It is a time of celebration, conversation, cultural awareness and, above all, it is global youth uniting in praise and worship.
The Global Young People’s Convocation, held every four years, took place this summer in Johannesburg, South Africa. It brought together about 300 youth and young adults from 40 nations to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the merger between the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren that created The United Methodist Church of today.
While the young people worked together to build legislation they will present to the General Conference, they also learned how the Methodist church is organized in various nations, said Derrick Scott, campus minister for the Florida Conference’s northeast. He also is the executive director for the Campus to City Wesley Foundation.
“When a young adult in the Congo meets a young adult from Germany and another from the Philippines, they find they all have different takes on what being a Methodist means,” said Scott, who oversees campus ministries for Jacksonville University, Flagler College and the University of North Florida. “It is the first time they get to listen to that context and recognize our church is global.”
That’s the celebration, said Mighty Rasing, the Central Conference Director of Program Development with Young People’s Ministries, whose mantra is “connecting God, the church and the world.”
|Young people from 40 countries converged this summer for the Young People's Global Convocation. They participated in legislative sessions to present their ideas to the General Conference of the United Methodist Church.|
“Young People from different countries and cultures sat down with each other in their small groups. They asked questions from each other, exchanged opinions and views about issues on politics, poverty, gender, drug addiction and many more,” Rasing said.
They were able to build relationships with each other and learn more about each other’s similarities and differences.
In that way, it is a General Conference for youth and young adults.
“There was a piece of legislation related to young people’s voices in the church, during the convocation,” Scott said. “Every jurisdiction in the U.S. sends five youth, five young adults and two adults as voting delegates.”
This year, Scott was the lone attendee from Florida.
“The proposals are great, but the connections get made within the global Methodist church; and, as far as I am concerned, that is the value added,” he said. “It makes it valuable because, especially for our international youth, they don’t have opportunities often to travel and specifically to travel for our denomination.
“It’s an opportunity to be involved in the process of how we do church in the UMC, an opportunity to worship together, make new friends. It’s an opportunity for their voices to be heard and to practice what it means to lift their voice. They get to the global convo and they get to intentionally raise their voice about issues that matter to them."
Rasing was chief planner for the global conference.
“There are a number of young people who attended GYPC in the past and went on to continue serving the church as a leader in various capacities,” he said. “Of course, leadership development is a complex process, and I cannot say that GYPC is the major factor that helped them grow as leaders.”
|Three bishops were present during the Young People's Global Convocation in Johannesburg, South Africa this summer. From left, they are Retired Bishop Warner Brown Jr., Bishop Joaquina Nhanala from Mozambique and Bishop John Yambasu from Sierra Leone. Photos from Mighty Rasing|
One example of an attendee who did go further with leadership is Daniel Sjanta from Serbia.
“He attended GYPC 2014 in the Philippines. Now, he is one of the youngest district superintendents at the Central and Southern Europe Central Conference. He said to me at one time that his experience at GYPC helped prepare him for General Conference,” Rasing said.
Growth can be shown in other ways as well.
For example, Zach Bechtold and Matt Franks met each other in the Philippines during GYPC 2014 and realized they had something in common: beards. They eventually founded https://beardedtheologians.com website and podcast.
Ben Adams, who attended the first GYPC in December 2006, is now a pastor and a board member of the General Commission on Religion and Race, topics covered at previous convocations.
“Most get to the convo because their conference looks for young adults who have already started to be involved in the life of the church,” Scott said.
As part of registration for the convocation, delegates are asked to choose several topics they wish to discuss in small groups and workshops. The top choices shape the schedule for the week.
Some of the topics this year were Leadership, Connectionalism and Relationships, Conflict Transformation, Sex and Sexuality, Healthy Habits for Faith-Filled Living, Violence Against Women and Global Mission Fellowship.
Five official languages were spoken at the conference: English, Portuguese, French, German and Russian, but at least 10 languages were spoken.
The atmosphere with electric.
“A lot of the delegates really enjoyed worship,” Scott said. “It was such a powerful experience to worship in different languages and be surrounded by young people from 40 different countries.”
--Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer in Valrico.