35,000 ELCA Youth to Make a Difference in New Orleans

Citizens with the Saints” spreads literacy, beauty and inspiration


More than 35,000 youth and adults have arrived in New Orleans for the “Citizens with the Saints” Youth Gathering. This event is the largest convention the city hosts, and the influx of Lutherans will boost the city’s population by 7% July 18-22. New Orleans welcomes the ELCA because they know we are there to make a difference.


There will be 933 youth and adults representing Southeastern Iowa Synod congregations participating in the Gathering’s efforts to improve literacy, clean up the environment, and care for the New Orleans community. Learn more at https://www.ministrylink.org/article/join-the-youth-gathering-online/

Please pray for all Youth Gathering participants and for the New Orleans community in the coming days. You can follow the event online at https://www.elca.org/gathering.


Here are just a few of the big impact projects the Youth Gathering will take on:


  • Literacy matters! —
    Gathering participants will hold 48 book festivals and 38 literacy camps for local children. Statistics show that the average child in New Orleans is at least two years behind grade level in reading, and there is a direct correlation between reading level and earning potential. In all $180,000 worth of books will be distributed. The Gathering will also assemble 15,000 school supplies worth over $130,000 for 119 schools. Two new libraries will be developed, and one renovated, with 800 books each.
  • Environmental sustainability —
    More than 2,300 volunteers will visit New Orleans neighborhoods with the Tip the Block program that connects residents to free services that help them increase their energy efficiency, live sustainable lifestyles, and beautify their neighborhoods. And each day, 450 volunteers will join the effort to demolish some of the thousands of blighted properties across New Orleans.
  • Cultural literacy —
    Hundreds of volunteers will join Ivan Watkins, an internationally known local artist, and community members in painting murals at three local parks. In addition over 40 pieces of art will be painted and installed in local schools and libraries. Gathering youth will also be learning from local museums, universities and cultural institutions about how history, culture, context and the decisions we make impact people’s lives.
  • Community Care —
    Volunteers will be painting and cleaning up a number of area schools and parks, and cemeteries.


Youth Gatherings are well known for their worship services, which are held each night in the Superdome and will be streamed live.  Also streaming will be this year’s speakers and music artists.


This year’s speakers include:

  • The Rev. Andrena Ingram, pastor of St. Michael’s in Germantown, PA
  •  Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist and 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate
  • Shane Claiborne, founder of the Simple Way community in Philadelphia that has helped to birth and connect radical faith communities around the world
  • Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver who also writes for Godspolitics.com, The Christian Century and Patheos.com.


As for music, entertainment will be provided by well-known artists including AGAPE*, Heatherlyn, Aaron Strumpel and Switchfoot. Click here to get more information by downloading the Gathering Guidebook.


To see and hear the inspiring speakers and great music from home, join Youth Gathering participants online via the livestream on the ELCA Youth Gathering web page and Facebook page.  Here’s the full livestream schedule:


  • Wednesday, July 18 at 7 pm (ET) – Speakers: Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rev. Yehiel Curry, Bishop Michael Rinehart. Artists: AGAPE*, Rachel Kurtz, Roots of Music.
  • Thursday, July 19 at 7 pm – Speakers: Shane Claiborne, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, Valerie Rivas, Megan Stubbs. Artists: Elijah Furquan, Tony Memel, Aaron Strumpel.
  • Friday, July 20 at 7 pm – Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, Diane Latiker, Jamie Nabozny. Artists: Lost and Found, Rhema Soul,
  • Saturday, July 21 at 7 pm – Speakers: Rev. Andrena Ingram, Greg Von Wald. Artists: Heatherlyn, Preservation Hall Junior Jazz and Heritage Brass Band, Switchfoot.
  • Sunday, July 22 at 9:30 am – Closing worship


It’s amazing how much more we can accomplish when we work together as one church, the ELCA!


Article Written by Pr. Eric Carlson, Assistant to the Bishop

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