Category Archives: Young People

New Officers Of The Church Of Scotland National Youth Assembly

Congratulations are in order to Elder Lynsey Martin and Esther Nisbet who were recently named as the new Moderator and Clerk of the Church of Scotland’s 2013 National Youth Assembly. I have not found a formal press release but the NYA officers web page was recently updated. It has been a little while since they were nominated since Lynsey’s appointment is mentioned in her church’s January/February newsletter.

Moderator Designate Lynsey Martin is a ruling elder for the Barnhill St. Margaret’s Church in Dundee and she has recently completed five years of law training and as the bio says she “is slowly adjusting to not being a student any more” and now doing administrative work at a law firm.

She has been extensively involved with the NYA and its mission trips since 2005 and has attended the General Assembly three times. Looking forward, the web page includes this quote from her about the upcoming NYA:

I’m really excited to have been invited to be the next Moderator of the
National Youth Assembly. One of the wonderful things about NYA is that
it’s constantly evolving. In our worship and discussion we take time to
learn about our Church, its work, our God and ourselves. That is why I’m
so happy that the theme this year shall be: ‘Identity: Who do you say
that I am?’ I think it’s important that we take time to reflect on our
identity, as individuals and as a Church and it’s brilliant that the NYA
is able to be a safe place for that through providing opportunity,
space, time and community. It is my hope that those attending NYA will
be encouraged to respond to this theme not only at NYA but throughout
their lives.

Clerk Designate Esther Nisbet is active in her congregation of St. Leonards Parish Church in Dunfermline. She is a music student at the University of Glasgow and also has extensive experience with the NYA having also gone on the mission trips and participated with the General Assembly twice. About this opportunity she is quoted as saying:

I am delighted to have been asked to be the Clerk of the National Youth
Assembly and I’m looking forwards to developing the role and working
with the Moderator, Lynsey!

One thing that struck me about both of the officers is that they share a love of music. Esther is not just a music student but plays violin in the praise band at her church. Lynsey is also active musically and recently began serving as the organist at Coldside Parish Church in Dundee. I suspect from the number of instruments each plays they must be active in other music groups as well.

They will be installed when the 2013 National Youth Assembly convenes on Friday 16 August in Dundee and they will help run the Assembly through the following Monday. As the quote from Lynsey said, the theme is “Identity” and the NYA page adds a bit more:

Our theme for 2013 is ‘Identity – who do you say I am?’ so we’ll be
exploring what it is to be me, what it is to be in the Church of
Scotland and what it is to be Scottish.

The page also talks about a bit of a change in the format — “For NYA 2013 our focus will be shifting from debates to other forms of learning and decision making.” It will be interesting to see how that goes.

And don’t worry, the page also says that all the usual fun social events will be there as well.

As Presbyterian youth events go this is a significant one because the topics discussed are related not just to the lives of the youth but also to the life of the Kirk and Scottish society in general. What will come out of their deliberations will be sent to the 2014 General Assembly and Lynsey will have the responsibility of presenting much of it. This event is also usually live streamed and I am looking forward to that and have blocked out the weekend on my calendar to watch. I don’t know how the new format will work with live streaming but I am interested to see.

As always, our blessings upon the Lynsey and Esther as they take up this calling and prayers for your Assembly and your year in office.

National Youth Assembly 2012 Of The Church Of Scotland


In a few minutes the 2012 National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland will get underway. This is one of my favorite annual events but it snuck up on me this year. This is partly because I have been super-busy the last few weeks and partly because it is being held three weeks earlier than the past few years.

I am glad that it has caught my attention because it is for me one of the highlights of the year. This is not your usual denominational youth event. Sure, there are plenty of great social events and fellowship time. But this group is also a deliberative body in the best Presbyterian tradition. Every year they designate three or four topics for the group to discuss and finally formulate into a General Assembly style deliverance that they then take to the wider church and the General Assembly itself. It is great opportunity to see the younger generation of the church in action and hear what they are thinking.

So beginning today, 10 August, through Monday 13 August roughly 300 youth (young adults between the ages of 16 and 25) will be gathered in Dundee at the West Park Conference Centre.

So what is on the docket for this year?  While the official source of information, the COSY blog, has not been updated yet but there is a schedule posted on the Church of Scotland web site with the live streaming on the National Youth Assembly 2012 page. The overall theme is “Breaking Barriers” and the debate topics on the schedule include Tax Evasion/Finance, HIV/Aids and Domestic Abuse. Other sessions listed are the Scottish Youth Parliament and Human Library. (And on a personal note I am grateful that latter one is scheduled at a time I can easily listen in from the other side of the world.)

So you want to follow along with a few of us?  Here are some places to check out.  The live streaming is up on the Church of Scotland web site. Comments, reflections and official decisions usually appear on the COSY blog. There is also a photostream on flickr that may have some pictures.

And of course the best way to follow will be by way of Twitter. I would make a guess that the hashtag will be #nya12 but follow the official feed at @cosy_nya to be sure. And the Moderator of the NYA, Euan Patterson, can be followed at @Elfangorax. although I suspect he will be so busy he won’t have time to tweet much.

So, I hope you will join me in seeing what the younger members of the church are talking about.

