The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Hope

The last weekish has been so busy, I can hardly believe I haven't lost my head!

Last Monday, I got a great phone call with an incredible opportunity to be part of the future of advocacy in the life of young adults in the ELCA -- aka my dream life.

Tuesday morning, I attended the Legislative Prayer Breakfast with Colorado's state legislators and progressive interfaith organizations in the Denver metro area. Inspired by the words of the Methodist Bishop of the Rocky Mountain Conference, we are bold to pray for our elected leaders.

Wednesday, our Advocacy Group and Congregational Renewal Group had their monthly meetings, full of great ideas and excitement for the future of Holy Trinity.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I was in Colorado Springs with 750 middle schoolers and chaperones for the Rocky Mountain Synod gathering. It was so overstimulating that I think my ears are still ringing but it was incredible.

I told my mom that it was equal parts noise and junk food, and I'm definitely not kidding when I say that. But it wasn't just that, either. We were split into groups on Saturday (half in the morning and half in the afternoon) to go out into the community of Colorado Springs and do service projects. For a lot of kids, this was the first time they really understood themselves as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

Our group went to a homeless shelter and outreach program for young adults -- they serve ages 15-21, though they cannot legally house anyone under 18. So we hung out with some of the residents and heard their stories and got the grand tour of their facility -- 20 of them live in about as many square feet as I do. It's a challenging place to be, but it's a roof over their heads, which is particularly critical in the winter.

The young woman who led us around and with whom I spent the most time speaking introduced herself as TK. She and I agreed that Harry Potter is the best thing ever, and she told me about the punk band she sings in, and how she took some classes at the community college in drawing, because she wants to be a comic book artist. I thought about who I was at her age (I think she's 19) and who my friends were and what our lives were -- we were all 4-year university students all around the country -- and how impossible it is to wrap my head around having been transient for a decade. The thing that struck me the most about TK was her positive attitude and her deep gratitude for the organizations that had gotten her to where she was. She didn't talk about leaving there ASAP or how much she hated everyone or any of the things that I'd probably say if I had to spend a week there, frankly. She smiled and she laughed and she was honest with us and happy to tell us her story. She was simultaneously so like and so unlike every other 19-year-old I've ever known.

When we got back to the gathering and were in our large group meeting for the evening, the emcees walked through the crowd handing the kids a microphone to share with everyone what they'd experienced and where they'd seen the face of God that day. Mind you, this is a group of hundreds of 12- and 13-year-olds. There were countless more hands raised than there was time to hear from, and each young person had something much more profound to say than I think even they knew. I started taking notes in my phone of what was coming out of these kids' mouths:
"We were at a soup kitchen and I didn't even know the people but I cared about them. I didn't know that was possible." 
"I saw God in how nice the homeless people were to me, even though they didn't know me, and even though I'm not homeless." 
"We went to a farm, and I fed chickens whose eggs are going to feed hungry people." 
"I was cleaning a cupboard and was like, 'No one is even going to see that I did this,' but then the lady in charge thanked me for cleaning it even though it seemed like it wasn't important. I think it was God telling me that even the little things are good things to do." 
"Today I learned that I can love people I don't know."
At that one, I began to cry. This was the first time that these kids had experienced what service of others is really like. Some of them had never been in a situation where they came face to face with the people they were helping. Some of them had never met a homeless person before. For so many of these kids, this was the first time that anything had pulled at their heartstrings in a way they could express as the face of God.

As much as we lament that our pre-teens and teenagers are so separate from the world they live in and so disrespectful of others, there are several hundred middle school students who now know that they are the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, and want to do something with that.

This, coupled with the second inauguration of my main man President Barack Obama, leads me to feel serious hope for this country. And maybe you're inclined to say that what President Obama said yesterday were just words, and that these kids have probably already forgotten how they felt on Saturday, but I can't see it that way. I have hope for the future, and more importantly I have hope for the present. I hope you do, too.

Oh, Great God, Give Us Rest

Baptized and Set Free