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Reflections on the Word “Yes”

Today’s blog post has been commissioned by the Riverside Innovation Hub to bring in the stories and views from our partner congregations forward. We continue with a piece by Ryana Holt, a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

Artist, Angela Two Stars is speaking in a microphone, spaced between 4 volunteers.

I have been reflecting on the word “yes.” This word or similar affirmative phrase mark the cusp to new beginnings. Like Samuel’s “here I am”. How do young people become leaders? Some create opportunities for themselves. Others find themselves saying “yes”, “here I am,” and the journey thereafter unveils and develops their leadership.

“Yes” was the beginning to my involvement at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (HTLC) when I only knew only about five people’s names and it was likely that less than five people knew mine. After a service, one of my pastors must have recognized I wasn’t just a 20-something passing through and asked if I would join other young adults in the Riverside Innovation Hub grant team. 

Yes, of course. I was there to root in community. Take my email, I am ready to participate. 

While I was new to HTLC, I was not new to being a young adult leader in the Lutheran church. The church has been the garden in which my leadership has been planted, cared for, and cultivated. The church has offered me many times over opportunities for leadership, often trusting me without the need to prove myself worthy. Over the years the church reshaped my understanding of a true leader. It is not someone at the helm hoarding power and responsibility after fighting long and hard for it. It is a someone actively empowering and developing those around them to be leaders, and generously so. 

I joined the HTLC Innovation Hub team in April 2020 over zoom. We virtually met and brainstormed ways to live out the public church model in unprecedented times. In retrospect, most of our leadership throughout the last year and a half of the Innovation Hub in our various projects began by saying “yes”, trusting the emergent, and showing up.  

Our last grant project was just that. The Longfellow Rising group asked if we would support them to bring a message of hope and healing through public art to the Longfellow community. The project fit our goals so we said yes and showed up for what emerged. 

Named ‘The Transition Stage’, local artist Angela Two Stars took the laments and hopes community members wrote and wove them into a cocoon, to be transformed into a butterfly. On behalf of the Innovation Hub team, I brought food and refreshments and dove in with the others. We tilled the hardened earth, spread compost, and spread wildflower seeds. We had conversations with people walking by as we invited them to participate. A year after the murder of George Floyd and the Uprisings the community needed a message of hope and transformation. The moments spent on that project were profoundly healing, collaborating side-by-side on something beautiful in a place that outsiders may deem broken. 

Joining HTLC’s Innovation Hub team led me to much of the side-by-side leadership I have had the opportunity to take part in over the last 20 months. All because a church leader offered me an opportunity, I said yes, and showed up. 

You may argue it’s more complicated than that, but maybe it isn’t. I pray we all keep opening opportunities for young adults to step into leadership, step back and support from the side. We are all better for it.