This Holy Work Is Mission-Critical

The whole church is reminded by the example of our youth that the God who invites us into the full life of Christ gives us the opportunity to share that life with others—with all y'all!

March 18, 2024 |

“For me,” LYO President, Hannah Rochester (First, Greensboro) said, looking out into the faces of over 250 youth filled with expectation and curiosity, “‘Y’all Means All’ is about humanity.”

The Embassy Suites Greensboro meeting rooms were buzzing with energy as this year’s NC Synod LYO (Lutheran Youth Organization) descended upon the city to embrace the deep truth that they were to live in harmony with one another as God in Christ dwells with and within all of us. In fact, the theme verse for the gathering, Romans 15:5-7, encouraged them not only to live in harmony but also to welcome each other, “just as Christ has welcomed humanity,” for the glory of God. (vs. 7)

And welcome they did.

The North Carolina Synod youth understand themselves in kaleidoscopic ways, focusing on the God who calls them into community rather than letting any differences separate them. “We have come here for meaningful conversations that can open our minds to new perspectives, not to be trash talked by our peers for having different opinions,” Hannah said as she led the gathered disciples in this upper room where they had assembled to welcome and learn welcome.

Y’all means “Surely a child shall lead them.”

A safe space was cultivated as attendees leaned into one another with curiosity rather than contempt, with joy rather than judgment. Middle school and high school youth split for the more sensitive conversations with chaplains available. Differences can make living in community difficult, but they are also blessings. Then Acting Bishop, the Rev. CeCee Mills shared in Sunday’s sermon, “God has blessed us with different things. Each one of us has been given a measure of the kingdom of God so that we might take it and have it multiplied before us.”

Even the participants who seemed most timid blossomed and leaned into the atmosphere, following the example of the subject of the sermon, Zacchaeus. “She really was not excited to be there,” an adult leader noted about one of the youth skeptical about coming, “but by the end of the weekend she stopped and talked to me a lot and seemed to really come out of her shell.”

Y’all means creating a safe space for participation.

Questions were welcomed into the large gatherings and were abundant in small group conversations as people explored faith active in a world that prizes trite answers over thoughtful examination. The ever-ready “Questions Box” for anonymous inquiries was ready to receive all thoughtful puzzling, and still, a line formed during the time allotted for Bishop in the Hot Seat, with questions like, “Where is the diversity in the church?,” “Have you ever questioned God?,” and “What do you think eternal life is?”

One of Pastor CeCee’s answers referenced something she’s heard before from Bishop Tim Smith, “There will be days when our faith wobbles and that’s why we have each other.”

Y’all means leaning on one another in our questions.

“I was so impressed by the testimonies and questions,” remarked Angel Owens, the NC Synod Digital Media Strategist who attended LYO for the first time this year. “These youth are deeply curious about theology, concerned for the future of the church, filled with great compassion for humanity, and eager to learn and think critically.”

The strength of LYO in North Carolina comes from the youth themselves. LYO is always youth-planned and youth-led. Adult advisors work hard to create an environment that nurtures and grows faith and develops all youth as leaders. “This is critical to our mission,” Pastor CeCee Mills said, sharing that the church’s pastors and deacons are formed through ministries like LYO.

Y’all, this holy work is mission-critical.

Scripture was welcomed as the center of the gathering as they heard from the Gospel of Matthew to “Let their light shine” (5:14), and from the Gospel of Luke to “Love your enemies” (6:35), and from Paul’s letter to the church at Thessaloniki, “Encourage one another and build each other up.” (5:11) In fact, Scripture saturated the gathering as youth and adults alike were welcomed back to God’s word as a touchstone reminder that the Holy Scriptures support, guide, strengthen, and encourage us in the faith.

God’s word is for Y’all.

As was often repeated throughout the weekend—In the waters of baptism, Y’all means all!—the whole church is reminded by the example of our youth that the God who welcomes and invites us into the full life of Christ gives us the opportunity to share that life with others. All of creation.

All y’all.

This gift of youth growing in leadership, youth experiencing the love of God together, and youth having fun together in God’s name is made possible thanks in part to your gracious Mission Support giving. Thank you!

Story Attribution:

Pastor Timothy J. Brown for the NC Synod


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