Information about the ELCA 2009 Youth Gathering: Jesus, Justice, Jazz

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The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) National Youth Gathering 2009 is going to be held in New Orleans, LA. Cities are normally chosen 6 years in advance. Organizers usually announce host cities 3 years before the date. An announcement was not made this time because they were not sure if New Orleans would be in good enough condition after Hurricane Katrina hit.

After Katrina hit, requests were sent to other cities, but it still seemed that New Orleans was the best option. Two of the organizers went to New Orleans and when they saw the city they asked, “What in the world went through here?”

When they asked this question, they went out into the community and met people who lived in the community. They met Asian families who worked in the shrimp industry, ELCA members, children crammed into trailers that were meant to hold only two people, exhausted pastors, people from the lower North Ward who couldn’t get insurance because of the tradition to simply pass a house down to each new generation, and teachers with dreams for young people.

Most of the people who were met said that if it wasn’t for the church, they would not know where they would be today.

The organizers talked to others who had held large conventions in New Orleans and prayed a lot about the location for the gathering. Looking at the people in New Orleans and seeing the opportunity for ministry, they asked, “Who did Jesus hang out with?”

As Bono of U2 fame has said, “That the scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me. Now it is a source of great comfort.”

The event will be held for only one week, July 22-26, 2009. While it has been traditional since 2000 to have two weeks, the attendance for the gathering has been steadily declining. The ELCA would not be able to afford two weeks with around only a total of 42,000 attending for both weeks.

The organizers expect to have 36,000 youth attending, which is about 1/6 the population of New Orleans. They say that there are further hotels available and will hopefully not have to deny registration to any more than 2,000 youth.

The gathering is going to focus on serving, but that does not mean that youth will be out serving on the street every day. Youth groups will be able to prioritize an interest in serving from these categories and perhaps more – Arts, Housing, Literacy, Health, Wealth, and Environment.  For large groups, it will be able to specify more than one area of interest.

Youth will be led by about 720 young adults. The total participants will be divided into about 6,000 each day. There will be an opening, three days of the gathering, and a closing. Those three days will be “Jesus, Justice, Jazz.” However, those three days may fall in any order.

The first half of the day (morning to noon) will be spent on the “Jesus, Justice, Jazz” portion.

On the “Jesus” day, participants will experience many things through media and music. They are encouraged to wonder, discover, pray, and ask questions about God and the world.

On the “Justice” day, participants will hear stories of people living the experience, be encouraged to meet in their hotel rooms and discuss this, and to go to the interaction center.

On the “Jazz” day, participants will do a project in the community. The area specified as a preference will determine the project. Participants may help Habitat for Humanity build homes, go to an elementary school to host a reading fair, go out to help clean up nature in a safe part of the community. After the project is over, participants are supposed to reflect on the experience. They should ask themselves, “What did you hear?” “Did you find out something about who you are?”

In the afternoons, participants can go to the interaction center, spend time in their hotels taking showers, taking naps, or going for a swim in the pool.

Then in the evenings, there will be a mass gathering of all 36,000 youth and all adult chaperones and volunteers in the dome.

Participants should follow these five points if going to the gathering:

Get Ready
Journey: Jesus, Justice, Jazz (attend the gathering)
Go home and practice compassionate justice.

The ELCA is doing everything they possibly can in order to keep youth safe.

Shuttling will not be available and own transportation will be needed. There will be places to park at the dome. However, the cable cars are running again.

There is a $275 registration fee for participants. Then hotels range from $99-$150 per room per night. Usually four people stay together in one room.

Any youth aged 14-18 or those who have finished 9th grade to those who have finished 12th grade are welcome as participants.

Young adult volunteers start at age 20 and in order to be a “companion,” a young adult must be 21.

For more information, visit the website:

If there are any questions or concerns, those can be e-mailed to

Adapted from the seminar: Information and Conversation about the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering by Heidi Hagstrom


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