National Youth Gathering recap

We’ve returned – pretty tired but grateful for inspiring experiences and new friends.  I regret that I only updated you on the trip once – we were out and about for l-o-n-g days and kept busy, busy!  Here’s a recap of the fun we had –

Each day began with us boarding the shuttle at the hotel that would take us downtown.  Once downtown, we typically camped out the Cobo Center which was FILLED with activities and learning opportunities and all sorts of things to explore.  There was no way we could see it all!  We spent one afternoon with the other churches in our synod, exploring how our stories are a part of God’s story. 

   

  

  

    
   
Another day, we gathered with 10,000 other youth in orange shirts to get ready for our day of service.  Each group was assigned a servant leader and a bus; once we were aboard the bus with the other churches in our group, we received our service assignment.  It was our pleasure that day to go to seven different hotels and collect diapers.  Diapers were one of the offering items which many churches brought with them to Detroit.  They put them in a specified room in their hotel and then we came to collect them.  Once collected, we dropped them off at the service agency which will distribute them.  All together, the youth gathering donated over HALF A MILLION diapers!  There were mountains of them!  What an impact.  (This video will show you a glimpse of those mountains!) 

    
 Each day ended at Ford Field for the mass gathering.  Here we heard speakers and musicians each night.  (Check out the youtube page for links to some of the speakers.  This was one of our favorites.  So was this music performance.)  Each night corresponded with a them for the day – bear burdens, build bridges, break chains, and bring hope.  We walked away feeling inspired and called to make a difference as leaders in the world.  

  After Ford Field, we walked a mile in a giant mass of youth to our shuttle buses that would take us back to our hotels.  We often didn’t return to the hotel until 11:30/midnight.  It made for long, long days but days filled with great experiences.

We left Detroit following closing worship on Sunday (where we learned that the 2018 gathering will be held in Houston) and arrived home about 2am Monday morning.  Once our youth catch up on the some sleep, they’ll be excited to share all that they learned and experienced.  Stay tuned for a special worship service in which they will share their trip with you!  Thank you for your prayers and your support of our time in Detroit!

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#riseupELCA

We are here in Detroit for the ELCA National Youth Gathering – exploring, worshipping, serving, and meeting new friends for the week. Thus far, it’s been full of joy and learning and lots of fun! (Please excuse the lack of blog posts this far. Lack of wifi and lack of sleep have contributed!)

We arrived last Monday night after a full day on the bus. We checked into our hotel and settled in for the night. The next day, we explored the Detroit Zoo and the Ford Rouge Factory. The zoo was super fun, watching 4D movies and watching the penguins eat.  At the Ford factory, we walked above the actual assembly line and watched windshields and doors being put on each vehicle. Several youth said they could have stayed there and watched for much longer than we were actually there. It was fascinating!

On Wednesday evening, the gathering officially began with our first mass gathering at Ford Field. But first, before that, we saw Canada (Just across the river from Detroit, to the south, is Windsor, Canada.) and rode the People Mover, a small monorail-like tram that circles downtown. We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, explored a little, and soon headed to Ford Field. The youth are super into meeting new people, handing out high fives, and exchanging ‘swag’ (buttons, clothespins, etc).  

    
   
At Ford Field, we heard from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton who reminded us that, though some people have called Detroit a forsaken place, those are the places where God is.  God is here. 

We also heard a young woman who works for ELCAWorld Hunger who challenged us to think about how we can change the systems that lead to poverty and hunger insecurity. She was super passionate and inspirational!  The mass gathering last night ended with a gospel choir. Super awesome. 

   
    
 There is more to report (and supper to eat before tonight’s mass gathering) but until I’m able to post again, I say this: We have been SO impressed with Detroit. We are so welcomed.  They are awesome at engaging us in conversation and returning our high fives.  The people of Detroit have embraced us and love that we are here.  We love being here too.

We’re back!

In the past couple months, we’ve encountered a few website … er … challenges but we’re back online with some improvements!  Check out the latest issue of the LOG, a revised method for online giving, and even a couple new photos using the tabs at the top.

In other news, we’re deep into the season of Lent in the church year.  The season of purple and the season that guides us to Easter morning and the empty tomb.  Do you have any Lenten practices?  Do you give something up or take on a spiritual practice?  An interesting list is making the rounds – 40 Things to Give Up for Lent.  What do you think?

Another conversation happening at Red Oak Grove is that of faith formation.  How can we best help our young people grow in faith and in community at church?  We keep talking about it; if you want to join the conversation, please, we welcome you!  Here is another interesting article about young people and church. (It is blunt and one person’s opinion … but perhaps raises some important questions.)

We’re also pretty excited about our Lenten service project at Red Oak Grove.  We’re collecting coins each Sunday in our noisy coin bucket.  The coins collected will go to an organization that provides meals both locally and internationally.  These are packed meals of rice, dehydrated veggies, and other good stuff that can be easily made by anyone, needing only water and stove.  The really exciting part of this service project is that once all of our money is collected, we get to help pack the meals together!  Everyone will be invited to be hands-on in feeding our neighbors.  Stay posted for the pack date (which will be located in Austin).

