NCYC 2014 was a vibrant celebration of the life and diversity found among Uniting Church young people. Tilly South reports.
“Faith is a practical thing,” preached Rev Julian Hamilton, chaplain at Trinity College, Dublin and guest speaker at the 2014 National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC), a biennial event held by a presbytery or synod of the Uniting Church.
“We must perform the text, and when we do, God turns up,” he said.
Young people from across the Uniting Church in Australia did just that in January, taking part in a week full of worship, song, dance and social justice, mixed in with a healthy dose of yuróra—a word meaning “passion” in the Dharug language, and the theme for NCYC 2014.
As over 1000 delegates and volunteers pulled up outside the Centre for Ministry, Parramatta, Sydney, it was clear their yuróra was calling them. It was with this passion that the Parramatta Nepean Presbytery and the NCYC committee brought together a diversity that members of the church rarely see in their day-to-day life.
There were a wide range of speakers and events with delegates bustling about the Centre for Ministry and Tara School attending workshops including How green is your God?, The face of poverty: why God cares and you should too and Honouring Australia’s First Peoples.
Delegates attended worship held by different community leaders from around the Uniting Church including the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, theological colleges and many multicultural congregations.
But what was most exciting was the Indigenous presence on Burramatagal land.
From the 1000 delegates registered, 150 of them were Indigenous, coming from as far as Port Augusta (South Australia) and Elcho Island (Arnhem Land).
Bradon French, NCYC chairperson, said that this diversity was an integral part of the theological basis for NCYC 2014.
“The Uniting Church’s Basis of Union tells us that we should seek to be inclusive—of men and women, young and old and of all our different gifts and skills.
“It’s this inclusion that has driven the yuróra spirit; bringing together people of different cultural, theological and linguistic backgrounds to worship and praise God together.
“It’s amazing to see, and a humbling privilege to be part of,” he said.
For young people from Indigenous backgrounds, the vibrant mix of cultures and languages was just as exciting for them as it was for the NCYC organising team.
“I’ve really enjoyed meeting new people,” said Dre Ngatokoruo of Port Augusta, “especially meeting a range of people from different cultures and backgrounds.”
For Dre, it wasn’t just his own learning that was so important to him.
“I will try and take back the things I’ve learned here to all the kids that weren’t able to come, so I can teach them the same things.”
A public rally on the final night of the conference affirmed this multiculturalism and insistence for the common good that is so ingrained in the Uniting Church psyche.
If NCYC 2014 is the future of our church, then it looks to be one that is multicultural, inclusive and diverse.
Connecting, learning, sharing
Queensland NCYC delegates Eliza Childs, Ashley Wood and Faith Chitongo tell their yuróra story.
The National Christian Youth Convention has been the highlight of our year so far.
Our group of 20 travellers, aged 16 to 24, from Burdekin and Brisbane (plus one new friend from Adelaide), shared many interesting and exciting experiences at NCYC. In addition, we shared this time with our incredible youth leaders, Josie, Alison, Sam, Moa and Greg. But it wasn’t just about us. In our times before and after the convention the congregation of Thornleigh Hillcrest Uniting Church in Sydney provided us with fellowship, wholesome meals, a place to sleep and amazing hot showers. We feel blessed to have spent this time with them.
Before NCYC it was important for us to consider what it meant to be a young person in the Uniting Church. Many in our group answered that they felt they were in a position that allowed them to be a positive influence that extended to their peers. That is, they are able to encourage others to engage in worship and experience faith through the gospel. We realise that being a young person in the church gives us the ability to introduce new ideas and concepts and be the next generation of leaders.
However, often in our own church communities we feel isolated from the rest of the congregation due to the generation gap. NCYC provided us with the opportunity to connect with other young people of faith across Australia and with these new connections we felt part of something larger. First Timothy 4:12 says “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” This was reinforced throughout the week as we were encouraged to live out our faith through actions rather than words, as we all too often do.
Our involvement in electives at NCYC has given us a lot to think about. It has reminded us that living a life of faith isn’t just about reading your Bible, praying, going to church or being a good person. Living a life of faith is about loving God and trusting him with all your life. All the other things will come as a result of loving God.
NCYC has encouraged us to continue being young people within the church speaking and showing God’s love in all that we do.