Participants of the Youth Pre-Assembly Event in Novi Sad. © Albin Hillert/CEC
By Albin Hillert
Meeting on 28-31 May 2018 in Novi Sad, Serbia, young Christians from all over Europe have gathered for a Conference of European Churches (CEC) Pre-Assembly Youth Event, to reflect on their participation in the Church and contribution for the future of Europe.
Exploring what it means to be youth in the church of today, morning prayers and Bible study on 29 May focused on the theme of Witness. As youth today, sometimes you need to dare to simply be, to rise from feelings of shame, “to let your light shine,” reflected Hanna Pedersen from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark.
“We know that youth are not the future of the churches but are already a part of this time of the churches,” reflects Simeon Maric, from the Serbian Orthodox Church. “As youth, we should witness all good things together, and all the bad things together. Although the older generations have great wisdom, we as youth can bring new energy to the church, and we need this in order to be witnesses for a better time for all of us.”
The Pre-Assembly Youth Event brings together young Christians aged 18-30 for a short ecumenical formation programme leading up to the CEC General Assembly. It offers an opportunity for youth to contribute their experience and expertise to the various areas of engagement of CEC and to share their reflections and experiences on the themes of Witness, Justice and Hospitality.
As full members of the body of Christ, youth makes up some 20 per cent of CEC General Assembly delegates while others in attendance will contribute as advisors and stewards.
Maria Nitu, from the Orthodox Church of Finland and youth advisor for the European Christian Environmental Network, reflects, “I understand CEC as a platform that allows people from different traditions and contexts to talk about the issues of today. There are so many important issues, and we all need to talk about and address them together.”
“The conference theme, ‘You shall be my witnesses’, is almost like a wake-up call,” reflects Esther Ho, a Pentecostal from Malaysia who studies theology in Germany and joins the General Assembly as a steward.
“Now is not the time to be silent or the time to be ignorant. It is the time to wake up, to look and be brave enough to talk about issues,” Ho says. “Originally coming from a country that is not part of Europe, but which is deeply impacted by whatever happens in Europe, for me it will be incredible to see the dynamics, the decisions and the outcomes of this CEC Assembly, and to see how inter-cultural theology is being worked out at a very large, regional level.”
Simeon Maric concludes, “When we leave from here, I believe we will take with us the key themes of hospitality, justice, peace. These are not just problems in politics, but important issues for many of our churches. If we are all together, we can bring this with us to our home churches and reflect together to make a better life.”