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.
(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.