September 15, 2008
ELCA Youth Gathering half fullThe 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering was half full after just 12 hours of being open for online registration. More than 20,000 had registered by mid-afternoon on Monday. Registration opened at 12:01 a.m.
In addition to signing up for the Gathering, which will be July 22-26 in New Orleans under the theme "Jesus, Justice, Jazz," young people and adults could also indicate an area of interest. Each area can hold 6,000 participants. The Arts and Culture area is completely full at 6,291. Other (morning) numbers included Literacy 591, Environment 1,638, Health 2,657, Wealth 1,577, and Housing 3,863.
At 3 p.m., registration was at 20,034. Donna Wiegel, Gathering assistant director and registrar, said 10,330 registered the first two hours, which means there were plenty of youth directors, pastors and others at their computers in the middle of the night. "Exciting" and "amazing" were the words coming from the ELCA Youth Gathering team as they monitored registration.
"I am stunned at the response given the misgivings of some when we announced New Orleans as the site," said Heidi Hagstrom, director for the Gathering. "That, in addition to a poor economy and the highest registration fee we have ever had, made us wonder what the response would be. This is evidence to us that ELCA youth take their baptismal call to service in the world seriously."
Congregations from every synod (except Alaska and Slovak Zion) had registered when Wiegel was reporting morning totals. The Gathering, which has been held twice (two consecutive weeks) in recent years, is only one week in 2009 and is limited to 36,000 participants. This is the first time it has been limited to online registration.
"As we watched the preference for online registration grow over the past few years, we decided to save a few trees and restrict registration to online only for the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering," Hagstrom explained. The site remains live until the Gathering fills or January 15, whichever comes first. Congregational leaders can make substitutions and additions until then, Hagstrom said.