How Do You Get Your Message Out? New Development In Standing For Moderator

Well, as much as I have spent time discussing the Moderator election for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, today’s brief note on new approaches brings us back to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

A couple of days ago I got an interesting Tweet from one of the candidates standing for Moderator of the General Assembly of the PC(USA).  It reads:

@nealpresa: Receive alerts of mod candidacy by texting word, “PRESA” to 56512. For email alerts text “PRESA (your email)” to 56512 #fb #pcusa #ga220

So now we can get mod candidacy alerts by text message. I believe this is a first.

This is actually a very smart move if you are aiming for a particular demographic.  Consider a meeting of a youth group (youth ages 14-20) that I was at last Sunday afternoon. They were discussing an upcoming activity and the youth chair needed a piece of information from the adviser.  The adviser asked “Can I email you that.”

“No” replied the youth, “text it to me.”

I can’t speak for this as a national trend, although I suspect it is, but for most of the youth and young adults that I work with on various things (and this includes my own kids) by far the number one means of communicating is by text message on their phones. If you haven’t noticed, phones are not to talk on any more but devices to send and receive text messages.  (And I sometimes suspect that one appeal of contacting your parents by text is that your friends don’t know its your parents you are texting to as opposed to having them overhear you on the phone.)

Email? Too complicated for the easy stuff. Twitter? Interesting, but not the way to hold a conversation. Text messaging is the simple method of communicating one-on-one for youth and young adults.

This does of course beg the question of whether there are enough commissioners who would want to get updates by text message to make this approach worth while.  It will be interesting to find out. And yes, I have texted in to be added to the distribution list but no alerts yet.

So how do you go about doing this? Well, the “text to” address of 56512 belongs to a direct marketing firm called Guide by Cell that offers various audio, mobi and text packages.  It must be pretty affordable because the budget for a Moderator campaign is capped at $1500.

As I said, it will be interesting to see how this new media works out for Rev. Presa. Stay tuned…

(And yes, there is other Moderator news this week, but I’m going to let that run a bit further before I do more with it.)

Church Of Scotland Moderator Designate… Two Of Them


Today the Church of Scotland announced the Moderator Designate for the 2012 General Assembly.  And last week the Church of Scotland National Youth Assembly Moderator Designate was also announced.  Here is some info on both of them.

The Rev. Albert Bogle was selected as the Moderator Designate for the 2012 General Assembly. Rev. Bogle is the pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish Church – Bo’ness and has his pastor’s blog titled iTalker. His Facebook page tells us that he is a graduate of the University of Glasgow and did his final theological training at the University of Edinburgh. (And as an aside, I like the Facebook profile picture better than the darker picture in the press release that the BBC article used.) He was short-listed last year in the Moderator selection process and his church’s web page has echoed the press release announcing his selection this year.

Besides the parish ministry Rev. Bogle has been involved in a wide range of ministries and in service to the church. He is involved with Sanctus Media, a non-profit that provides technology help to churches. He founded the Vine Trust that provides assistance to impoverished areas around the world and is currently working on the Amazon Hope Project that brings medical help to the Amazon region. He has served on multiple committees within the church, was the convener of the Church Without Walls group from 2004 to 2009, and is currently on the World Mission Future Strategy Group. The Church Without Walls is a theme his church has picked up on.

He has done a great job with his social media using the iTalker handle on Twitter (@iTalker), Facebook and his iTalker blog. Congratulations to Rev. Bogle on his selection and I look forward to following him and his Moderatorial year in the virtual world. May our prayers be with him as he undertakes this new calling.

It is also a pleasure to pass on the announcement of the new Moderator of the National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Mr. Euan Patterson of the Presbytery of Greenock and Paisley. Mr. Patterson can of course be found online on Twitter (@Elfangorax) and Facebook. He has contributed to the COSY Blog and for a good introduction to Euan I highly recommend his 15 minute video about his experience as a youth delegate to the 2011 General Assembly. I congratulate him on his selection and as he takes on this special calling we will be praying for him as well.

National Youth Assembly 2011 Of The Church Of Scotland


 
Well, it is the beginning of September and for a G.A. Junkie that means it is time to start following the National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

I have come to really appreciate and enjoy the annual NYA because of the close link it has to the church’s General Assembly and for the serious business it does while still having a lot of fun.  Rather than my trying to describe the NYA, here is the beginning of their description of themselves from the About page on the NYA blog:

The National Youth Assembly is a residential weekend for people aged
between 16 and 25 to voice their opinions in the Church of Scotland.
This annual event attracts young people from all over Scotland, with all
different backgrounds. The main focus of the weekend is to debate
subjects and put together deliverances to go in front of the General
Assembly on how we would like things to change, how we could help things
along or simply to thank or applaud work that has already been done.
The debate topics change each year and can be anything from “Fashion” to
“Politics”, “Poverty” and “Climate Change”. As well as hearing from
guest speakers there is also a chance to attend workshops on things like
Noisy Worship, information about charities, CosyCoffeeHouse, life
experiences etc. and time to spend socialising! Each day begins and ends
in worship, praise and a time to spend with God. Come. Open your heart
and let God lead you. You may be surprised!

This year the theme is “love life,” based on John 10:10.  The Assembly will get underway tomorrow, September 2, at 8:30 pm at the University of Stirling. The meeting concludes on Monday afternoon, September 5.

