The Youth Gathering of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will return to New Orleans in 2012, after being held there in 2009. Returning to a host city consecutively is unprecedented in the history of the triennial ELCA Youth Gatherings, according to Heidi Hagstrom, director for youth gatherings, ELCA Vocation and Education. The gathering will take place July 18–22, 2012.
Recognized as the largest event organized by the 4.6-million-member denomination, the ELCA Youth Gathering brings together tens of thousands of high-school-age Lutherans from across the country and overseas for leadership development, faith formation, service opportunities, and more.
In the summer of 2009 approximately 37,000 Lutheran teenagers, adult leaders, and others gathered in New Orleans not only to paint and make home repairs but to learn about and experience the faith of people who live there. Residents of New Orleans and other communities along the U.S. Gulf Coast continue to recover more than four years after Hurricane Katrina.
"I don't think that we have learned all we can from New Orleans yet," Hagstrom said. "New Orleans has so much to teach us about practicing God's hospitality. By paying attention to the spirit's activity in and through New Orleanians, I think we get a glimpse of God's intention for the whole world."
The announcement for the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering and preceding leadership events was made February 7 at the ELCA Youth Ministry Network's Extravaganza. The Extravaganza is an annual four-day event that brings together hundreds of adults who work with youth in ELCA congregations. The event took place February 4–8 at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, N.C.