On Friday, the second day of Rendez-vous 2011, I was pondering the significance of story — what stories we share and why they are important.
These questions were instigated by author and activist Shane Claiborne’s down-to-earth keynote message that engaged participants through story. He shared tales of transformation with grace and humour. “My life was pretty good and then I met Jesus and he messed me up,” he told the crowd of United Church young people, gathered in Toronto from across the country.
Claiborne stressed the importance of living the way of Christ every day, holding the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in another. He challenged us to work with the marginalized, work for the power of God’s justice, and be a light in the world so people can taste and see that God is good.
Participants and leaders were asked to bring our whole beautiful and unique selves, our stories. Reminding us that we are all beloved, called and chosen by God, morning worship leader Rodger Nishioka asked us to reflect on where we see God at work in the world.
It was easy to spot God’s presence throughout the day. Some may have seen God during a bilingual soccer game, where language was not a barrier. Others may have witnessed the Spirit moving through workshops involving yoga and movement or reflection on intercultural identities. One youth reflected on the beauty of a sun shower as they were cleaning up a park area and putting up bird nests. I feel God is always present in nature, in caring for Creation.
In the evening, youth packed a hall at Emmanuel College, even sitting on windowsills, to hear Karla Adolphe sing and host a coffee house. The sound of her gentle voice, the depth of her songs and the stories told calmed the room. Her beautiful talents had filled Koerner Hall earlier in the day.
Mitchell Anderson, chair of the design team, said the weekend is going even better than he expected. “Youth are encountering Jesus in pretty sweet ways,” he said. All of us bring stories to share. It is through story that we build relationships with one another and with Christ. It is through story that we are transformed. It is through story that we can lead the church into transformation.
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