The big news is that for the first time some of the sessions will be streamed on the web. This group is also all over Twitter (it has been known to trend) and they are using the hashtag #nya11 this year. The official Twitter feed is @cosy_nya and watch for them to create a list of others tweeting from NYA11.

I have not seen much information about the conference posted yet, such as the schedule or the topics to be discussed, but you might want to keep an eye on the official cosyblog for news, updates and probably the official materials. Cosyblog also has a photo stream on flickr.

Not much more to say at the moment — I will update above as the meeting develops. Prayers for the NYA and best wishes for this great event where young adults can participate in the deliberative and discernment work of the church.

New Moderators And Moderator Candidates

Over the last couple of days there has been an interesting collection of announcements about Moderators and Moderator Candidates. A very quick run-down:

Yesterday the Presbyterian Church of Ghana held the installation service for the Right Reverend Professor Emmanuel Martey, who becomes the 16th Moderator of the General Assembly.  The Rev. Martey was elected by the 2010 Assembly back in August and now begins a six year term of office.  It is reported that he expressed his optimism while acknowledging the task ahead.  The previous Moderator, the Very Reverend Dr. Frimpong-Manso, assured the new Moderator of his support.

Yesterday was also the day that the Principal Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in Canada announced the names of the nominees for Moderator of the next General Assembly. The nominees are:

Notable that all are ministers, no elders, and the westerner is from Hamilton (just slightly west of Barrie), so they reflect the church’s eastern concentration.  The vote of the presbyteries will be counted and announced on April 1, 2011.

Finally, not a GA Moderator, but the new Moderator of the National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  The Kirk has announced that Amanda Philip will lead NYA 2011 as well as serving as a youth delegate to the General Assembly in May.  The press release informs us that Amanda has attended every NYA since 2005 and has been a youth delegate to GA three times.  She also works in social care for the church at Morlich House. Other coverage of her appointment from the Edinburgh Guide.  Waiting for more info or response on the Church of Scotland Youth (COSY) Blog .

Best wishes and prayers for all of you.

Young People And The Church — Another Interesting And Informative Study

As my regular readers are aware one of my interests and concerns is for the future of the church, especially as it relates to youth in the church and keeping them involved in the church.  Part of my interest of course is because my household is a bit of a focus group, research study, or test bed for youth in the church.  At the present time I have one who has left the mainline for an evangelical church, one who seems to be finding a home in the confessional leanings of the mainline, and one who is trying to find their way between those two.  I do however count myself fortunate that all three of my children are involved in active congregations.

So it was with much interest that I listened to the October 3rd edition of the White Horse Inn where host Michael Horton interviewed Kenda Creasy Dean, Methodist Elder and Princeton Theological Seminary professor, on her new book Almost Christian: What the faith of our teenagers is telling the American Church.  I have added this to my list of books to acquire (easy) and read (got to figure where in the queue to place it).  In the interview there was a ton of great information drawn from the National Study of Youth and Religion project and published in the book.  While a lot of the interview, and probably the book as well, was about the faith and beliefs of teenagers and “moralistic therapeutic deism”, what was of most interest to me was the discussion about the study’s findings related to what did, and did not, make youth stick with the church as they got older.  For all of the details on the nature of the teenagers’ faith, including the great description of it as “benign whateverism,” I encourage you to listen to all 33 minutes of the interview.

So, here are a couple of the quotes I found most informative, hopefully not too out of context  (listen to the interview for that), and cited statistics from Prof. Dean (not necessarily in order and somewhat edited from conversational language to written form):

[Talking about teens with highly devoted faiths] Four things stood out
for me: One was that they had what I call “a peculiar God story.” They
had a God story that was distinct to their community’s understanding of
the world. They were able to articulate that God story… The second
thing that they had was a community of faith that mattered to them
deeply and they felt like they belonged… The family sense was extended
to faith communities, and they also felt like they belonged spiritually
though. It wasn’t just a social connection, they really felt cosmically
connected to God in their congregations… The third thing was that
they had a sense of, I call it a sense of vocation, a sense of purpose, a
divinely inspired purpose maybe. A sense that God had put them here for
a reason and that reason was to help participate in God’s plan for the
world in some way. And the last thing, and this is really striking, is
that these particular kids, the highly devoted kids in the study, had
markedly higher levels of hope than anybody else.

The young people who have highly devoted faiths, that’s the 8% of the
kids in the study who actually did find faith as a pivot point around
which they organized their lives in explicit ways, had much stronger
connections to adults in their communities of faith, and to adults in
general, than their peers who did not have highly devoted faiths.  I
also think its true that we really tend to overestimate the amount of
time that young people are spending in congregations, even if they are
active in a congregation, they are likely to be around members of the
congregation an hour or two a week. And we overestimate the difference
that hour or two makes in their lives — they don’t actually have enough
time to form deep connections.  And over and over again studies show
that pastors think that people come to church because of the pastor or
because of their interest in deepening their faith or whatever.  Most
lay people say they come to church because of the relationships.

One of the interesting things about the longitudinal studies, one of the
findings was that the most significant factor in whether a young
person’s faith weathers the transition from high school to the young
adult years is the religiosity of parents while they were teenagers.

