The realities of how youth participate in church is changing but North American youth still want to be involved. They believe that dialogue and participating in the conversation is just one of the many gifts they bring to the church.
"The paradigms are changing," said Matt Guess, a youth delegate from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), presenting the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) North America youth message to delegates and advisors at the region’s Pre-Assembly Consultation (NAPAC), talking place 29-31 January in Kitchener, Ontario.
Twelve individuals in a variety of roles participated in the youth and women’s meetings, held one day prior to the start of NAPAC. Guess shared highlights from the youth meeting on behalf of the young adult participants and encouraged the region’s delegates to consider the many gifts the young people bring to the table.
"The culture that we [youth] embody today allows us to be able to live out this communion in a new way," said Guess, who spoke about the intrinsic social justice component inherent in youth today.
Within hours of hearing of the recent tragedy in Haiti, Guess noted that youth were responding with their donations, "via text messages," to assist with relief efforts in the affected region.
New media enables youth to reach higher levels of connectivity and information. These gifts, which the youth bring to the church, lend themselves to finding new ways of being ecumenical, global, plural and post-modern.
"Our voice is valid and we have many gifts. I hope you will give us a place to grow," said Guess. "The church of today yearns for new forms of growth, which youth can offer. They come naturally to us."
As a result, new models of church are appearing. Guess spoke of "Beer and Theology-type events," which are becoming increasingly popular in emergent church initiatives across North America. Meeting groups that blend pop-culture and faith are attractive and non-threatening to individuals who may not otherwise have had an association to formalized religion.
Expressing appreciation for being included in the LWF and NAPAC activities, Guess referred to the LWF Assembly theme, "Give Us Today our Daily Bread."
"As I think about daily bread," he said, "I think about the table and it’s important to have family around the table."
Guess urged delegates to "not view the youth or any group as a token," indicating that minority groups should not be a figure or quota to be filled. "Our voice is valid and we have many gifts. I hope you will give us the place to grow."
Reflecting again on the Assembly’s gathering theme, Guess noted, "youth in the LWF have gifts and knowledge that God has given them to help the LWF determine what today’s daily bread is. Youth are the yeast, they are a necessary ingredient in activating the bread."(498 words)
Follow news and other deliberations from the pre-assembly on the LWF Assembly Web site at: http://www.lwf-assembly.org and from the NAPAC blog at: http://lwf2010napac.wordpress.com
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The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 79 countries all over the world, with a total membership of 68.9 million. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 162,100 baptized members in 611 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.
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