Young Folks

Global Discussion on Shaping our Spiritual Life – Una Discusión Global sobre la Formación de una Vida Espiritual

In order to learn from one another’s experiences, AMIGOS periodically sends out discussion questions to be shared among young people connected with Mennonite World Conference. The current questions are:

– What do you do to shape up your spiritual life?
– How do you pray? (for example: times in silence, etc.)

Para aprender de las experiencias de los demás, AMIGOS periódicamente manda preguntas para discusión para ser compartidas entre jóvenes conectados con el Congreso Mundial Menonita. Las preguntas actuales son:

– ¿Qué haces para mantener tu vida espiritual en forma?
– ¿Cómo oras? (Por ejemplo: tiempos en el silencio, etc.)
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I’m not a radical.

I’m not a radical. Not in the sense that some people might see it anyway. The term might be associated with those who espouse a more liberal socio-political worldview. It’s been used that way. And by that definition I am not a radical. Nor am I a “Young Anabaptist Radical”. If young means “under 25 & unmarried” then I’m lacking in the young department (I’m 28, if you want to know). I’m also not an anabaptist. Maybe not one that would generally fit into the traditional “anabaptist” stereotypes (if such a thing exists at all).

I thought I’d come clean.
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What if ‘going home’ was our calling?

In the past few months I’ve been noticing a startling trend. Some of the most passionate people of my generation are returning to their home communities. After college, after working overseas, a surprising number of my peers are deciding – when they could go almost anywhere – to move back to the places they grew up.

Now, you might say that I’m biased – having just moved to back Elkhart, IN for Mennonite Voluntary Service when I grew up one town away in Goshen. And I am certainly excited about how our unit is flourishing in its first year — serving as a means for a number of us young people to re-commit to an area where we’ve already had ties.

But it’s not just us. A woman raised in central plains has returned to commit herself to finding ways to live sustainably. After two years with the World Council of Churches in Geneva, a seminarian returns to intern at a congregation of farmers and businessfolk. A group of recent graduates from Goshen College decide to travel among the Central States conference for a summer of learning about how people in their home region approach peacemaking. (more…)

Sexuality and the young Christian

I’m lifting a sub-thread from ST’s post inspirational lunch which has the potential for an interesting discussion of its own – we’ve certainly talked about sex before on YAR (check out sex outside of marriage, or is it really a sin? for all the talk about gayness you could care for.) Clearly sexuality is a central issue for all young people, and I think it’s one of the essential tasks for everyone, especially people in the typical YARer’s age range (thinking late teens to early thirties), to figure out how one’s sexual nature can be integrated & expressed in one’s life. But, getting ahead of myself, that already might be language that we’re not all comfortable with. So, here’s the conversation so far: (more…)

Inspirational Lunch

I had a great lunch conversation with two young white men today who are feeling the pressure to “produce and provide” and are looking for alternatives to succumbing to this stereotype and just joining the corporate project. After lunch, I wrote this:

As I think about our conversation more in the understanding of my daily work at a social services agency in town, I am reminded on the necessity to invite anyone and everyone with whatever ethnicity or background (age, sexuality, religion, political persuasion) to participate in the work of healing (and radical positive social change and happiness creation) in our society. There is enough pain to go around. Everyone can have a hand in creating peace. I think a place like where I work, is where push comes to shove, and the realization that we can’t find enough people (of ANY race, class or gender) to facilitate the creation of a new society, and not enough people to persuade others to stop beating each other in inter familial violence). It feels desperate.

There were some black people back during the time of emancipation, who didn’t want to participate in the mainstream US society, and they opted to farm somewhere and live in peace with their indigenous neighbors. Just a random thought about what it would look like if instead of clamoring to be just like white people (when I say white here, i mean the white people that southern black folks encountered…rich, conservative, separatist, tea parties, cult of true womanhood, Victorian, etc) and be accepted into their culture and politics, we searched the alternatives that our indigenous (to Africa) pasts gave us. but we didn’t for the most part. (more…)

Young Adult Ecumenical Project

I wanted to share this project that we started as a Sunday school class as a way to get to know other young adults in the area across denominations. Out of this project we hope to develop a website in our area for local young adults to list events and network better. I’d challenge other young adults groups to consider doing something similar as way of connecting with your local community by joining forces with other Christian brother and sisters.
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Anti-Homosexuality destroying perceptions of the Church among young people

For many years now, high profile Christian leaders have been saying that homosexuality is destroying the church. It turns out that it may be their homophobia that is isolating the church and undermining opportunities for connecting with a new generation of non-Christians.

According to a new study by the Barna Group (an evangelical market research firm), perceptions of Christians among young non-Christians has nose-dived over the last decade. According to an article on Alternet reporting on the study:

Ten years ago, “the vast majority” of non-Christians [under 30] had generally favorable views of Christianity. Now, that number stands at just 16%. When asked specifically about Evangelicals, the number are even worse: only 3% of non-Christian Millennials have positive associations with Evangelicals.

These changes didn’t come out of the blue. The study found that the strongest negative trait associated with the church among non-Christians was “anti-homosexual” at 91%. A close second and third were judgmental (87%) and hypocritical (85%). According to the the summary of the study, as quoted on Alternet:

Non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a “bigger sin” than anything else.

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Violent Video Game as Church Recruiting Tool

I’m really sad today. I often become sad when I read the NY Times.

I wasn’t sure which article I should write an urgent post about, there were so many. Women are being destroyed in Congo as rape has become the most common tool of war and the crisis has reached unprecedented proportions. I was sure I was going to blog about that–as soon as returned to the computer from a session of weeping–crying out and pleading with God that people in every country would respect women’s bodily integrity. Here is that article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/world/africa/07congo.html?th&emc=th

But, I couldn’t write about that one because I got overwhelmed by the next article. Rape and pillaging in wars will never stop as long as long as people in the imperial center do things like spread the gospel using Halo3, a dichotomizing, bloody video game. The article is copied into this post. Here’s an excerpt.

