|Six young people to address General Conference|
Six young United Methodists will craft the first-ever young
people's address for the 2008 General Conference. They are (clockwise
from left) Jason Rathod, Kira Volkova, Matt Lockett, Becca Farnum, the
Rev. Anne Rigo and Andrew Craig.
A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
Aug. 14, 2007
Six United Methodists ranging in age from 15 to 28 have been chosen
to work together to develop and deliver the first Young People's Address
at the 2008 General Conference.
The speakers – five from the United States and one from Russia – will
give a 45-minute presentation on the concerns, hopes and dreams of
young people in The United Methodist Church.
They are Becca Farnum, 17, of Mount Pleasant, Mich.; Kira Volkova,
24, of Kirov, Russia; the Rev. Anne Rigo, 28, of Grand Junction, Colo.;
Andrew Craig, 15, of Denver; Matt Lockett, 20, of Seattle; and Jason
Rathod, 23, of Hastings, Neb.
"All six have different voices and gifts, and General Conference will
be richer," said Jay Clark, a staff member of the United Methodist
Division on Ministries with Young People at the churchwide Board of
The six were selected from 37 individuals and youth groups that
submitted video related to youth and young adult issues in the church.
The presentation will be the first time that a Young People's Address
has been on the agenda of General Conference, the denomination's top
legislative assembly. Historically, the worldwide gathering has included
only an Episcopal Address by a bishop and a Laity Address by a
The 2004 General Conference affirmed the value of the voices of youth
and young adults by voting overwhelmingly to add a Young People's
Address to the agenda for 2008. The 2004 conference also approved
creation of the Division on Ministries with Young People.
General Conference, which meets every four years, will convene April
22-May 2, 2008, in Fort Worth, Texas. It is the only entity that speaks
for The United Methodist Church.
Leaders for the future
Craig, the youngest of the six and a member of Park Hill United
Methodist Church in Denver, hopes the church hears a message "that they
are not only being called to act but that they are being called to
interact, too," with both young and old "because we are all Christians."
"I would like for us to call the community
back together to live out our core values on social justice, evangelism
and promoting the general good,"
-Jason Rathod, 23
Rigo, the oldest of the six and an associate pastor of First United
Methodist Church in Grand Junction, Colo., said it is important for
General Conference to understand that young people include more than
teenagers. "I think the church likes to focus on teenagers and youth
groups but does not know how to transition with youth into college and
beyond college," she said.
According to an Aug. 6 article in USA Today, about one in four Protestant young people have left the church.
Based on a survey by Lifeway Research of Protestants between the ages
of 18 to 30, the article reports that seven in 10 who attended church
regularly in high school had quit attending by age 23. Thirty-four
percent had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30.
Among dropouts, 97 percent cited life changes such as a move.
Fifty-eight percent were unhappy with the people or pastor at church,
and 52 percent had religious, ethical or political reasons for quitting.
Crafting a message
The six speakers began crafting their message while meeting Aug. 5-7
in Nashville, Tenn., with staff of the Division on Ministries with Young
Group members are proficient in technology, dancing, singing,
creative writing, preaching, acting, video, photography and legislation.
While they do not yet know what the address will look like, they say it
will be more than talking in front of a podium for 45 minutes.
agree that it will be multilayered with multimedia. It will reflect
what it means to be a multigenerational church and possibly will show
how six people from different backgrounds are connected to one another.
"We will be trying to break away from the 'here's the church, here's
the youth' and going more for a more intergenerational piece," said
Farnum, a member of First United Methodist Church in Mt. Pleasant,
Mich., and also a youth delegate to General Conference from the West
Michigan Annual Conference. "Something new needs to be done," she said,
noting that youth and young adult voices from across the globe need to
Rathod, a member of Faith United Methodist Church in Kearney, Neb.,
said the denomination "has a rich legacy of promoting faith and social
justice and there are some areas where we are not living up to those
"I would like for us to call the community back together to live out
our core values on social justice, evangelism and promoting the general
good," he said.
Rigo agrees. She said it is natural for young adults to call the
church to action, but the concept of risking community "asks us to go
beyond ourselves or our opinions or our theologies to see each other as
Christians, to listen to each other and really want the relationship
that comes with being a part of a community."
The church and young people
Lockett said it is a daunting task to try to speak in behalf of so
many young United Methodists. "We have this great responsibility on us
to represent a group of people that we ourselves don't all represent,"
said Lockett, a member of Fairwood United Methodist Church in Seattle.
"All six have different voices and gifts, and General Conference will be richer."
Asked how The United Methodist Church could be more inclusive of
youth and young adults, Volkova said the United Methodist Church in
Russia speaks a lot about young people but "sometimes things do not go
beyond talking but remain at this level."
A candidate for ordained ministry and member of Kirov United
Methodist Church, Volkova seeks more opportunities for ministries with
young people and for the church "to take our young people more
She also hopes that the church would more fully live into its global
nature. "The situation in the church now is old people trying to be
global but who many times fail. Young people are flexible and willing to
listen to one another."
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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