Young Adults Contemplate ‘Being the Church’

Photo by Carol Fike
A piece of artwork created at National Young Adult Conference (NYAC) 2012 illustrates the meeting’s theme: Humble Yet Bold, Being the Church.

National Young Adult Conference was held June 18-22 at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. About 105 Brethren between the ages of 18 and 35 gathered from across the country to hear sermons, worship in community, participate in Bible studies and workshops, and explore what it means to be humble, yet bold, as the church in our world today.

The theme of the conference was “Humble Yet Bold: Being the Church,” and focused on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7. Over the course of the week, participants dove deep into the Beatitudes, and the risks, realities, and rewards of being salt and light to those around us.

Photo by Carol Fike
Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren pastor Greg Davidson Laszakovits was one of the speakers for NYAC 2012, held at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

They were challenged to take part in this calling by a dynamic group of speakers including Angie Lahman of Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren in Arizona, Dana Cassell of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren, Shelly West of Happy Corner Church of the Brethren in Ohio, Joel Pena of Alpha and Omega Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania, Greg Davidson Laszakovits of Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, Tracy Primozich representing Bethany Theological Seminary, and Josh Brockway and Nate and Jenn Hosler, representing Congregational Life and Peace Witness Ministries of the Church of the Brethren.

Each morning’s Bible study began with singing led by Josh Tindall, director of Music Ministries at Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren. This was followed by opportunities to attend workshops on topics such as Brethren Volunteer Service, workcamps, peace, scripture, spirituality, creation care, women in leadership, and a history of Brethren conflicts and fashion. Workshops were led by representatives from several organizations including the Church of the Brethren denomination, On Earth Peace, Bethany Seminary, the Open Table Cooperative, and the Center on Conscience and War.

Photo by Julia Largent
NYAC 2012 was a chance to meet young adult Brethren from across the church. The schedule for the conference included getting to know each other opportunities, fellowship and meals, small group discussions, and service projects along with worship and Bible study.

“Coffee and Conversation,” talk-back sessions, and meals hosted by NYAC speakers took place on various afternoons. These were unique times of casual dialogue on a variety of subjects with church leaders including Annual Conference moderator Tim Harvey and general secretary Stan Noffsinger.

After supper each evening, participants gathered again for worship. Each session was carefully crafted by worship coordinators Katie Shaw Thompson of Ivester Church of the Brethren in Iowa, and Russ Matteson of Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren. Along with singing, they included scripture readings and dramatic interpretations, prayers, footwashing, anointing, and communion. A worship center was constructed in the middle of the intimate theater space where worship was held, and it was slightly altered each day to emphasize the daily themes of being humble, salt, light, and bold.

Two special offerings were taken. The first raised $746.62 for the Haiti Health Program providing mobile medical clinics (see story below). The other collected $148 and eight bags of craft supplies and goodies for “Christmas in July” at the John M. Reed Nursing Home, a Church of the Brethren retirement community that has decided to spread Christmas cheer to residents all year long.

Photo by Ashley Kern
A group at one of the NYAC 2012 service projects. Young adults helped out at two service project sites in Knoxville: the Knoxville Area Rescue Mission and the Lost Sheep Ministry.

In between worship and teaching, workshops and conversation, community groups and breaking bread together, a number of activities were planned and led by members of the Young Adult Steering Committee. Highlights were a white water rafting trip in the Smokie Mountains, service projects at the Knoxville Area Rescue Mission and the Lost Sheep Ministry, ultimate Frisbee, board games, a night swim, and an unforgettable talent show.

National Young Adult Conference was coordinated by Carol Fike and the Young Adult Steering Committee of Josh Bashore-Steury, Jennifer Quijano, Jonathan Bay, Mark Dowdy, Ashley Kern, and Kelsey Murray. Each of these persons, as well as Becky Ullom, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, worked diligently for many months to make the conference a success.

NYAC was a conference built on time spent in community, worshiping God, and engaging in inspirational conversation. It was a safe space for attendees to gather in the name of Jesus, lift their voices in song and prayer, ask questions, and be exposed for exactly who they are: brothers and sisters, children of God, called to be salt and light–humble, yet bold.

Find an album of pictures from NYAC, provided by young adult participants, at .

— Mandy Garcia carries out donor communications for the Church of the Brethren.

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