The interview has a great extended discussion about the use of the catechism and how it was intended for use within the household, even to the point of posting it on the dining room wall and discussing it around the dinner table.  Prof. Dean makes two interesting points about this beyond the value for teaching the faith.  The first is that it is being done in the household setting.  The second is that the catechism provides youth, and all of us for that matter, with a language to talk about our faith.  She points out that in the study most teenagers “have very, very few language resources when it comes to faith.”

Prof. Dean is an engaging speaker and produces a couple of good lines to make you smile:

What we haven’t been able to do very well is to tell the Christian story, or to teach the Christian story, in a way that it looks like it matters in this world of competing narratives…  [I]t means that young people need to be in contact with folks whose lives are demonstrably different because of their faith.  Because just hearing about it is like hearing Cinderella, and Cinderella doesn’t really make a difference about the way we live our lives — it’s a story we tell.  And for a lot of young people that’s the way they experience their encounter with the Christian story as well.

[Talking about parents letting children “chose for themselves”] Well the
way we let them chose for themselves for a couple of generations was to
just sort of assume that when they got old enough we might expose them
to religion but we wouldn’t actually teach them anything because we want
them to be free to chose for themselves.  And the interesting thing is
we don’t have that confidence when it comes to Algebra, but somehow when
it comes to faith we just sort of thought it would emerge when the time
is right.

And a finding that runs counter to many mainline churches I know and to Prof. Dean’s expectations:

[Talking about vocation and social justice and mainline youth being less likely to associate moral responsibility with following Jesus Christ.] There may be less living it out, but there is certainly less living it out and connecting it to your faith.  And as a mainline Protestant this finding horrified me — this is like “oh man, how have we missed this?” But I think one of the reasons is mainline Protestants… we tend to shy away from any kind of God language whatsoever. Well, the effect of that is, you might be the most socially active congregation in the world but if you never connected it to your faith young people obviously assume it’s because you are nice people.  We go on these mission trips where we never talk about God because we are nice people, not because we are Christian and this is how Christ called us to treat one another. In fact one of the findings in the longitudinal study is that when it comes down to it the practices that matter in helping faith endure past the high school years prayer and reading the Bible matter a lot.  Going on mission trips don’t make a bit of difference.

Kenda Creasy Dean has a lot to say about how youth and young adults get integrated into the church — in fact one of the chapters in her book is titled “Mormon Envy.”  This integration of young people is something I have also come to appreciate about the LDS church.  The LDS communities have several features that make them particularly good at passing on their faith.  For more on this I would point you to a Beliefnet blog Flunking Sainthood and their comments on Dean’s book.  Here are a couple of relevant quotes from the interview:

What Mormons have that other communities have not really looked at as intentionally is faithful parents.  It’s one of the most striking findings from the study is how closely young peoples’ faith mirrors their parents’ faith.  As you know, families are the most important faith community if you’re part of the Church of Latter Day Saints. But parents are hugely influential as conduits of faith in Mormon families.  That tends to be less true for example, I’m a mainline Protestant, for mainline Protestants a common scenario would be that parents will think faith is important but they don’t have enough faith formation themselves to have any confidence at handing it on to their children themselves.  So, they take their kids to church to “get them done” by the professionals who can hand on faith in their stead.  Well, that turns out not be be as effective as when it is passed on in the context of a family community.

I think a lot of Protestants tend to think, and I tend to think this way myself, “my kids didn’t get this while they were in high school, but there is plenty of time, they’ll get it eventually.” … Mormon urgency doesn’t allow for that.

Based on my experience and previous reading these are the quotes that really resonated with me from an interview that was full of interesting data and interpretation.  And one of the things that I very much appreciated was Prof. Dean’s acknowledgement of the number of times where the data surprised her.

What is the message for the church?  For me it is a validation that we need to invite the youth to be active members of the church, not just attending services and youth group on Sunday, but encouraging them to be active in some area of ministry in the congregation where they build relationships across generations, we can challenge them to do something, and through their activity they can not just hear, but participate in the God story of the congregation.  Secondly, we need to communicate to parents how important a role they play — that they can not leave the religious education of their kids to the church but they have to be the primary educators.  And then the church has to give them the tools to do that.

If you want more on-line there is an excerpt from the book available and another interview on Patheos.

To close, here is a quote Prof. Dean gave from Tony Campolo –

We are not going to lose this generation because we ask too much, we are going to lose them because we ask too little.

Addendum: Now, here is an interesting parallel that arose yesterday in our church’s education hour.  My friend Scott was teaching a class based on Albert Raboteau‘s book Slave Religion.  After discussing how slave owners used Christianity as a justification for having slaves but then kept the religion from them someone asked the obvious question, “why would a slave convert to Christianity if it justified their oppression?”  Scott summarized the answer from Raboteau (p. 244-246) as 1) The Bible provided a language to talk to God, 2) they saw the parallel of their situation to the story of Israel in bondage in Egypt and their liberation, and 3) it provided hope for the future, particularly regarding eternity.  I was struck by how these three paralleled Dean’s points about the highly devoted youth — How the Israel story for the slaves is part of their God story that is distinct to the community’s understanding of the world.  How they both find the distinctive of hope and eschatological vision.  And while there is not really a parallel in Dean’s four central characteristics of devoted teens to the language point, it does correspond to how the highly devoted teens have acquired the language to talk about God.  Another distinctive of later Slave Religion that was mentioned but not included in this list was the high-level community structure and participatory worship, especially regarding singing. I was struck by how these characteristics of, shall I say, devoted Christianity are similar across cultural contexts.

