By Patrick Scriven, Director of Communications, Young People’s Ministries
Over Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of United Methodist youth, and a number of supportive adults, spent time in worship and learning at CONVO 2017 held on the campus of the University of Puget Sound.
And if I’m entirely honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it.
With the way our planning cycles go, CONVO almost always lands a few short weeks before Annual Conference and often on my birthday. Selfishly, it can sometimes feel like just another event to attend to before Summer offers its beautiful reprieve.
But I always feel a bit different by the end of the weekend. This year was no exception.
Don’t get me wrong, I came home as exhausted as I’ve ever been but also strangely energized (and heart similarly warmed). If you speak to other adults brave enough to share their weekend with teenagers, I suspect you’ll hear something similar. There is something absolutely refreshing in spending time with so many people willing to engage with real questions in vulnerable ways. Unlike their adult counterparts, they don’t have same pressure upon them to have it all figured out. How liberating (and totally possibly if we adults worked at it)!
This year’s CONVO theme encouraged attendees to “Boldly Go” and make a difference in the world. The speaker, Chelsea Spyres, engaged the theme well, putting the challenge of discipleship in front of the youth in ways relevant to their lives. Spyres, a former US-2 who helped to give the Young Person’s Address at the 2016 General Conference, is Director of Christian Formation and Education at St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Bowie, Maryland.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the local talent on display at the event as well. The youth and adult members of the Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCOYM), supported capably by Teri Tobey on our PNW staff, did a stellar job of leading the retreat. Complemented by an excellent band on loan from nearby Auburn First UMC, the five worship services over the course of the weekend were as inspirational as any I’ve attended in the past year, and perhaps a bit more fun. Adults from across the conference offered workshops on a number of spiritual and fun topics competing valiantly with some unusually gorgeous weather.
On the final morning, Bishop Elaine Stanovsky made her first visit to CONVO as our new bishop. She shared with the youth her deep familiarity with the school (the University of Puget Sound was her alma mater) and made some autobiographical connections between her own youth leadership and the possible reverberations of actions by youth today upon their futures.
As she offered a blessing to graduating Seniors, Bishop Stanovsky reflected on the recent incident of hate and extreme violence on a train in Portland, Oregon. Speaking about the individuals who acted to protect two young women from harassment, she said, “I don’t know if those three men were Christians or not — doesn’t matter — because in those moments they knew what God empowered them to do and be in the world. They followed the way of life.”
“Every action we take, word we speak, thought we think, every gesture we make, is a choice between life and death.” As youth participated in a final communion, these words by the bishop added an exclamation point to the message of the weekend. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to make a difference in the world. It’s not often that the world will allow us to do so timidly, it’s better to be prepared to boldly go!