After a week of exhortations to change the troubled world fueled by strength in numbers, 1,300 Montreat Youth Conference participants prepared to return home today.
Now the trick is to carry the enthusiasm of this gathering back to the everyday life of the average teenager.
“Regardless of whether we want to go or stay, we have to leave,” keynoter Adele Halliday of The United Church of Canada told her youthful congregation. “We are called to go and blaze trails home. Sometimes it will mean taking a stand, sometimes using our voices, but it definitely means staying fired up.”
Speaking out against the injustices and violence in the world is not without risk, Halliday said. “Some people may not like us if we stand up for what we believe,” she said, “ but we are called to speak anyway, in our own voices, alongside people who don’t have voices as God calls us to.”
Citing the “freedom writers” of southern California depicted in the film of the same name and students who in recent years have created the Save Darfur campaign, Halliday said there are a variety of ways to make a difference.
But standing up, frequently for unpopular causes, can be lonely. That’s why, Halliday said, the lessons of this week can be summed up in four words: “You are not alone.”
Recounting Bible lessons from Exodus, Isaiah, Romans, Galations, Acts, Luke, Hebrews, John and Malachi, Halliday assured her youthful listeners that “God is calling us now, God is leading us now, God is going with us now …and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus.”
Or from each other.
“Pray and talk together with whoever you can to help you keep the fire alive,” Halliday said. “And adults — do whatever you can to support these young people who are on fire to change the world for Jesus Christ.”
How? “Pray, give money or time, contact your church or presbytery or the national offices of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), join an organization,” she exhorted the crowd. “There’s always something to do.”
Why? “Because God calls us to, because the world needs us to, and because doing nothing is just not an option,” Halliday said.
“The time is now to say we will no longer tolerate injustice, we will no longer tolerate war and violence, we will no longer tolerate hunger, that one oppressed or hurting person is one too many.”