“To Boldly Go…” The 2010 National Youth Assembly Of The Church Of Scotland

The 2010 National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland got underway yesterday at Stirling University .  Before I add my comments, I encourage you to check out the nine-minute video about the Assembly that can be found embedded in the official blog.

……

OK, back with me now?

I don’t know if you were struck the same way as I was by some of those comments:  “I don’t have many youth in my own church,” “Clear a place for young people… to put their finger prints on the church’s story — to talk about things that are important to them and things they think should be important to the church,” “have input into the decision making process of the church.”

If you are not familiar with the unique format of the NYA it includes not only the customary worship, study, fellowship, and recreation opportunities, but each year the Assembly discusses, debates and produces a deliverance on a few topics of current interest and relevance.  So when the next General Assembly rolls around in May 2011 the opinions of the NYA are part of the input the GA commissioners will receive.

There are additional written comments about the NYA from the outgoing and incoming NYA Moderators (yes, they have their own Moderator for the debates and yes, the Moderator has a gadget-filled podium from which to Moderate the Assembly). 

The immediate past Moderator, Iain McLarty talks about having the opportunity to represent the NYA to the wider church and says “Some of the central councils of the church are really starting to take notice of what young people say and make that an integral part of their work and again I hope that can continue and that young people won’t accept it when people say that they don’t have enough experience to make a difference.”

The incoming Moderator, Kim Wood, writes:

The thing I’m most looking forward to this year is – well, all of it. Youth Assembly is all about us having the opportunity to tell the Church what we think. And it’s a very exciting time at the moment, because the Church has serious money issues – so change is going to have to happen. We can’t keep doing things the same way, so we have to think differently. And the Church is now waking up and inviting young people to join in the conversation of how we can be the Church of Scotland in the 21st century. So I am hoping and praying that this weekend will allow every single delegate to see ways in which they can add to that conversation.

It’s going to be an amazing weekend. Bring it on!

In another blog post one of the experienced delegates, Nicola, adds her thoughts.  She says that, among other things, at NYA she has “…been challenged to reflect upon my role in the church.”  She goes on with this advice to delegates: “So don’t be afraid to take risks, ask questions and speak your mind- this is, in my experience, one of the best places to do those things- it’s a very challenging, yet incredibly safe space.”  She also shares with us something she wrote about NYA 2008 –

“I was seen this weekend. I was seen and heard and loved and held. I met God in the hustle and bustle, in the debates, in the people who held me while I cried, who laughed with me, who laughed AT me. In the people with whom I sat up all night, napped, argued, planned, ate, sang, prayed, danced, geek-chatted and pondered. In the broken, imperfect lives which were brought together this weekend I had a glimpse of the Kingdom.”

Discernment of call, a glimpse of the Kingdom?  These are never a bad thing.  And to top it off she says in her post “I’ve also discovered what some would call an unhealthy love for all things General Assembly…” to which all I can say is “Welcome to the club Nicola — On behalf of all the other GA Junkies it is a pleasure to have you.”

Along these same lines I would add a comment that appeared on Twitter this morning from one of this year’s delegates: “#nya2010 being listened to is an odd experience…”

So, what about the official details?  The NYA will be meeting from 3 – 6 September with the theme “To Boldly Go…”

(And completely off topic but regarding split infinitives, Justin Taylor recently posted a great quote from George Bernard Shaw.)

Information about the NYA can be found on the official cosy blog, the official twitter handle is @cosy_nya, and the hashtag is #nya2010.  A couple of years ago they were a trending topic on Twitter and had to shut down the screen showing the Twitter conversation because it had gotten too far off topic.  (And yes, there is some standing joke going around this weekend about the Pope visiting NYA.)

Topics for discussion and debate this year are:

  • Fashion – looks wide ranging but sustainability, fairtrade, and labour relations are part of it.  Their official link for more information – Labour Behind The Label
  • Politics – need I say more…  Their official link for more information – Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office
  • Violence – it will be interesting to see where this discussion goes.  Their official link for more information – Violence Reduction Unit

I’m keeping an eye out for other bloggers and so far the Twitter has been fairly quiet.  There is also a flickr feed for pictures.  And on Facebook there is an event page and groups for Youth Assembly and COSY.

I look forward to seeing the deliverances that the NYA puts together this year.

A final word about a face that will be missing from the NYA this year and was not in her usual spot at the 2010 Assembly.  The Rev. Marjory MacLean has been serving as the Deputy Clerk of Assembly and is now serving as a chaplain with the Royal Navy.  If you have ever watched the webcast of the Assembly you know that she could make a polity or parliamentary point with a dry wit that was second to none.  As the Deputy Clerk she helped guide COSY and the youth reps to Assembly and COSY has posted some parting words from her:

I just think that the reform and improvement of the General Assembly over the last ten years has been massively influenced by the Youth Reps. They bring a knowledge, understanding and diligence, as well as character, fun and energy, to the larger Assembly. I have a feeling the contribution of the youth is possibly underestimated, but it’s one of those things that history will no doubt realise in years to come.

