This July, tens of thousands of high school students, youth leaders and volunteers will come together in Houston, TX for the 15th triennial LCMS Youth Gathering, “In All Things.” With many Concordia-Chicago alumni, students, faculty and staff serving in major roles in front of and behind the scenes, the University is making a major mark on the event.
Below is just an excerpt of what the people involved are looking forward to. For the full story, check out the Spring 2022 Forester.
Dr. Richard Fischer, distinguished professor of music at Concordia-Chicago, is preparing to lead the Youth Gathering Wind Symphony for the seventh time. Providing the music for the closing service, in a stadium of more than 20,000 people, is “an incredible thing. As the culminating experience of the Gathering, it’s pretty monumental,” Fischer says excitedly. “I think the high school students go ‘Whoa!’ It can be intimidating because we typically don’t play for that many people.” But even amid what can be an overwhelming experience, the musicians always rise to the occasion, he says.
CUC English professor Andrew Pederson BA ’01 is the script writer for the drama portion. He appreciates that drama is given such importance at the Gathering. “It shows that creative writing has a place in the Church, and this is an impactful way that it can be used. … It’s an opportunity to use some of the gifts I’ve been given,” says Pederson, who, in addition to being a professor is an accomplished playwright. “I look around and I say, ‘These are people who deeply care about getting Jesus into the lives of young people.’ For me, there’s nothing more important.”
Brian Fruits BA ’03 is an adjunct professor at CUC and drama director for the Youth Gathering stadium event team. “Service is part of my vocation, and this is art-meets-service-meets-education. It helps show that we at Concordia-Chicago are capable of doing anything; we can compete with anyone,” Fruits says. “Some of my actors said they remembered seeing the acting troupe at the Youth Gathering three years ago, and they wanted to be like them. This is such a positive event for these young people of the LCMS.”
Alumnus Phil Grimpo BA ’98 owns the video, audio and lighting company Inspirmedia Productions, which is providing key A/V support to the Youth Gathering mass event team. As a student at Concordia-Chicago, he worked in the WCGR-TV studio, which helped greatly in preparing him for his future work. “I grew up in a very small town in Michigan, and when I went to my first Gathering, it opened my eyes to how much our church cared about our youth. It also showed me that there are so many more people just like me,” he recalls.
Alumna Melissa (Christian) Luepke BA ’99 serves as a manager for the gathering ambassador leadership team, selecting, placing and training the adults who will volunteer in many roles before and during the Gathering. “There is something so invigorating about having thousands of youth and adults gathered together to worship our Lord and Savior. I can’t wait to sing with everyone!”