May 31, 2018
Imagine a hotel ballroom filled with young adults singing, “There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place.” Imagine that sitting alongside those 70 plus young adults are 50 pastors and other faith leaders wanting and eager to listen and hear their ideas and hopes for the church.
I’m participating in a Christian Leadership Forum sponsored by the Fund for Theological Education. Members of our church have attended other events sponsored by FTE specifically geared towards noticing, naming and nurturing the gifts of youth. This forum is the first, for me, where the focus is on young adult leadership. The young adults at the forum were named by their congregations as representative of a new generation of leaders in the church.
In just the first hour, I gained so much hope for the future of the church, especially as I thought about the rich gifts our own ERUCC younger adults bring to our life as a congregation.
What I am enjoying, in addition to learning from these younger adults, is a very different kind of schedule for our time together. In the opening remarks, we were reminded that this was a forum and not a conference. A conference brings experts to the group. A forum assumes that the wisdom is in the room. So, we are moving from dinner group conversations to Idea Labs on models of ministry being led by these young adults. Then we have peer group gatherings to further discuss what we are hearing. Then there’s “open space” where people self-organize to host conversations based on topics of interest.
Once again, I am grateful that our congregation provides time and financial support for your pastor and staff to attend these educational opportunities. Kim Sexton was planning to attend but was unable to come due to illness. I know she would have been inspired as well as together we work to create an environment at ERUCC where we notice and nurture the gifts of all people beginning with the littlest among us through our older members.
The theme for this forum is “Courage to Build Beloved Communities”. “Beloved Community” is a term popularized by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to describe a social and global vision of justice, freedom, equity and abundance as an antidote to what he called the “triple evils” of militarism (war), economic exploitation (poverty), and white supremacy. He posed that vision as an alternative expression of what many Christians call the Kingdom of God. Fifty(50) years after his assassination, the Forum offers this theme as this group of diverse Christian leaders comes together to explore how we may cultivate wise, faithful, and courageous leadership that nurtures and enacts this theological vision in local and regional communities of faith and struggle. We are reflecting on our role as leaders of Christian communities that resist the spiritual and social decay of our time, while co-creating faith-rooted alternatives to what is happening in the world.
Lots of good stuff. And yes, you’ll be hearing more in the weeks to come.
Food for Thought:
“I believe there's a calling for all of us. I know that every human being has value and purpose. The real work of our lives is to become aware. And awakened. To answer the call.” (Oprah Winfrey)
Rev. Dr. Barbara Kershner Daniel, Senior Pastor
Evangelical Reformed Church, United Church of Christ
15 West Church Street, Frederick, MD 21701