Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Worship and Education Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
Last week I was thrilled to be able to attend the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, a conference filled with more than 5,000 high school students. It was an amazing demonstration of the vitality of the church—not of the future of the church, but of the current church.
One of the most impressive aspects to me was the conference’s focus on witness, in both word and deed. The opening worship service was already electric with the presence of the Spirit when the Rev. Michelle Thomas Bush challenged her listeners to open their mouths and speak about Jesus. This is challenging for Presbyterians of all ages, but like a mother to a frustrated three-year-old, she told us to “use our words.” (You can read about her sermon here.)
A couple of days later we used our hands. Ten thousand Presbyterian hands packed into a non-air-conditioned armory and compiled 143,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now, the largest output ever coordinated by the ministry. People all over the world will have nourishing meals thanks to these students living out their faith by witnessing in deed.
One of the more remarkable syntheses of witnessing in word and witnessing in deed came from a video produced by the Young Adult Ministry team, which asked the students “What’s next for you, for the church, and for the world?” Stop reading this post now and go watch that video, which you can find here.
The comment from the last young woman was striking: “You are the gospel to [the people who don’t know Jesus]—they might never be able to afford a Bible, but if you talk about Jesus while you’re helping them out, you’re being the Gospel to them. And if you’re the only Gospel that they have, you’d better be a good one.”
I am proud to be part of a church with people who can articulate witnessing in word and deed so beautifully. I am proud to know that students witness to adults about what it means to be a compassionate and prophetic disciple (one of our strategic goals for the denomination). I am grateful to God for the ministry of Youth Triennium, and all of the work the Spirit did during the amazing week.
PS this event demonstrates the tremendous spiritual gifts of administration given to the PCUSA. Many thanks and expressions of awe directed toward Gina Yeager-Buckley and her team for a job well done!