As I stood in front of an energized crowd of nearly 1,200 youth, youth leaders and bishops who had just spent 20 minutes jumping, clapping, singing, shouting and praising God at the Episcopal Youth Event, my message of youth empowerment seemed a little misplaced, or perhaps redundant.
I mean, this was a group that was seizing the moment to listen, learn, reflect on mission and grow into the full stature of Christ Jesus — did they really need me to remind them that God wants to use them for mission? Did they really need me to remind them that they have all the gifts, talents and potential necessary for mission in God's world?
But the truth is, aside from this rocking triennial youth event, young people are not always empowered or even encouraged to be agents of change. In a crowd of peers and supporters, youth feel honored and empowered to make missional changes in the Church and the world -- but when they go home to congregations, will they still feel empowered and be welcomed as prophets and visionaries of God?
It is the answer to that question that compels me to continue speaking about the need to respect the dignity of every human being, regardless of age. Are we in the Episcopal Church ready to take our baptismal vows seriously enough to truly listen to the young in our congregations? Are we ready to support them in their call to be agents of God's mission in this world?
At Episcopal Relief & Development, we are endeavoring to take the Baptismal Covenant seriously — starting with our youth. We believe that youth are vital agents of change in this hurting world. Through their daily decisions as consumers and their capacity to be part of a world-transforming movement, they are able to extend Christ's healing to this world.
Our new program, Act Out: Empowering Youth to Heal a Hurting World, aims to help young people expand their imaginations as to what it means to reside in this globalized society while retaining a dual citizenship in the Kingdom of God. It creates a space to develop a theology that enables them to live incarnationally and reflects their own sensibilities and language.
What about your congregation? Are you ready to empower youth to heal this world?