By Tyler Roebuck
Over Memorial Day weekend, more than 45 young adults from across the country met at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., for National Young Adult Conference (NYAC). The weekend was filled with worship, workshops, and Bible study focused around the theme of creating harmony in everyday life.
Every four years, the annual Young Adult Conference (YAC), which typically meets at a Church of the Brethren camp, plans a larger event at one of the Brethren colleges which takes on national significance.
NYAC attendees discussed the theme of “Creating Harmony.” Each day focused on a different line in music that creates a chord. The four parts of a typical chord as sung by a choir–melody, bass, tenor, and alto–each represented a metaphor for how Jesus, scripture, society, and individuals all contribute to form a melodious tune. Colossians 3:12-17 provided the scriptural foundation.
Guest speakers from Roanoke, Va., to Santa Ana, Calif., led conversations centered around the theme. Supplementary workshops discussed real-world issues facing the nation including prison reform and intergenerational relationships, as well as other topics such as the history of church music. Service projects in the area were also offered.
Drew Hart, a doctoral candidate and professor at Messiah College and author of the blog “Taking Jesus Seriously” and the book “Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the way the Church Views Racism,” offered a profound analysis of the way God’s melody interacts with our lives. According to Hart, God’s melody–or Jesus’ melody–is a blues melody. “[A blues melody] engages with the bad in the world but does not lose hope,” he said. “It enters into the pain and presses further into the suffering to find the source.”
Jim Grossnickel-Batterton of Bethany Theological Seminary led a Bible study the following morning that continued engaging with pain, as attendees examined Psalm 88 and discussed personal periods of pain and struggle.
Eric Landram, pastor of Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and a Bethany graduate, delivered a sermon discussing how God is not only the foundation of everyday life, but also the predominant force in the universe. Science and religion seem to be forces in constant conflict, but Landram said, “Science is one of the greatest gifts to man because it allows us to attempt to understand the vastness of God’s creation.”
Richard Zapata, pastor of Principe de la Paz Iglesia de los Hermanos in Santa Ana, Calif., led a Bible study on the week’s key scripture, and also shared about the ministry he and his church provide for his community.
Waltrina Middleton of Cleveland, Ohio, who is one of “Rejuvenate” magazine’s “40 Under 40 Professionals to Watch in Non-Profit Religious Sector” and one of the Center for American Progress’s “16 to Watch in 2016,” offered insight into the story of God calling out to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3. She related this call to our call to respond to injustice.
Christy Dowdy, a Bethany graduate who has been pastoring for the last 27 years, brought the differing parts of the event together to form harmony. “It seems that God never tires of beckoning us to join in a holy chorus,” she said.
During worship services, offerings were collected for the Nigeria Crisis Fund and a local food pantry, and overall donations eclipsed $300.
— Tyler Roebuck is a student at Manchester University and is serving with the Church of the Brethren communications as a Ministry Summer Service intern.