Several hundred members of the Iowa Conference celebrated the installation of me and my colleague Jonna Jensen during our annual meeting in Cedar Rapids June 12. I was exhilarated by this experience, but I was equally intimidated. Now, it’s official: I am responsible for supporting and encouraging youth and young adult ministries throughout the 179 churches of the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ. Wow!
One thing that Linda Jaramillo, the executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, said in her sermon that night stuck with me. “Unleash your spirits and cause a commotion,” Jaramillo said directly to me and my colleague. My first thought was, “Does she know who she’s talking to?” Our spirits are both considerable, sometimes overwhelming for those around us.
But, I loved that someone gave us permission to use our God-given spirits to cause a commotion — to do something different, to shake things up. Too often we are encouraged — explicitly and implicitly — to maintain the status quo in the church. But, our preacher reminded us that as far back as the Pentecost story (Acts 2) the Holy Spirit has been causing a commotion. So, why shouldn’t we? (After all, the disciples are accused of being drunk at 9 a.m. in this story.)
I started to create a commotion when I issued a challenge those gathered at the Annual Meeting. I asked them to do two things in the next year before our next formal gathering: 1.) Talk to one or two young people (whether they are in the church or not) and listen without judgment to their thoughts about the church. 2.) Invite a young person early to our next Annual Meeting — June 11 & 12 in Grinnell, IA. This year we had only four young people registered for the meeting. I know we can do better if we tell them we want them to come so that they can share their thoughts about the pressing issues facing the church.
So, are you going to accept my challenge? I certainly hope so. Remember: Cause a Commotion!