Friday, July 23, 2010

National Youth Conference brings some 3,000 Brethren to the mountaintop with the theme, ‘More than Meets the Eye.’

National Youth Conference (NYC) held July 17-22 in Fort Collins, Colo., brought together 2,884 Church of the Brethren youth and adults on the campus of Colorado State University. The conference is held every four years by the Church of the Brethren for high school-age youth and those who have completed the first year of college.

The highlight of the daily NYC schedule were two worship services--one held each morning, one each evening--featuring a wide array of preachers addressing the theme, "More than Meets the Eye" from 2 Corinthians 4.

Daily themes guided the experience, moving from "A Yearning to Belong," on the opening day to "Searching for Identity," "Facing Brokenness," "Accepting Grace," and "Extending Agape Love," ending with the last day’s theme, "Manifesting Joy."

Two guest speakers from outside the Church of the Brethren--Shane Claiborne, a founding partner of the Simple Way faith community in inner city Philadelphia; and Jarrod McKenna, a "neo-Anabaptist" peace, justice, and environmental activist from Australia--called the youth to a radical revolution based on the grace and love of Jesus Christ.

"The God I know is a God that loves the broken," Claiborne said in his sermon. "We have a God who’s all about loving people back to life." He ended his presentation with a call to confession--which he characterized as a kind of spiritual revolution. It is liberating "to beat our chests and confess our sins to each other," he said, adding that in the culture of the United States it is radically counter-cultural to say that we are wrong, and that we are sorry. "That’s the kind of revolution Jesus has." Closing with prayer, he prayed for the church to respond to the needs of a broken world: "Oh God of all grace, have mercy on us.... Forgive us, forgive us...."

Preaching on the theme, "Extending Agape Love," McKenna encouraged NYC to understand love in its proper biblical context, warning against preachers who hold up the Bible on Sunday mornings to preach a prosperity gospel that is untrue to its context. Rather than looking for that kind of certainty at the center of the gospel message, McKenna said, the Jewish tradition out of which the first Christians came places mystery at the center of the gospel--a mystery McKenna connected with the agape love shown by Jesus Christ.

Allow the mystery to happen, he urged the youth. "We often whittle the gospel into one little point of love," he said. But the gospel displayed in the New Testament invites us into the story, not into one point of certainty. "Instead of us understanding it (love)," he said, "we are to stand under and undergo love."

The NYC week also included an opportunity to receive anointing--which has been a regular event at National Youth Conferences over the decades--as well as other "mountaintop" experiences like afternoon hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. More than half of the NYC participants spent one afternoon working at a variety of service projects in and around the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland.

Numerous afternoon workshops were offered Monday through Wednesday of the NYC week, ranging in topics and activities from discussions of the church’s peace witness, to examination of the call to ministry, to reflections on current issues in the world, to crafts including the making of wooden spoons.

Recreation included an early morning 5K run, an ultimate frisbee championship, an informal table tennis competition, and more.

In a special recognition during the conference, Chris Douglas was honored for her years of service to the youth of the Church of the Brethren during the time she spent as director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. She is now serving as Conference director for the church. Current youth director Becky Ullom called Douglas to the podium on the NYC stage, where she received a standing ovation.

Leadership for NYC was provided by co-coordinators Audrey Hollenberg and Emily LaPrade, who served through Brethren Volunteer Service. Becky Ullom, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, was the key denominational staff person for the conference, working along with National Youth Cabinet members Kelsey Murray, Tyler Goss, Jamie Frye, Sam Cupp, Kay Guyer, Ryan Roebuck, and adult advisors to the cabinet Christy Waltersdorff and Walt Wiltschek.

The worship coordinators for the event were Jim Chinworth, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, David Steele, and Tracy Stoddart. Music, a key part of the NYC worship experience, was led by coordinators David Meadows and Virginia Meadows, who also were vocalists for the NYC Band: guitarist Laban Wenger, bass player Jacob Crouse, drummer Andy Duffey, and keyboardist Jonathan Shively.

The NYC theme song, "More than Meets the Eye," was composed by Shawn Kirchner of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren. In an introduction explaining the song’s focus on Jesus, Kirchner wrote to the youth at NYC: "Who was the essential Jesus, the Jesus the first Christians knew, that the early Brethren hoped to rediscover? The guy who got all this going, so that 2,000 years later we're all here at the mountain asking this question? Let's spend our lives finding out...."

Go to for complete coverage of NYC 2010 including reviews of several of the sermons, reports from the week’s main events, daily photo albums, issues of the "NYC Tribune," and links to the NYC Facebook page and Twitter stream. Worship resources for the NYC services will be coming soon as an added online feature.

Source: 7/23/2010 Newsline

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