“We are the church of today,” Youth Tell EOC Delegates

By Rick Wolcott*

A Special Session of General Conference has been called for February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. Its purpose is to act on a report by the Council of Bishops based on proposals from the Commission on a Way Forward.  The Commission was created by action of General Conference 2016 and was tasked with completely examining, and possibly revising, every paragraph of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church concerning human sexuality, and exploring options to help maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.

Per ¶14 of The Book of Discipline, “Such special session of the General Conference shall be composed of the delegates to the preceding General Conference or their lawful successors.”

“Last year Youth Annual Conference passed a resolution that went to Annual Conference asking for a new delegation that would have better representation of young people,” said Kaye Wolfinger, EOC director of Young People’s Ministries.  “That was denied at Annual Conference but the solution was that conversations could be had with CCYM so their voices could still be heard and understood.”

Members of CCYM conversed and fellowshipped with EOC delegates during lunch at Doylestown UMC (Canal District) on February 24.

Allen Laferty, a lay member of Crestline First UMC (Mid-Ohio District) whom delegates elected to be head of the EOC delegation, said the youth at his table wanted to know why General Conference hadn’t previously made a decision in regards to the Church’s position on human sexuality.

“They felt it was an easy decision to be made and could be carried out rather quickly,” Laferty said.  “I tried to explain that it wasn’t that simple, that The United Methodist Church is worldwide, and there are many different thoughts about what the UMC should look like.”

“We want our opinions to be heard but we also want to hear the views of members of the delegation so that we can have a healthy dialogue together,” said CCYM President Connor Prusha, a high school senior from Chardon UMC (Western Reserve District).

Connor Prusha and youth speak to delegates

He has found that being a reserve delegate to Jurisdictional Conference 2016 and being active at the General Church level of the denomination is a benefit to him and to CCYM.

“Because I serve on the Division on Ministries with Young People, I was able to meet with representatives from the Commission on a Way Forward who came and talked with us.  So I was able to share my experience of that with CCYM, which prompted a whole conversation,” Prusha said.

“It was great to meet with the youth.  I found those that I visited with to have a very strong grasp on the issues facing us in St. Louis and thoughtful opinions,” said Brian Sheetz, a General Conference delegate and member of Strongsville UMC (North Coast District).  “I was encouraged that they all stressed that the church is strongest if it can remain unified.  It was clear to me that this is something that they have discussed and given great consideration to.”

“The youth asked great questions about the Commission on a Way Forward and the future of The United Methodist Church,” said Susan Achberger a reserve delegate to Jurisdictional Conference 2016 who attends University Circle UMC (North Coast District).  “I was inspired by their passion to serve.  They love their church and want to see it thrive.”

The lunchtime conversation was not limited to just the special session of General Conference.

“At my table the discussion didn’t focus as much on human sexuality as it did on the authenticity and capable leadership youth bring to all levels of church conversation,” said the Rev. Dan Bryant, senior pastor of Lakewood UMC (North Coast District) and a General Conference 2016 delegate.  “I sensed they are leaps and bounds ahead of so many of us adults in regards to what is means to truly follow Jesus and to build lasting relationships among all people.”

“Though we come from different times and age differences, there is empathy and concern for each generation.  We are one in Christ,” said Betty Wilson, a member of Hammondsville UMC (Ohio Valley District) and a delegate to Jurisdictional Conference 2016.  “The prevalent topic we discussed was about what the church means to us, how we came to be in church, and where we go from here.”

“It’s good to have the voice of youth heard because people forget that we are the church of today.  We’re not just the church of tomorrow,” Prusha said.

“The youth leaders in our Conference are bright, engaged, hungry and thirsty for a church that is relevant and is focused on the main thing, which is sharing the love of Jesus and being engaged in justice in our world.” Bryant said.  “If we, as the adults in the East Ohio Conference can lighten up our control and find avenues to have our youth both learn and teach us, then we will truly have a way forward that is transformative for all.”

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

It Feels Like Home to Me

By Emily Sheetz*

“It’s a big, big house with lots and lots of rooms.
A big, big table with lots and lots of food.
A big, big yard where we can play football.
A big, big house. It’s my Father’s house.”

Lyrics from Big House by Audio Adrenaline

This song is one of my favorites from camp, but more about camp later.  For me it is a favorite because it talks about home, and how people come together, and will come together, in our Father’s house.  This summer I added one room, returned to another, and shut the lights off in another.

Nearly three and a half months ago I drove into downtown Steubenville not knowing what to expect as I was beginning an internship in an environment a world apart from what I have known my whole life.  Southeast Ohio is filled with hills and views I do not get in Northeast Ohio and economic challenges far different from suburban Cleveland.

A few Urban Mission staff members with Emily at her going away dinner.