I think that catches you up to speed on a few of happenings at Red Oak Grove.  We’re happy to have our online presence restored and glad you welcome us back!

Lent is here.

I can hardly believe it.  Lent began late this year and yet it seems to have snuck up on us as it always does.  Please consider joining us for special Lenten and Easter services —

Wednesdays [beginning tonight!]: Supper at 5:30, Worship at 6:45

Palm Sunday, April 13th, 9am worship

Maundy Thursday worship [with First Communion for some of our youngsters], April 17th, 7pm

Good Friday service at First Lutheran in Blooming Prairie, 12pm

Easter Morning: Services at 7 & 9am with a breakfast in between

PS: Here are the daily devotions written by members of ROG.  A big thank you to all who shared their faith in such a way!

Lenten Devotional

It’s hard to believe that the season of Lent is just around the corner. Here at Red Oak Grove that means Wednesday night worship, burying our alleluias, and journeying together in faith in some unique ways. This year, part of that means our very own devotional, written by Red Oak Grove people for Red Oak Grove people (and anyone else who wants to read along with us)!

Last night, the confirmation students worked hard on their devotions to be included in the booklet. Other entries continue to roll in via email and USPS. I am so very excited to read what people write about their own faith journeys.

Maybe you’re excited too? I want to extend an invitation for you to join us in this “growing in faith” exercise. Would you like to read the devotions to guide you through the season of Lent? If you attend worship, booklets will be available for pick up early in March. However, if you aren’t near enough to pick one up yourself, we would love to offer a digital version. Want the devotion delivered to your email? Send us an email (officerog@gmail.com) and tell us that you want to be on the Lenten devotional email list. We’ll get you a copy as soon as they are ready!

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Fill the Cart November!

In the month of November, we asked you to fill the shopping cart in the narthex … and fill the shopping cart you did!  There were over 100 items in the shopping cart at the end of the month that will go to our local food shelves.  THANK YOU for meeting the plea and filling the cart!  [The noisy coin offering for the month also brought in nearly $50 for the same cause!  Thank you for all of your dimes and nickels and quarters!]

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Fall festival fun!

We had a blast at our fall festival last Sunday afternoon.  The sun was shining as we jumped aboard hay wagons and rode to the woods.  There was a bonfire with hot dogs and smores; pumpkin decorating; a scavenger hunt; and the wilderness to explore!  Thank you to all who came and all who helped make the fun afternoon possible!

A chaos of blessing.

For the past couple years, we’ve emphasized blessing.  The kind of blessing where you mark the sign of the cross on another’s forehead and remind them of God’s love for them.  We encourage that kind of blessing to happen at home.  Lots of that kind of blessing happens on Sunday mornings when there is a baptism and lots of that kind of blessing happens at confirmation every Wednesday.  To close our confirmation class, we stand in a circle and we bless each other.  We make the sign of the cross on each other’s foreheads and say something a la You are a beloved child of God.

The confirmation kids might have thought it was a little awkward to begin with, pushing someone else’s hair out of the way and touching someone else’s forehead to offer such words, but now it’s just normal.  If we didn’t end confirmation with a blessing, that would now be weird.  And yesterday, during Sunday School, a pretty cool thing happened that involved confirmation students and blessing.

There were a handful of confirmation students who helped with Sunday School yesterday. They dressed up as disciples and told us all about how they follow Jesus; it was pretty awesome and fun.  As the Sunday School hour wrapped up, it was time for our blessing.  I employed the confirmation students to bless the Sunday School kids … and they went crazy.

It was like a chaos of blessing!  Confirmation students making the sign of the cross on foreheads and speaking words of blessing to all of the Sunday School kids.  And not just once.  This was no orderly circle-of-blessing like we end confirmation with; this was everyone blessing everyone over and over again.  Kids blessing kids; kids blessing me.  You are God’s beloved child.  You are God’s beloved child.  You are God’s beloved child.

A chaos of blessing.  What a gift.

ROG Church Auction [photos]

Come on over to the parking lot outside of Red Oak Grove on this coming Saturday morning for an auction, lunch, and fun!  We have collected all sorts of goodies to sell at this event – your new treasure could be among them!  Check out the auction sale bill here and tell your friends!  More items continue to be added including quilts, a quarter all-natural beef, and lots of glassware [including depression glass]!  See you on Saturday, beginning at 9:30AM!

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Quilting.

Monday mornings are always a-flutter with activity in the ROG fellowship hall.

It’s quilting time.

Next week will be the last Monday of quilting until fall.  The ladies and gents have been busy sewing and tying and binding nearly 100 quilts since they began last fall.  The quilts will go to a variety of homes – both local and across the globe.  They will do a mighty fine job of keeping someone warm at night.