Witness the basement on a recent Sunday at the Colorado Community Church in the Englewood area of Denver, where Tim Foster, 12, and Chris Graham, 14, sat in front of three TVs, locked in violent virtual combat as they navigated on-screen characters through lethal gun bursts. Tim explained the game’s allure: “It’s just fun blowing people up.”

Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of the church said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church. “

HOW–with what words, passages, or guiding principles–can we speak to our christian “brothers and sisters” about this? YAR has been a community of support for speaking truth to power. Words of advice, comfort, or challenge as we welcome many more christians by way of accepting Jesus as their savior while they were aroused by the massacring and tag-team destruction they just did?

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The Next Global Youth Summit

The AMIGOS met last week in Paraguay to plan the 2nd Global Youth Summit (GYS) of Mennonite World Conference (MWC). The event will happen July 10th-12th, 2009, immediately followed by MWC’s 15th World Assembly July 13-19. It will all take place in Asuncion, Paraguay…with independent trips to surrounding countries or regions before or after World Assembly.

At GYS, 50 delegates from 50 countries will meet to discuss the idea/practice of “Christian service”, social concerns, and church politics. Delegates will be given an assignment prior to the Summit to survey at least 50 people about what service means to them, what they see are the major issues in their local and national society, and youth involvement in their local church context. With answers and further questions coming in from all over the world, the delegates will work together to create a comprehensive statement on service and the other topics. They will present it to the MWC General Council, which consists of a church leader representative from each organized Menno/Anabaptist national conference in the world.

In addition to the delegates, the AMIGOS committee is expecting about 700-750 participants. Unlike the delegates who represent the youth (ages 18-30) in the Menno/Anabaptist churches in their country, participants come representating themselves, for their own personal reasons and interests. The participants create the atmosphere of theological debate and discussion, as well as a lot of laughter and soccer playing. In Zimbabwe, GYS felt like a big family reunion with all the extended family…cousins you’d never met but heard about, grandparents who told stories of days past, and lots of email exchanging and promises to “keep in touch”. It was and continues to be all about seeing who was and is part of the Menno/Anabaptist family globally: To learn that what we imagine we have in common, we don’t…and to find sweet connections through life situations that draw us closer to one another. (more…)

Creating Room for Imagination to Breathe in the Church

Young adults were given 90 minutes of discernment time with delegates at the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly in Abbotsford this year. As the session flew by, the breadth of our responses quickly narrowed, mostly in response to some very insightful questions from the delegate floor. As one of 5 young adult panelists, the challenge for me was to focus my answers to represent voices I’ve heard again and again from young adults in the Mennonite church. Given the width of the questions, focusing answers on key thoughts was not easy.

If I were to sum things up, I would say the focus became, “Why is the present heart of the Mennonite church in today’s culture being labelled an issue of young adults and the future of the church?” (more…)

Young Adults Present Statement of Visions at San Jose

Roxy Allen and Jeremy Yoder present young adult visions at San Jose 2007

The following statement was drafted and presented at the San Jose 2007 Convention in response to an invitation from MC USA Executive Leadership for feedback from BikeMovement and associated conversations regarding young adult visions for the Mennonite church:

Young adults have been called the future of the church. We come before you today to say that the future has already begun.

We come from varied walks of life. Some of us went to Mennonite colleges, some of us did not. Some of us are connected to our home congregations, and others are finding it hard to connect to any congregation. We have built relationships that transcend geography. We are using the new medium of the Internet – including sites like the Young Anabaptist Radicals blog and the Anabaptist Network on Facebook – as forums for conversation, debate, and community. We are seekers in our faith and full of complex questions. (more…)

San Jose YAR Meetup

I was really excited to meet some of the YAR authors/lurkers at the San Jose conference this week, to hear of the kind of things you are doing inside and outside the Church, and to hear the insights you had about the future of the church.

On Wed, July 4th, several YAR authors and sympathizers had dinner and discussed issues that they felt were pressing in the church. Here are my notes from the meeting. (more…)

Meeting the Church

I haven’t taken much time on this blog to talk about myself. I should say that I am an outsider in this church – my last name isn’t Yoder, Miller, Freisen, or Moshier.

I have only been a Christian for 9 months; the Mennonite congregation I attend (a beautiful place that I hope my new-found YAR friends can come see some day) was evangelical merely by their presence – they were spiritually formative by aligning speech and action and desire and vision. I would not want to be any place else.

I am writing from the convention in San Jose; I have been here since yesterday and will be leaving tomorrow (short time, I know, but I’m a busy guy).

I am coming to learn why it is frustrating to penetrate the Mennonite world: there are a lot of people who make money off of being Mennonite. (more…)

Our hopes and dreams for church

Hello YAR internet community,

A quick plug for “BikeMovement the Documentary – A young adult perspective on church” that will premiere at San Jose 2007 Mennonite convention and be available for sale on-line in about a week. For those of you who don’t know, BikeMovement was a group of young adults who biked across the United States last summer talking about young adults and church. (BikeMovement involves more then just this, including a recent biking trip through Asia, but for the purpose of this post, I’ll focus on young adults and church in North America.)

BikeMovement has been asked to share 5-7 minutes during the delegate session on the topic, “What are hopes and dreams of young adults for the future church.” While we’ve conversed with young adults all across the country, finding an answer to that question is a rather daunting task since it sometimes feels like we are all over the board on that question.
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