Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Student Forum Experience

When I left out from my home in Arkansas in the wee morning hours of Thursday May 26th, I had not the slightest idea of what to expect at United Methodist Student Forum. When I arrived at the University of Evansville later that evening, my heart rejoiced to be surrounded by so many United Methodist college students striving towards justice. At the opening worship of Student Forum, the United Methodist Student Movement Steering Committee presented participants with the theme song for the 2011 conference. About two hundred United Methodist Students sang with much gusto the refrain of the 2011 Student Forum theme song which called the students to “Overcome divisions and darkness by lighting Christ’s way.” 

The rest of the weekend I was encouraged from meeting so many students living out Christ’s call to social holiness, love, mercy, and justice. Students participated in conferences on how to bring about interfaith dialogue to their campuses, further their leadership skills, learn about environmental justice, participate in yoga sessions, and plan political action through the workshops offered. Between the workshops, I was blessed to be a part of holy conversations that focused on making disciples for Jesus Christ and the transformation of the world. These conversations brought in college students and clergy from all over the United States, Japan, and Liberia to various dining tables, park benches, and dorm rooms on the University of Evansville campus together for discussion on how to further God’s work in our communities. I was encouraged by the attendance for the MoSAIC worship service late Friday night with about half of the students at United Methodist Student Forum attending. Saturday’s legislative session was an intense time in which petitions discussed dealing with ending bullying, having equal rights on the basis of gender identity, making comprehensive human sexuality education a social principle and resolution, and to hold accountable the Steering Committee to contact each Annual Conference as well as including a workshop to address gender and sexuality within the church.  The weekend began wrapping up with the Saturday night worship service aimed to inspire students to carry Christ’s light out into the rest of our world; which was literally done by each participant lighting an individual candle from the service’s Christ candle and walking out of the sanctuary into a courtyard on the campus of the University of Evansville.

Students gather in a circle outside of worship to share
the light of Christ with the world. 

Reflecting back on the weekend spent at United Methodist Student Forum in Evansville, Indiana, I was incredibly humbled to meet so many young United Methodists pursuing justice. I was encouraged to continue fighting the good fight of faith and to grow in a community that seeks to “Do Justice, Love Kindness, and Walk Humbly with the Lord.” Being able to be a part of groups of students who stayed  up until four in the morning organizing for political action and legislative sessions, left me inspired to be a young adult in the United Methodist Church and excited for the future of my beloved church. Leaving Student Forum and going back into my daily routine, I am filled with hope at the future of the United Methodist Church. Meeting so many young United Methodists that will become the leaders of laity and clergy of the future church, I can say that I am hopeful about the future direction and potential within the United Methodist Church.  

Sara Bayles is a senior at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, AR where she is majoring in Political Science and Religious Studies with a minor in Gender Studies and Honors Interdisciplinary Thesis focused on Social Justice within American Feminism. Sara grew up in the United Methodist Church and serves as a Student Intern Leader and Gardener at the University of Central Arkansas Wesley Foundation. This summer, Sara will be  working at the General Board of Church and Society in Washington DC in the division of Women's Issues. During her senior year of college, Sara will be serving as a student local pastor at Cleveland and Overcup United Methodist Churches. 

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