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Welcoming the wisdom of the whole

WHEN I was about 19 years old, at the end of the year I dyed my hair bright purple.

I wasn’t a rebellious teenager but I never wanted to be just like everyone else my age, I wanted to do something a bit different, and this was it.

But I was terrified of what people at church would say on Sunday morning.

I sheepishly arrived at worship that week and the first person to see me was one of the older members of the congregation.

I could tell she was shocked.

My knees sank, there was no going back; this was not a subtle hair colour.

She squealed with delight, “Mardi! You dyed your hair to match the church year!

How wonderful!”

It was Advent.

She then proceeded to present me to every member of the congregation gloating about how committed I was and that I matched the new banners hanging inside.

I instantly remembered that these people accepted me for who I was. (Thanks Lillian!)

This is a great example of how young people were treated in my home church; as one part of the whole body, not just the ones who ran the youth group (and left a mess) or led worship.

I felt a similar feeling when, at the age of 29, I was off ered the position of editor of Journey and communications manager for the Synod.

It is wonderful to know that young people are given huge roles of responsibility within the Uniting Church, although in most other parts of the world 29 is not considered particularly young.

In this edition we explore the place of young people in our church; from children to teenagers and those elusive 18 to 30-year-olds.

The comment that kept coming back was that young people don’t want to be seen as the future of the church; they want to be part of it now.

We have seen great things happen in the 34 years of the Uniting Church: the passion of Union, the vivid history of young adult fellowship groups and camps.

Where are these young people now?

Many of them are probably reading this and continue to be active in their church communities.

But now the generation who weren’t born when Union happened are adults.

The average age of students training to be Ministers of the Word or Deacons this year at Trinity Theological College is just over 38 years old.

The older members of our church, indeed the majority of members of our church, have so much to teach the younger members, but the lessons can go both ways.

How do we enable this even more?

How do we respect the wisdom that comes with age and experience, at the same time as respecting the energy and optimism of youth?

A wise (30-year-old) colleague of mine said recently that young people are disciples in training, not disciples in waiting.

I couldn’t put it better myself.

I can’t tell you how difficult it has been editing stories to fi t them in this edition.