Reflections from Virginia Conference’s United Methodist Seminar
June 26-28, 2012
There are very real issues of justice ripping apart the lives of our sisters and brothers both near and far. They are issues that are real, that can be found in communities across the world, and that are utterly destructive. All too often, we live in our bubbles, wearing blinders to cover our eyes from truly becoming exposed to these injustices.
Until, that is, there is no longer a place to hide; until we are forced to confront them face-to-face. Sometimes this confrontation is triggered by events in our own lives and communities. Quite frequently we need others to help us remove our blinders revealing our eyes to the injustices so that we can work towards justice for all.
In today’s culture, we often create space for young people to keep their blinders on as we shield their eyes from the injustices around them. As a people of faith, we are not called to this lifestyle. We are called to speak out against the injustices around us as we work to make a difference. As we seek to become the incarnate Christ in the world around us, we must discard our personal blinders and the blinders of our young people.
I have attended several seminars with the United Methodist Seminar Program for National and International Affairs, and I have always found them to be challenging, encouraging, and life changing. The seminar designers work diligently to create opportunities for young people to hear from real voices who confront the injustices around them and making a difference. Through the stories and work of others, young people are empowered to examine their local communities discovering the need for creative solutions to end the injustices that they live and breathe.
When I was asked to help lead the Virginia Conference youth this year on their adventure to New York City for a seminar focusing on violence, there was no way that I would decline the invitation. The seminars are authentic, challenging, exhausting, and life giving. As you are confronted with reality it can be a very strenuous journey toward understanding and advocating.
There are days when you leave the seminar exhausted because of the necessary exposure and amount of thinking. At the same time, there are days when you leave the seminar empowered and energized.
I frequently go to bed at night during a seminar and find my mind spinning with thoughts and possibilities for change. Knowing the challenging nature of confronting injustices and removing blinders, I was thrilled to walk with a group of young people as we wrestled together and supported each other.
Each young person in our group has had a painful encounter with violence on various levels, and those stories and experiences united our group to each other and to the seminar. There were emotional times throughout the seminar where we were challenged by our stories and the stories of others. We rejoiced listening to the difference that presenters are making in their communities.
Most importantly, we dreamt of solutions to end violence in our local communities and shared those visions with each other. The group returned home charged, with plans to bring justice forth in their communities.
I believe in the seminars provided through the United Methodist Church and the impact that they make on the lives of young people. It is obvious that God is working through the seminar designers and participants to make a difference in the lives of our sisters and brothers both near and far.
Through these seminars, I have personally seen glimpses of the Kingdom of God here on earth while we unite to passionate live out our faith working to bring justice to all. May we all find the courage to remove our blinders and confront the injustices around us for the glory of God just as these young people have done in light of their time in New York City.