The Church Of Scotland National Youth Assembly — Looking Back And Looking Ahead

For the PC(USA)’ers who are going to GA this year, there is a joke about Minnesota (at least they tell me it is a joke) that Minnesota has two seasons: Winter’s coming and Winter’s here.

Right now I feel a bit like that with the National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  I still had my discussion of the last NYA sitting as a draft and I find the announcement of NYA2010 posted on the web.  So at this mid-point between NYA2009 and NYA2010 let me try to look back to get caught up and to look forward at what this year holds.

NYA2009 met back at the beginning of September last, and the final deliverances were posted about two months later.  As I say every time I discuss NYA, one of the things that impresses me about the National Youth Assembly is the fact that items from their deliverances move on to the General Assembly coming up in just about two months.

The NYA2009 deliverances were posted on the NYA Blog by Iain McLarty.  He includes this “cover letter“:

Hi everyone. Sorry it’s taken a while but you will now be able to find the final deliverance for each debate below. Both your General Assembly reps and I will try and make sure these are taken to the General Assembly and to its Councils and Committees but when you read through the statements you will find that a lot of them apply to local churches or to individuals and your involvement in these didn’t end on the Monday afternoon in Stirling. Remember that it’s up to everyone who was at the Youth Assembly to try and raise awareness of the deliverance and make changes happen, whether it’s just things you do yourself, your local church or your Presbytery. You could print them out and put them on your church notice board, or ask your minister to talk about a couple of points that your local church will take action on during a service. And if you have a blog you can copy them there and raise awareness of them.   Well done again on producing an excellent result to the long weekend of debates and if you have stories of your success in promoting the results during the year then come back and tell people here.

The NYA business addressed four specific topics:  Identity, Wealth, Spirituality, Inter-faith.  This is going to get long but I decided I could not do the deliverances justice by editing out what I thought were the most important points.  Therefore, I am going to give you the full text of each.

From the deliverance on Identity, here are the set of nine points that came out of the Assembly:

The National Youth Assembly…

1. Believes that we as a Church should seek to recognise and celebrate people as individuals with individual gifts and talents, and not to generalise.
We should:

(a) Seek to develop these gifts and talents
(b) Value building relationships over organising evangelistic events
(c) View people as works in progress and not the finished article

2. Would like the Church of Scotland to explore the emerging aspects of Positive Psychology as a way of forming relationships with people,particularly those on the edges of the church. We would encourage the church to develop resources and make these available to all groups and leaders working in the Church.

3. Believes that inappropriate responses by the Church of Scotland to the identity of individuals and groups has been a very real barrier to them feeling part of the church.

4. Urges the Church to explore ways of supporting growth in Christian identity for all ages, recognising the current work of COSY in this area.

5. Urges the Church of Scotland to continue supporting the young people of the church as they move through education and into the world of work.  We encourage the church to help with pastoral support,offering guidance both spiritually and generally, as young people develop their identity through these difficult challenges.

6. Believes that the Church of Scotland should respond positively to identity issues by providing opportunities for social interaction:

(a) Between young and old by creating ways for them to work together;
(b) By encouraging social and community events within churches to build relationships;
(c) By encouraging all local churches to engage with a partner church somewhere else in the world;
(d) By developing small group networks for folk to meet together, share their stories and build relationships.

7. Believes that the Church of Scotland should acknowledge that people within the church, despite the fact that they are Christians,experience identity problems.

8. Encourages churches to make spiritual support groups available for everyone in the parish regardless of whether or not they are a member.

9. Believes that the Church of Scotland should not make people conform to one identity. Instead it should embrace diversity, with its own identity being ‘Everyone is welcome’

The deliverance on Wealth made these points:

The National Youth Assembly…

1. Urges the Church of Scotland to take the lead in opening discussions on personal finance and to provide support in helping with issues of stewardship.

2. Recognise that while Western society encourages materialism, which is unacceptable, the Church should not condemn individuals but should work with them to combat materialism.

3. Would like the Church of Scotland to prioritise spending on people. Local churches should be encouraged to invite disadvantaged groups into their churches to use their resources in whatever way is appropriate.

4. Suggests greater discussion of collective tithing. There should be increased accountability and transparency from the Church as to where financial contributions go. Individual churches should have more of a voice in where their contributions go.

5. Urges the Church of Scotland to continue to work with people of other denominations and faiths in trying to eradicate poverty.

6. Believes that the Church of Scotland should continue to support the work of Christian Aid in its tax justice campaign and should build stronger links with projects tackling poverty.

7. Feels that the church should be at the forefront of tackling the structures that keep people poor and encourage people to see poverty as not being restricted to financial issues, with other factors including spirituality, health and education. Local issues should not be neglected in favour of international ones.

8. Would like to see the church make tackling poverty a priority and to see it as an act of worship. The use of biblical texts as a means of communicating the necessity and impetus for working to eradicate poverty should be encouraged.

9. Recognises that churches do a lot of good work in tackling poverty and encourage this to be fed back through stories about this.

10. Believes that the church should play a key part in tackling poverty through educating people and being active in the community. The local church should be key to identifying local needs in order to prioritise eradicating poverty in Scotland.

