospitality of the folks at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, who opened their doors to our group and served us hot, nutritious, and delicious meals. Our lunches the first day were provided by the fine people of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Lakewood. All our opportunities to serve were coordinated by our partners on the ground, chief among them being the staff of Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey.

Besides the “thank yous,” it was a solid day of traveling. We passed the time by napping, watching movies, playing games (like our paper airplane contest, which included all six buses and was dominated by our very own Bus 5), and enjoying the company of both new and old friends.

We’ve had a great trip, but I think we’re all looking forward to the familiar surroundings of home and “the Good Life”. It has been a privilege to serve, and it will be a joy to share our experiences with the people of St. Mark’s, St. Peter’s, and St. Paul’s. Thanks again to you for your prayers, support, and the opportunity to make a difference for the people of New Jersey.

Journey to Jersey: Day Six

Today our group got to do something a little different. After two days of canvassing neighborhoods, we jumped on the bus to head up to Crossroads Retreat Center and Camp (CRC) in Pleasant Grove, NJ. The trip took about 2.5 hours, including the time we spent recovering from a wrong turn, another detour required by a bridge that was too low for our bus, and a detour that turned into a stop when we stumbled upon a school in the middle of a fire drill and were asked to park while the students were gathering in the parking lot.

Once we finally arrived, we got right to work with various projects around the camp. Hurricane Sandy knocked down over 1,000 trees on the camp’s property, so a group of us spent time clearing downed limbs and trees, while taking breaks to rehydrate.



Other groups worked on painting and staining projects, moving rocks, and raking leaves. After grabbing sack lunches supplied to us by CRC and hastily changing in shifts on the bus, we headed back south to Seaside Heights, where all 315 of us showed our support for the citizens of New Jersey by singing “Lean on Me” flash-mob style. It was quite an experience for all of us!

Once we got back from the beach, we grabbed our last dinner in NJ and got try for closing worship. With music by singer Dez Childs, expressions of thanks from our partners in NJ, a great message from Bishop Brian Maas, stories shared by trip participants, and the chance to share the Lord’s Supper, it was a great evening.

Now we pack our things and prepare for our return to Falls City. Our time in New Jersey has been a blessing to us all, and we pray that we have been able to bless others in return. We look forward to sharing our stories with you soon. Thank you again for your generous support and your heartfelt prayers for all of us who made this Journey to Jersey.