It might seem like a trivial task to help with the logistical arrangements of a major meeting. However, for the “stewards” of the World Council of Churches (WCC), this task means more than merely helping out.
“Yes, we do get to help with documentation and logistical arrangements of the meeting. However, this is accompanied by learning about different ways of living the Christian faith and experiencing a multi-cultural environment,” said David Rubén Romero-Mazzini, working with the Evangelical Youth Network in Peru.
At the age of 26, Romero-Mazzini worked as a youth steward at the 60th Central Committee meeting of the WCC, which took place Aug. 28-Sept. 5 at the Orthodox Academy of Crete here.
The stewards program is designed for young adults aged between 18 to 30, who get the opportunity to participate in ecumenical events under the auspices of the WCC. At the Central Committee meeting, where one of stewards’ tasks is to contribute to the “running of the show,” they also engage in dialogue and get introduced to the council’s work.
“I honestly knew little about the WCC before I came here. My involvement in the youth activities is restricted to my small church,” said Judit Agota Kantor, 23. She comes from the Baptist Union of Hungary, and participating in the WCC Central Committee meeting was her first “international ecumenical exposure.”
Kantor came to Crete with no “real expectations” other than to learn about the work of the churches. This subject interests her greatly because she is also a student of international relations. Churches’ perspectives on international issues is what made the meeting a positive learning experience for her.
Given the tradition of stewards’ programs in the past, this initiative is considered a platform of ecumenical formation for young people. It is also said to be an opportunity where “ecumenical leaders are in the making.” However, Nam Ki-Pyung, a 28-year-old student of theology from the Korean Methodist Church, has a different understanding about the role of youth in the churches.
“Young people are always considered the ‘future of the ecumenical movement.’ However, I find something cliché about it. I think we are not the future, but the present of the ecumenical movement,” said Ki-Pyung. For him young people in the churches have a great potential now. If they are given a chance, said Ki-Pyung, they can contribute fresh perspectives on issues of ecumenical concern.
At the Central Committee meeting in Crete, more than 20 stewards worked in support of and were coordinated by WCC staff. They contributed to the prayer life, documentation, logistics, as well as helping attendees of the meeting in particular ways.
Yet, for Jean Nenda-Nyeche, the meeting meant “widening of horizons.” “The reason why I applied for the stewards program was to extend my perspectives on ecumenism. While we get to help in running the meeting, it is also an opportunity for us to listen to the ecumenical and church leaders,” noted Nenda-Nyeche, 25, a steward from St. Paul Anglican Church of Athens, Greece.
While the Central Committee, a primary decision making body of the WCC, continues its final full-length meeting before the council's upcoming 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea next year, the young participants made a significant contribution to the life of the meeting as stewards.