By Jessie Houff (she/her)

National Young Adult Conference 2021–it was virtual, it was graceful, it was…ON FIRE! Allow me to explain.

First of all, we had INCREDIBLE speakers. The conference started off with a bang. We heard from Reverend LaDonna Sanders Nkosi who shared her warm and delicious poetry. Then a campfire time with silly songs (very Brethren). The next day we had some workshops and Madalyn Metzger shared some quarantine realness during worship. Another day, more workshops and a service opportunity (VERY Brethren) and Eric Landram served a justice-packed message. Then there was the final day of conference.

Every year for the last several years we have carved out time in our schedule to speak with a seasoned leader in the church. We asked for this option as a group years ago because we wanted time to speak with a higher-up church member in leadership. It was the perfect opportunity to share with them how we felt about the church from our perspectives. Every year, we say very similar things: “We need more inclusion and acceptance of people across all spectrums. We have to be inclusive of those with disabilities. Why aren’t we talking about mental illness as a church?” And every year we’re told the same things: “We love young adults! We would love to have more of you in leadership! Thank you for sharing!”

Those sound like really nice answers, yes? I thought they were too until I heard them over and over year after year and saw zero action to make young adults and our values more welcome. If we keep sharing our opinions, why aren’t they being recognized seriously enough to actually make some changes in the church? Why are LGBTQ+ persons still being violently discriminated against and refused a seat at God’s table? Why aren’t more women in leadership? Why are our churches and stages still not being made handicap accessible?

After Greg Davidson Laszakovitz brought it home on the final worship with a beautiful sermon, we concluded with a spicy discussion about young adult inclusion. Those who were on the call expressed frustration because our values of appreciating persons across all spectrums are intentionally being ignored and shut down. We are always asked why there aren’t more young people in the church. Those of us who are still involved in church are here, but we are exhausted. We are sick of hearing the same things every year and seeing no action. So we are making our voices heard.

This conference lit a fire in many of us to organize and move our denomination towards the celebration of all persons in the church. We are on fire. If you are reading this and you feel that spark of fire in you, I invite you to be a part of this call for church-wide inclusivity across all spectrums–race, ability, gender, sexuality, age, etc. We are going to do what it takes to let everyone know: WE ARE HERE.

Email Jessie at jessicahouff@gmail.com if you want to be a part of it.


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