11. Would like churches to ensure that people in congregations who are struggling financially can be honest and receive help without having to feel they have to keep up a ‘respectable’ façade.

12. Encourage the Church of Scotland to be more involved in practi
cal work both at home and abroad (e.g. building projects) in charities and projects, other than just providing financial support.

13. Commend and encourage the continuation of ethical investment practices by the Church of Scotland.

14. Urge individual church members to review their giving with a view to giving more sacrificially in order that the good work of the Church may continue.

In this set I particularly admire that it calls the Kirk to action keeping the responsibility on the church and the individual members, not on secular institutions.

The deliverance on Spirituality says:

The National Youth Assembly…

1.    Affirms that spirituality is a crucial part of the Christian faith and believes that the Church of Scotland is not good at engaging with this. The Church should help people mature in their spirituality by openly confronting it and not hiding from it and by providing more accessible resources and pastoral care.

2.    Believes that every aspect of life has a spiritual dimension (e.g. use of money, relationships, values, suffering)

3.    Would like to see people in the church helped to develop a healthy relationship with silence, including during church services.Where practical, a dedicated space should be provided in churches for meditation and reflection, both in and out of “church hours” and open and advertised to the general public.

4.    Would like to see more emphasis placed on spirituality in preaching, possibly including questions for contemplation and discussion.

5.    Encourages the creative use of big posters/billboards in prominent public places, with messages to inspire people spiritually.

6.    Encourages church communities and individuals within those communities to share their stories and faith experiences, with the relevant support.

7.    Recognises that traditional services are of spiritual value,but would like to see more exploration of alternative worship both in and out of services for example, art exhibitions, film liturgies,poetry, i-pod reflections and labyrinths.

8.    Would like to see the promotion of opportunities for learning such as “Adult Sunday School” and programs like Alpha or Living the Questions.

9.    Thinks that spirituality should be spoken about and practised from Sunday school age so that children are aware of it, for example through “Godly Play.”

10.    Suggest that it is useful to look at spirituality in an Inter-Faith way.

11.    Would like to see an event exploring alternative worship and spiritual development, possibly on the theme of “Live faith and share life” [rather than live life and share faith]

Now I am viewing this through an “American lens” so I don’t know if some of the current tension in American religion over the general term “spirituality” is present in Scotland also.  If so this deliverance may be the most controversial or unconventional to some in the church, especially those that value orthodoxy.  It is interesting that the deliverance acknowledges this saying “the Church of Scotland is not good at engaging with this.”  In light of recent surveys that show that American “millennials” (those between the ages of 18-29) are “spiritual” but not “religious” this deliverance at times walks a fine line between the two, in places mixes them, and in other spots appears to advocate for what would be considered “new age” or “eastern” spiritual practices that some around here would argue should not be part of Christian worship or spiritual practices.  On the one hand, promoting Adult Sunday School, sharing faith experiences, and seeing a spiritual dimension to every aspect of life can be considered foundational Christian practices.  The large posters and billboards, healthy relationship with silence, and the alternative worship practices would be encouraged or discouraged depending on how they are focused.  But for some, looking at spirituality in an Inter-Faith way could be a concern.  This could be one of those issues where the details will be scrutinized.  But again, I don’t know if this is even the issue in Scotland it is in parts of the U.S.

The last deliverance was on Inter-Faith:

The National Youth Assembly…

1. Believes that the church should do more to combat stereo-typical views of what Christians are like and understand that all faiths have extremists, including Christianity. There is a need to extend education about all faiths to avoid stereo-typing based on biased media reporting.

2. Thinks that there should be more Inter-Faith gatherings and conferences at local, national and international levels, with better advertising to increase awareness of this work and its importance.

3. Consider consulting with local police forces and outside agencies to ascertain priority areas where Inter-Faith dialogue is required.

4. Encourages the use of Inter-Faith meals as a means of sharing faith and belief to build meaningful relationships while being sensitive to other customs.

5. Encourages the Church of Scotland to promote Inter-Faith Dialogue overseas in areas such as Israel/Palestine and Africa.

6. Challenges local churches to extend loving friendship and conversation to people of other denominations and faiths and to love their neighbours regardless of faith or absence of faith. We should accept people for who they are, treat them with respect, and never pity.  When talking with anyone we should have no agenda for converting them.

7. Encourages the Church of Scotland to offer more practical support to congregations engaging in Inter-Faith relationships. This could include an expansion of the role of Inter-Faith workers and the development of a volunteer network.

8. Encourages the Church of Scotland to recognise the values which we share with other faiths and which should inform and encourage practical work on issues such as poverty, conflict resolution and justice. Faith groups should work together for increased dialogue with all levels of government.

9. Are aware that ignorance breeds prejudice whereas knowledge breeds understanding.  It’s crucial to build lasting relationships before tackling religious issues. We need to be educated about other faiths and try to educate other faiths in what we believe and why we believe it, promoting mutual understanding.

10. Encourages the Church of Scotland to reach out to those who feel threatened and fearful of new cultures and religions in their area in the hope that such feelings won’t escalate.

11. Would like the church to consider ways in which communities can have dialogue with people of other faiths while being careful to avoid tokenism and condescension.

12. Encourage ongoing Religious Education programmes in schools with the involvement of churches and other faith groups, as part of commitment to promoting understanding about different faiths among wider society.

