Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Charged. Rooted. United.

I workeveryday with children and youth. Usually, when they ask me how old I am andlearn that I am ‘already 24!’ I am automatically ‘old.’ And yes, from a child’sperspective, I am old. Especially when many of the children with whom I work haveparents just years older than myself.

Steppingbeyond my daily work environment where I am ‘old,’ it is quite different to behere at General Conference, where one of my main ‘identities’ is linked withbeing ‘young’ and being a ‘young adult.’ Looking at the faces of the delegates,the volunteers, the agency staff, the marshals, the pages and the pressgathered here in Tampa, I am young. We, the young people, are underrepresentedas part of the global church gathered here.

Thismorning during our plenary session, two young adults addressed the body. KrinAli, from the United States, presented to us in person. Joy Eva Algodon-Bohol,from the Philippines, was denied her visa to the United States and thereforespoke to us via video feed.  Sharingstories of youth and young adult ministry across the world, the address focusedon our role as young adults in being: Charged. Rooted. United.

Charged inour faith and as prophets and messengers, rooted in our tradition and in the church,we, the young people of the United Methodist Church, are united across theworld despite our ethnic, cultural, identity, and theological differences.

But, whereare the young people? 

Will thechurch exist in twenty years?

I did notgrow up a United Methodist. I joined the United Methodist Church in 2008 afterbecoming active in the campus ministry at American University during my studiesthere. If not for the existence, empowerment and space for questioning andtheological discernment of campus ministry, I would not be a United Methodist.I would not be a United Methodist Young Adult Missionary. I would not be hereat General Conference working as a Young Adult Legislative Coordinator. I wouldnot be here in Tampa without the spiritual, prayerful, and financial support ofmy congregation and United Methodists around the world.

As regionalyouth funding is cut, as annual conferences reduce campus ministry funding andcut campus minister positions, and as national youth funding and representationremains a small portion of the church budget, I cannot speak to the future ofthe church with hope.

Youngpeople need the church just like the church needs young people. And yet, weremain underrepresented. Without the proportional presence of young people inthe decision making of our church body, inequity remains within the church. Althoughmany delegates support the inclusion of young people as delegates to GeneralConference, older delegates who have served multiple times to GeneralConference are once again here – their seats remained filled and young peoplecannot fill the seats and be present here as delegates if these seats ofprivilege are not made available to us. In order to fill these spaces, theseroles, we must be assisted in, empowered and prayerfully supported to step intosuch positions. To achieve age equity of representation, we must work togetheracross boundaries of age, of ethnicity and of identity, to achieve such equity.Just as we must work beyond boundaries to achieve racial, ethnic, and culturalequity as a global church.

So. Whereare the young people? Where will our church be in twenty years if the presence,the voices, the opinions of our youth and young adults are not heard now? Weare not the future of the church. We ARE the church. Just like all other UnitedMethodists around the world.  Might ourdelegate representation, our funding, our presence as a church reflect that.

Where arethe young people?

We arehere. Charged. Rooted. United. Waiting to be heard.  Waiting to speak. Waiting to be supported. 

Michelle Dromgold is a Mission Intern of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. She is currently serving at the Kindertreff Delbrücke at the Salem Gemeinde in Berlin, Germany. There, she works as a social worker with an emphasis on intercultural and interreligious dialogue amongst the children and youth at the after-school program and with local United Methodist Congregations. She is a member of Dumbarton United Methodist Church in the Baltimore Washington Annual Conference and was active in the campus ministry at American University.

No comments: