Youth Are Invited into a Sacred Space of Belonging in Christ

2010 National Youth Conference of the Church of the Brethren

Fort Collins, Colo. — Saturday, July 17, 2010


“No matter where you are in the process of believing, you already belong here,” said Angie Lahman Yoder, preacher for the opening service of NYC. Yoder serves as a minister of worship at Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren in Peoria, Ariz., and is a fulltime mother and a former high school teacher. Photo by Glenn Riegel

It was immediately evident to the close to 3,000 people in attendance at the opening worship service of National Youth Conference 2010, that there was a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to their new theme song.

NYC Co-coordinators Audrey Hollenberg and Emily LaPrade greet the congregation at the opening worship service. Photo by Glenn Riegel

But as the praise band introduced the bridge—and the “pre-bridge”—everyone was ready to join in the chorus of “More Than Meets the Eye,” composed by Shawn Kirchner. When the song was reprised later in the service, it seemed like its complexity added to the enjoyment.

Josh Brockway, a member of the NYC Spiritual Direction Team and the Church of the Brethren’s Congregational Life Ministries staff, invited worshippers to stand, fold their arms, and experience how difficult this made it for them to reach out to each other. He then invited everyone to relax, and open their arms and their hearts to each other. “The way we stand is a sign of our spiritual posture,” he said. If we are not open to each other, “we miss God.”

The preacher for the evening, Angie Lahman Yoder of Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren in Peoria, Ariz., called to mind her first day at a new high school, when she searched with anguish for a spot at the lunchroom table where she would fit in. The good news of the gospel is that in the church of Jesus Christ, we already fit in, she shared.

She unloaded a backpack filled with the sorts of things important to her life, including iPod, sunscreen, laptop, Bible—and admitted that for most of us the clothes we choose to wear and the things we seek or own are our way to desperately try to fit in.

But Jesus aimed his ministry at those who were rejected, and he himself experienced rejection. That’s why the church is a place where we feel safe.

“The church is not a secret club where only a few are accepted. It is for everyone,” Yoder said, “even you…. No matter where you are in the process of believing, you already belong here.”

She encouraged the youth to take seriously the opportunity to include each other in the small groups that all NYC participants are part of this week. “To meet Jesus, it means you actually have to meet one another,” she said. “It comes down to how I am willing to offer myself to the experience of Christ here at NYC.”

–Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren

The News Team for the 2010 National Youth Conference (NYC) includes photographers Glenn Riegel and Keith Hollenberg, writers Frank Ramirez and Frances Townsend, “NYC Tribune” guru Eddie Edmonds, Facebooker and Twitterer Wendy McFadden, website staff Amy Heckert, and news director and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford. Contact .

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