Guest blogger: Rev. Craig Minich shares reflections from New Orleans

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Today we hear from guest blogger Rev. Craig Minich, ELM Ministry Grant recipient and Proclaim member. Craig attended the ELCA Youth Gathering with the East Bay Lutheran Youth Program.

Excerpts from Rev. Craig Minich at the East Bay Lutheran Youth Program/New Orleans Multicultural Youth Leadership Event & ELCA Youth Gathering

The ELCA Youth Gathering Day 2: Yesterday we sweat buckets at our mural project. We made great relationships with the local folk, the boys held their own playing pick-up basketball with some tough players from the neighborhood. Even though there were mural leaders with competing egos, we weathered their storm, and found many God moments. High point was the free time, dance, and dinner at the MYLE conference after a long and sweaty days work. It raised our spirits and led nicely into our prayer and reflection time last night!

The ELCA Youth Gathering Day 3 (Dome edition): It was the first time I had been on the floor for a National Gathering, and I have to say that I was quite amped up by all the energy.  It was exciting! There were pre-opening concerts, conga lines that were 1000’s of people long and so much cheering and so many smiles.  When the lights went out to begin the program at 7 pm, I was so struck by the lip dub at the opening session at the super dome… it was a great use of technology, and it felt so exciting. It was a privilege to hear Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber Pa-reach it as well! She gave a shout out to my mentor & colleague Rev. Ross Merkel & one of my congregations, St. Paul Lutheran in Oakland! Our group cheered from two places in the dome and the kids were so excited and touched to hear of her connection and faith journey there. It was amazing. She made Ross out to be a spiritual rock star (which he kind of is). Best line: (On helping Nadia on her faith journey) ‘Ross is like the vampire that turned me (Lutheran)!” Ross.. Vampire…bwa hah hah!  We heard booming thunder toward the end of the session and the loud rain pouring onto the Dome’s metal roof. We were held at the Super-Dome for two hours due to severe weather.  It was definitely an experiential learning experience as many of us were jarred into the reality that so many people were trapped in the Dome for so much longer from such a bigger storm during Katrina.  When we were released, we walked in the pouring rain with heat lightening all around us.  Our group got separated in the mass of people (no kids were without adults), but we eventually (after much consternation) met up with each other.  Drenched and weary, we had a short meeting and went to our rooms to decompress from the day and slip into deep sleep.

The ELCA Youth Gathering (Day 5): 500+ Lutherans in our yellow ‘have you hugged a Lutheran today?’ shirts worshipped together. Bishop Mark preached & Nate, Nat & I served communion at one of the stations. It was emotionally over-whelming handing out the body of Christ to so many beautiful and vibrant young people! When I was extraordinarily ordained 11 years ago, I never dreamed I’d be welcomed back into the ELCA and to be invited to do this. I cried tears of sadness at what had been, tears of joy and thanksgiving in that moment of grace, tears as I made eye contact with so many youth I have ministered to in our synod (sending some of them onto college – sniff) & also glimpsing into the beautiful spirits of new friends in that moment of Grace; In that multivalent moment in the confluence of God’s amazing grace, I also cried tears of exhaustion as I have given much of myself away this journey… tears. I’ve prayed all day for God to refresh the deep wells of Grace she has bestowed in me, which felt like all that was left was a mere fleeting puddle…

Pr. Craig Minich lives in the West Bay with his partner Bruce.  Craig is originally from Tampa, FL and took a BA in Literature and Philosophy at Lenior-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC, an MA in ethics from the Graduate Theological Union, and a M.Div. from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (the latter two both in Berkeley, CA).  Pr. Craig is Adult Chair of the Sierra Pacific Synod Youth Committee (SPSYC) which is a youth-led group of Lutheran high school leaders from Fresno to Redding to Reno which empowers the committee to minister with youth from across the synod.  Pr. Craig loves to snowboard, to play Rock Band, to make Biblically-themed movies with his youth group, and LOVES going to theater, movies, concerts, and traveling around the world!