It was recently my privilege to facilitate a number of electives at the Uniting Church Synod-wide youth camp, Easter Madness. My electives were titled, “Big Questions” which created space for groups of adolescents to ask and explore questions relating to life and faith.
I was deeply impressed by the depth of questions asked, the maturity of ensuing interaction and the intellectual dexterity with which ideas were processed. Even more, I was enthralled by the vibrant, living nature of the faith that prompted such questions in the first place.
I was reminded of the 11th century theologian, Anselm of Canterbury. One hot question in Anselm’s day was the relationship between faith and knowledge, particularly, which comes first? We obviously need some knowledge of God in order to believe in him. Yet it seems equally true that faith is required to even begin the process of considering who God is.
If we pursue faith without knowledge, that faith becomes blind and uninformed. If we pursue knowledge without faith, we are quickly reduced to the limitations of our own assumptions and experience. How do the two work together? Anselm responded with a Latin phrase to describe the Christian’s goal: fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding).
That is what I saw at Easter Madness, faith seeking understanding.
In keeping with the nature of this column, here are two words of exhortation.
First, to young people in the Uniting Church: please, never stop asking questions. We need you to keep pushing us to address the issues you experience as your faith encounters life’s issues. Many of the issues you face didn’t exist when we were young, but there are depths of resource that God-in-Christ can bring to bear on seemingly overwhelming issues when we make room for his Spirit to guide and lead us. We would love to help you discover these.
Second, to our older generations: please, never underestimate the faith, intelligence or commitment of the younger people in your church. As I found at Easter Madness, give them a chance and their honest enquiry and agile thought will inspire you. Give them space to have a voice. Give them space to have a go. But help, support and encourage them along the way.
The 21st century will demand more from them than we can imagine. Our responsibility is to provide the three E’s: equip, empower, encourage.
This will take real effort and must inevitably mean the church’s agenda is increasingly less about our generation’s needs; but what a privilege to be a part of God’s action into the future!
Simon Gomersall is Trinity College Queensland Lecturer in Historical and Contemporary Mission and is the Program Director for Activate, a program for recent school leavers offering an opportunity to experience learning, growth, community and fun. For more information visit