13. Encourage Inter-Faith dialogue at all levels of the church,including opportunities for people from other faith communities to speak to churches about their beliefs.

14. Want to encourage ecumenical discussions so that Christians of all denominations can work to improve inter-faith relationships.

Again, the church walks in a tension between supporting a pluralistic society where it is helpful to understand the cultural context of those around us of different faiths while not compromising, or appearing to compromise, the essential tenets of its own faith.  For the most part this deliverance does a good job walk
ing that line.

The next step is to see how these recommendations develop.  As the cover letter says, there is much in here that happens on an individual, congregational or presbytery basis.  But some of these items will come through to the General Assembly included in the deliverances from standing committees of the Assembly.  We will see these specifics shortly as the Assembly reports are posted.

Moving on, a short while ago the information for NYA2010 was posted on the COSY Blog.  Here is the lede:

Welcome to the National Youth Assembly 2010! Our theme for this year is To Boldly Go . . . and we’ll be thinking about mission – what does the word mission mean to you? How do we do mission in a 21st century Scotland and what might it look like?

The new Moderator of NYA is Kim Wood (note the spelling correction in the comment) and the discussion questions will be fashion, politics, and violence and peacemaking.  Those are three interesting, relevant and wide-ranging topics and I look forward to seeing where the debate goes on those.  Note also the emphasis on “mission in a 21st century Scotland” — not world mission, but local mission.

The event will be held at Stirling University, the same as last year, but apparently in a new venue on the campus.  It is the first weekend of September, Friday 3 Sept. to Monday 6 Sept. 2010.  And maybe the most important information: the conference is covered by the COSY Blog and will probably use the Twitter hashtag #nya2010.  If you need to register you can do so at MadStuff.biz.

Chris Hoskins over at What Is Freedom? has posted a brief note expressing his regret that he will be missing the Assembly this year and how meaningful the NYA has been in his life.  He says:

I will miss not being at the assembly, the 7 Youth Assemblies I have attended, as delegate or staff, over the last 10 years have been very important to me. I’ve made many good friends, been challenged, been inspired, at the assembly in 2000 I gave my life to Christ. Through my involvement in the Youth Assemblies, I’ve been opened to many other opportunities… I know this list seems a bit narcissistic, but I’m just realising how blessed I’ve been to be a part of all these things.

And he concludes with this advice:

If you’ve never been to the Youth assembly and you are eligible to go, I would recommend that you do, if you’ve been before, why do you share some memories with us? Those who are going this year – relish it, enjoy it, participate. Its the kind of event that is only as good as you make it, if you don’t put yourself into it and take part, it will never be as good as it could be – for you and for those around you.

I look forward to NYA2010, even if I will only attend in the virtual world.  My prayers for another meaningful Assembly.

Church Of Scotland National Youth Assembly 2009

As the first weekend of September approaches it is once again time for the National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  The event will be held 4-7 September at Stirling University.

To keep track of the Assembly the best method will probably be Twitter with the hashtag #nya2009.  If you remember from last year, the hashtag for that Assembly made the Twitter trending list at one time and the organizers asked people to temporarily stop tweeting and return to the real world from the virtual.

There is also an official blog for the Assembly at cosyblog.wordpress.com.  On there you can read that the theme of the Assembly this year is “Field of Dreams.”  To give you a flavour of the Assembly this year here is a shortened up version of the welcome on the official blog:

It’s not long now til we meet at Stirling University – hope you are beginning to get excited!

We have a great programme lined up: Digging deeper and unearthing the ground in our debate chats on Identity, Multi faith, Spirituality and Wealth.

Lots of different types of worship to stir you out of your beds in the morning and to get you jumping at night.

Long lunches where you can doing something Physical and Sporty and the Scottish National Sports Centre (very conveniently also on the same campus) Hmm not likely to find me there much I’m afraid!  You can catch a movie, have some quiet worship time or go to any of the workshops – of which there are masses to choose from!

The hootenanny is there for all you folks who have a talent to share – get in touch with Kim Wood if you haven’t already done so!

We have 35 folk coming from Sweden who perform in a fab choir – they will be doing a set for us one evening as well helping us to hum the odd tune here and there.

Don’t forget, that Saturday night is the Gala Dinner – Big surprise as to the theme (even for me!) so don’t forget your glad rags and some dosh for the charity we are supporting!

The moderator has gone on holiday!!! Hopefully he will be back in time!!

It’s going to be great!! Looking forward to seeing you there. We will be thinking about Field of Dreams – what are your dreams, visions, hopes for the church, the world, yourselves, your faith……..

In case you did not catch it, the official topics for discussion will be “Identity, Multi faith, Spirituality and Wealth.”  Should be interesting, especially since the decisions of this Assembly will provide recommendations and business items for the General Assembly next May.  I consider the NYA a great event because if you want insight into the thinking of the younger generation in the church this is the event to watch and because of how it interacts with the GA.

In addition to the official blog I was tempted to “round up the usual suspects” and make recommendations as to who to follow, but decided instead I would add updates to this post as they started to post.  The one “announced” blogger I can recommend is Chris Hoskins over at What is Freedom? who has put up his intro message for NYA2009.

So stay tuned and I look forward to the discussion next weekend.