Friday, August 13, 2010

Volunteering at the Youth Gathering

It's sermon writing time. Which, naturally, means I'm doing other things. What I've been doing most recently is checking out the website of the Community Life team from the ELCA Youth Gathering which was held in New Orleans in 2009. It's an every three years event, so the next Gathering is coming up in 2012 and, since the planners of the event believe that there is still a lot that needs to be done there, and a lot of good that 35,000 ELCA youth can do there, it is being held in New Orleans again.

When the 2006 Gathering, which was held in San Antonio, was gearing up I was in my senior year of seminary. I knew that there was no way I would graduate seminary, get a call in a congregation and be able to go with a church to the Gathering, but I also knew that there was no way I wanted to miss it. I knew that I HAD to be there. So I started looking for ways to be involved, and thinking back to my trip in 2000 to the Gathering in St Louis. I remembered the people who were at the hotel we stayed at, who were part of what was called the Hotel Life team. They were there as hospitality, making sure that we knew what was going on and where we were supposed to be and that there were friendly, smiling faces waiting for us at the hotel. I thought that I could definitely do that, so I applied.

Well, they were now called Community Life and their responsibilities were quite a bit larger than what I had previously thought. Not only were they friendly, smiling faces offering hospitality, but they were putting on all sorts of fun events like dances and karaoke and inflatable games and mechanical bulls, as well as concerts and worship services... All sorts of awesome stuff!

So at the Gathering in San Antonio I was part of the Community Life team. I was assigned to one of the hotels on an outlying property where you had to take a shuttle bus to get to the main convention center. I was a little disappointed at first, but those were two very fun and exciting weeks. Because we were in an outlying hotel and there were no evening activities scheduled there, our team was pretty small. The first week (in San Antonio it was still split into two weeks, this past Gathering in New Orleans they went back to one, large week) there were just two of us. Nick, my teammate, and I had a blast. We did everything together. We saw all of the church groups off in the morning as they boarded the shuttle buses, and then we'd hop on the last one and ride to the convention center. While we were there we'd walk around the Interaction Center and see all of the fun activities and booths that were set up. We'd go downstairs to the Community Life central office and joke and goof around with the people there. We'd go see the speakers and musicians that were performing. And then we'd get back on a shuttle bus and go back to our hotel to be around in the evening for any people that showed up. The second week, Nick and I both stuck around, and we added a third member to our team.

As the 2009 Gathering grew nearer, and I was now serving in a congregation, I began to wonder how I would be involved. Would I be able to volunteer for Community Life again? Or would I be expected to take a group? As I talked to my senior pastor about it, I had hoped that I could volunteer and have other adults lead the group there. But in our conversation we agreed that, since I had never been in charge of a group at a Gathering, it would be a good experience for me to go in that capacity. And it was a great experience. I had a blast with the kids and the other adult from my congregation that went. It was an amazing experience for everyone involved. But I do have to admit that there was a little twinge of regret that I was not able to be a part of the Community Life team. I had really enjoyed my time in 2006 and would have greatly loved to be a part of it again in 2009.

But now, 2012 is not that far away. There is a little less than two years to go before it gets here. I will have the experience under my belt of leading a group there. Perhaps I'll be able to volunteer again and this time be a hotel pastor, maybe even leading worship services there and presiding at communion... Who knows?!!?

For more information about the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans go here and check it out!! If you are interested in volunteering, too, keep checking that site. I think applications start being accepted about a year beforehand, and there are all sorts of ways to be involved and volunteer. Who knows, maybe I'll see you there... maybe we'll even be on the same team!

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