“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
I mentioned in my last post that I was in St. Paul, Minnesota, last weekend, attending a retreat for volunteers to the ELCA’s Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE), which will be held in the Twin Cities in July of 2022.
I will be serving as a chaplain for the event.
For those who are not familiar with MYLE, it’s a pre-event to the ELCA Youth Gathering. The four-day event focuses specifically on young people of color and those whose primary language is not English. Both MYLE and the Gathering are held every three years, although COVID-19 delayed both events by a year. The previous events were held in Houston in 2018.
You can find the particulars for each event on the ELCA Web Site (https://www.elca.org/YouthGathering/Program/MYLE). Both also have a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.
As all the publicity material points out, MYLE empowers young people of color to deepen in faith, celebrate their culture, develop as leaders, claim their identity, and form relationships.
This is important because fewer than a thousand young people of color attend MYLE. Once the Youth Gathering begins, these youngsters are absorbed into the much larger group of 30,000, where they are easily lost in the shuffle, with little if any chance to stand out in the crowd and, given little to no acknowledgement or recognition of their gifts.
Our planning team met at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, and worked on various aspects of the four-day event, including Worship, Curriculum, and Cultural Awareness.
Our Chaplain team worked in conjunction with the Worship team, selecting the scriptures that will guide our devotions for each day, all in keeping with the main theme, “Made Free.”
The majority of the team are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). I never cease to be amazed at the creatively gifted people of God that bless this church with their talents. I am always blessed to be in their presence. They are like the hidden treasures and fine pearls that Jesus lifts up in his parables of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:44-46).
I made many new friendships and renewed several others. It was an uplifting, life-giving experience for me. I look forward to our upcoming planning sessions as well as the event itself.
Yet as much as I enjoyed working with our groups, the highlight of the weekend for me came on Friday evening, when I had the opportunity to visit George Floyd Square in Minneapolis.
Seeing the location in person revived, in my mind, the horrific experience of May 25, 2020, and the protests that followed. It was like a pilgrimage, a sacred moment for me.
The area has become a shrine where many come to pay their respects. I was told that there still exists a tension between the community and law enforcement. The city of Minneapolis would like to sweep it under the rug, pretending the whole thing never happened.
However, the advantage of having a guide from the area is that we see parts that many people miss. A few blocks from the scene of the George Floyd murder is an even more gripping memorial.
In an open green space off 37th Street in south Minneapolis, two University of Pennsylvania artists erected 100 replica tombstones with the names of African-Americans killed by law enforcement.
They called it, the “Say Their Names” cemetery.
As one wanders throughout the field, reading the names, it is easy to be overcome with outrage. Some of the names are more familiar than others. But the one thing they all have in common is that they are no longer alive. To think that the lives of these children of God were cut short for no justifiable reason, is difficult for any reasonable human mind to reconcile. The impact on me was profound.
I came away from that sobering experience with a renewed commitment to live out the responsibility we professed in our baptismal vows, to strive and work for justice and peace in all the earth.
Led by the Spirit of God, we are called to live as children of God. And as children of God and members of the body of Christ, it is our duty to speak out against injustice of any form, and to care for each other.
That must be the central, integrating message of our lives. May it be so.