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“Give What You’ve Got”

   
 


The 2006 North American Mennonite Young Adult Fellowship incorporated several energetic and symbolic activities into its 2006 gathering at Camp Ray Bird in South Bend, Indiana, Oct. 20-22. Fifty-two young adults from Canada and the USA focused on gift discernment and plugging into the church, centred on the theme “Give What You’ve Got.”

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October 30, 2006
- Hinke Loewen-Rudgers

South Bend, Ind. — Mennonite young adults are asking themselves if they are ready to be transformative agents and to listen intentionally to the many voices that make up the body of Christ.

This not-so-light question was framed in the bigger context of a 2006 North American Young Adult Fellowship gathering based on the theme “Give What You’ve Got” on Oct. 20-22 at Camp Ray Bird, South Bend, Indiana. Fifty-two young adults from Canada and the USA focused on gift discernment and plugging into the church.

Canadian participant and planning committee member, Peter Epp, said the fellowship “… is a place where the current and future inheritors of [the Mennonite church] gather to be and become the Church. It is where those of us who have stayed engaged in the church build a vision of hope, transformation, and community for ourselves, and hopefully, for those who are no longer, or never were engaged by the church. It is where we gather to support those young adults who have been disempowered and to celebrate those who have been empowered by the church.”

Various games and activities integrated affirmation of Mennonite heritage, values, and the foundational work of the generations who went before to build the Mennonite Church today. Participants added to this by acknowledging that young adults bear a responsibility to become more heavily involved in church and church-related institutions if lasting intergenerational effects are to be felt.

Guest speaker Ken Hawkley inspired attendees by affirming the gifts, energy, and vision that young adults bring to the church body. They bring idealism, a gift that Anabaptist ancestors relied heavily upon during the initial phases of their faith movement. Young adults bring relevance without blind conformity in their understanding of cultural trends, and recognize the things that Christ is doing through culture.

Some young adults bring commitment as they ask themselves the hard and painful questions that cause others to leave the church. And young adults are learning to listen in a way that honours the past heritage of their elders. They also remember the young adult lives and subsequent deaths of leaders such as Menno Simons, Conrad Grebel, and Dirk Philips who were foundational to the Anabaptist faith movement.

In addition to inspirational worship and beautiful singing in four part harmony, much laughter was shared around meal tables, during passionate discussions, life-size Dutch blitz, and bonfires.

As these new leaders learn to listen to others in the church and others learn to listen to them, they feel empowered to “give the church what they’ve got” and to become integral to the church community of Christ.

The young adults gathered at Camp Ray Bird could identify with Friederich Buechner when he said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Let us hope and pray with these young adults, that the world’s deep hunger is met by the Christ-centered community of the church.

Hinke Loewen-Rudgers is Congregational Partnerships Facilitator for Mennonite Church Canada Witness, and self- identifies as a young adult.