Despite my hesitation, I pulled into the parking lot of Urban Mission ministries (Ohio Valley District) ready to take on this journey experiencing the mission and non-profit sphere of the Church.  Every day brought a new, eye-opening experience.  Each person I met, worked and interacted with made it my best summer yet.  From the very first day, I was welcomed into the community with open arms.  Serving alongside fellow Christians who continue to see the possibilities of spreading the love in a city was encouraging.  It pushed, and pushes, me to live a life with a mission to be a person of possibility, to listen with compassion, and to serve with love.

Four years ago, I spent many Sunday mornings listening to Rev. Dave Scavuzzo plug into his sermons information about a ministry for children in the foster care system.  It peaked my interest because I grew up in a home with a roof over my head every night, food on the table or in the fridge, and a loving family who supports me in everything I do.

RFKC staff waiting for the children to arrive.
RFKC staff waiting for the children to arrive.

Royal Family Kids Camp (RFKC) reaches out to kids who grew up far differently.  It serves 32 children in the Cuyahoga County foster care system that folks from Strongsville United Methodist (North Coast District) bring to camp.  RFKC spreads the concept of a safe home and safe people to others.  At the end of the week, there is a talent show where individual campers or groups of campers can show off their talents to all of camp.

Three years ago, one camper blew us all away.  Throughout the week, we had sung Gold by Britt Nicole and this particular camper wanted to sing it for the talent show.  His family, or small group, encouraged him to go for it.  Once Thursday evening came around, however, there was some stage fright, so his counselors ended up covering him up with a blanket while he sang on the stage.  When the song was over, he came out from under the blanket, welcomed to a standing ovation and so much love.  Now coming back this year and seeing the shy young boy I met three years ago with a huge smile on his face every day, laughing every day, and overall being outgoing was an amazing welcome back to the RFKC room in our Father’s house.

A group of campers and staff at the cross.
A group of campers and staff at the cross.

I have been attending East Ohio Camps for nearly 15 years and this year I shut the lights off in my camper room.  Seven years ago, I pulled into a familiar place for a not so familiar space.  I went into the gates of Lakeside Chautauqua for a new camp experience, to me, for a week of Lakeside Institute.  Lakeside Institute is a high school- and college age-camp and quickly became a non-negotiable week of my summer, but this summer was my last year as a camper.  This camp is where I learned to love myself for who God created me to be, where I found Christ, and where I can look around and say this is what Heaven is going to be like.  As I turned the light off in this room this year, I looked around our closing circle and saw each person as someone God placed in my life over the course of the past seven years for a reason.  I saw each person as someone I cannot wait to share the big, big house, table, and yard with when we are called to our Father’s house.

Lakeside Institute 2017 last year campers.
Lakeside Institute 2017 last year campers.

Home can mean so many things to all of us.  To me it is a place or space filled with people who walk alongside me while I continue to discern where God is calling and leading me in ministry and how He wants me to help others experience home.  As of right now, each room of my Father’s house I have experienced has helped me discern I am called to pastoral ministry in some capacity.  In the coming years, and for the rest of my life, I will be adding more and more rooms that I come in and out of, and adding more and more people to invite “to come and go with me to my Father’s house.”

*Emily Sheetz is a junior at Indiana Wesleyan University studying Community Development and Honors Humanities pursuing ordination in The United Methodist Church.

Louisville community is taken by STORM

By Kaye Wolfinger*

Lee Nicolson, youth pastor at Christ UMC in Louisville, (Tuscarawas District) is this week taking the community by STORM (Service To Others in Relational  Mission) Nicholson, who is serving as director for the week, caught the vision for this week long teen mission ministry from the Minnesota Conference three years ago.  The first year he took another leader and three youth to experience the week first hand in Fairbault, MN. By year three, 10 youth and adults made the trip to learn how to duplicate the week back in Ohio.  This week they are watching God’s hand and their planning take shape.

STORM youth

Groups from Danville Kentucky, as well as Mentor and Louisville, Ohio are joining forces.  There are an average of 20-30 adults per day, and 25 teens working on 25 projects for homeowners in and around Louisville.

The goal of STORM is to allow youth to experience the power of Jesus through the vehicle of service and leadership.  Teens each get a turn to be a Servant Leader of the Day, where they learn to make decisions regarding the projects, lead Bible Study with fellow youth and the people they serve.   Each night they are worshiping together and sharing testimonies of how God is working each day.  Nicholson says one of their mottos is, “Work hard, Worship hard.” This experience supports the ministry model that mission work is a part of the discipleship journey and not a stand-alone event. Nicholson’s vision has been three years in the making, and his prayer is to have 45 youth and 45 projects next year.

For more information you can contact Lee Nicholson at  STORMlouisville@gmail.com

*Kaye Wolfinger is director of Young People’s Ministries and Higher Education and Campus Ministry for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.