10805 Main St. Huntley, IL 60142

October Note

From Pastor Ryan

“Created to Be” The 2024 ELCA Youth Gathering

Prior to 2021, the ELCA hosted a massive Youth Gathering every three years. It moved from major city to major city, hosting more than 30,000 youth and adult leaders.

My first experience of “The Gathering” (as it is affectionately known) was in 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Tara and I were asked by our pastor to serve as adult leaders that year and we accompanied 12 youth on a weeklong adventure that changed my life. Soon after, I became the youth leader for that congregation and would take two more groups to the Youth Gatherings in 2015 and 2018, in Detroit and Houston, respectively.

The 2021 Youth Gathering was supposed to be in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but was postponed, and eventually canceled, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in 2024, we will be making a return to New Orleans for the first Gathering in 6 years! As always, the Youth Gathering is for all youth who are in 8th-12th grade this school year. The new twist is that a Young Adult Gathering will be running at the same time. This is for anyone who is 18-35 years old at the time of registration.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Gathering, I wanted to share a little more about what makes it so special. The Gathering is a combination of worship, service, learning, fun, and relationship-building. Each night, all youth and leaders will gather in the Caesars Super Dome (home of the New Orleans Saints) for a concert-style atmosphere with a band and a series of speakers, with some worship blended in. The speakers are thought provoking and spirit stirring and the music is energizing and Spirit filled.

Each day has a different focus. One day will be spent performing some form of service to the city. In 2012, the Gathering service projects focused on the continued cleanup from the devastation of hurricane Katrina. Our group helped backpacks with school supplies to ensure that students would have what they needed to start the school year well. Another day will be spent in a convention center full of games and activities that teach us and remind us all of what life can be like, in the US and abroad, for people who suffer injustice or live otherwise difficult lives compared to our lives. Another day will be spent with youth from the Northern Illinois Synod as we spend time getting to know each other and sharing in a worship experience.

Within all of these events is the continued experience of coming together in community, forming deeper relationships, and growing deeper in faith.

No matter what I share with you in worship or in these paragraphs, I could never fully capture the excitement and power of this weeklong event. I encourage all of you, whether you have a child who is in 8th-12th grade or you or someone you know is 18-35 to strongly consider registering for this awesome event. For more information, reach out to me and/or check out https://www.elca.church/gathering .

Please register using our Church Center app or by scanning the QR code below by October 22 to take advantage of the reduced registration fee.


Pastor Ryan

Pastor Ryan

Email Pastor Ryan:  pastorryan@sotpmail.com

Link to summer of 2024 Youth Gathering website for those interested in more information:  https://www.elca.church/gathering





October Note

From Donna Kelly


A few weeks ago, our Gospel reading was Matthew 18:21-35 which included a lesson from Jesus on forgiveness. In this reading, Peter comes to Jesus and asks how many times he needs to forgive a fellow member of the church (a brother or sister). “Seven times”? he queries. Jesus says not just seven times but seventy-seven. As a kid I remember wondering if that meant I should keep count and when I got to seventy-seven, I was done forgiving that person!

Of course, we know Jesus doesn’t mean for us to keep count. In Jewish thinking seven is a holy or a complete number. Maybe Peter used seven to ask, “Lord do we need to practice total and complete forgiveness?” And Jesus is saying, total or complete forgiveness isn’t enough; you must practice forgiveness that goes beyond total and complete! In the Thesaurus, forgiveness is pardon,
reconciliation, compassion and mercy. I think Jesus is saying that forgiveness isn’t to be conditional or limited in scope. We need to forgive absolutely and completely. If we’re still counting how many times we have forgiven someone, we’re not really forgiving them at all, but simply postponing revenge. Please know that I am not talking about enduring an abusive relationship. That is a completely different situation.

Forgiveness is not always or even often easy. When we have been hurt deeply and the relationship has been broken in some way, it is hard to let go of the hurt and forgive. But instead, we often feed the anger within us; rehearsing the situation and what they did to us and how much we have been hurt. We go over the incident again and again in our minds, and repeatedly tell the story to ourselves and others.
We want retribution and vindication! We want them to pay for what they did! But withholding forgiveness is often more damaging for us than for the person we don’t forgive; and unforgiveness can
be like a cancer that eats away at us and the body of Christ as a whole.

Jesus goes on to tell a parable of an unmerciful servant who is forgiven a huge debt, impossible to repay. This servant then goes on to be unforgiving of a fellow servant who owes him a tiny amount. The king who forgave him punishes him in a terrible way. Jesus says afterwards that if we expect to be forgiven, we must forgive. The same idea is included in what we call the Lord’s Prayer. We ask to be forgiven in the same way we forgive others, and Jesus says that’s how God will forgive us.

I’ve often wondered if Jesus is saying that there are limits to God’s mercy and forgiveness. It’s difficult for me to reconcile a merciful God with one who also withholds forgiveness if I don’t forgive. Then I read a commentary on this where the author wrote, “Forgiveness is more like the air in your lungs. There is only room for you to inhale the next lungful when you’ve breathed out the previous one.” That really made me think. When you breathe in and hold that breath, your body will quickly extract all the oxygen out of that air filling your lungs. If you don’t exhale that breath so you can breathe in another one, you could actually suffocate! Until you exhale that breath there is no room for you to breathe in again. I wonder if that is the same way with forgiveness and what Jesus meant by his words. As long as I hold in my forgiveness, refusing to exhale that forgiveness out to others, I have no space to inhale the forgiveness God has for me.

Like our lungs are either full or empty, our “hearts”, are either open or closed. If our heart is open, able and willing to forgive others, it will also be open to receive God’s love and forgiveness. But if it is locked up tight to forgiving, it will be locked up to receiving forgiveness. How is your heart? Locked up to others and therefore to God and God’s forgiveness; or open to both God love and forgiveness and your love and forgiveness to others?


Email Donna:  donna@sotpmail.com