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by Claire Houston
Rebecca Koerselman is off today. We welcome, Claire Houston. Claire recently served as a youth delegate from the Regional Synod of New York to the Reformed Church General Synod, through a program known as “Call Waiting.” Thank you, Claire.
I stand here as the youngest person on the floor of General Synod. I look around at the 220-some delegates with voting rights, and I realize that I may be ten years, maybe forty or in some cases over sixty years younger than the other delegates.
I am not here to speak for or against anything, putting aside my personal feelings. I speak for the many youth—the youth in Sunday School or Youth Group, the youth that will attend one of our camps this summer, who will start one of our church-related colleges this fall, or will finish up seminary this year.
In the report of the Commission on Christian Discipleship and Education there was a line that said “children are not the future of the church, children are the church.” But children aren’t always given much say. As one of the six youth in the back of the assembly trying to represent to everyone here the thousands of children and youth in our churches, I do want to remind the delegates of something important.
What future do you want us to have? What future do you want for your children, your students, your friends? As we fight and argue are we making decisions that will create a better future for our church? Are we thinking of the church as we see it today, or the church we could be in ten years, twenty years, one hundred years?
At the end of Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book, after the two sides have fought over whether you should eat bread with the butter side up or down, creating bigger and better weapons, we find the last two characters both standing on a wall, prepared with weapons to blow the other side to smithereens. The narrator says: “Grandpa! I shouted. “Be careful! Oh, gee! Who’s going to drop it? Will you . . . ? Or will he . . . ? “Be patient,” said Grandpa. “We’ll see. We will see… ”
Debriefing together after a stressful day of Synod, the other youth in my “Call Waiting” program discussed how it seemed that older generations just weren’t listening to what we had to say. We realized, however, that we were doing the same thing. We were building up our own walls, making an “us” and “them.” Our walls had nothing to do with our stances, but “us”—the youth, and “them”—everyone else. Instead, let us make a we, an us. Let us break down the walls that divide us, and really listen to each other.
Titus 3:9 says to “avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” Luke 11:17 says “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.”
Much of the time at General Synod we talked about unity, but what if we thought instead about division? We are reminded in the Bible of how division and quarrels will tear us apart. The mission of “Call Waiting” is to think about what our future in the church will be. If we as a Synod quarrel, divide, fight, then what is our purpose in being here? Why should I be thinking about my future role in this church, if there won’t even be a church to be involved in, or one that I want to be a member of?
Let us lay down our anger and hurt, and instead think about what we are doing. Let us stop hurting others. Let us think of the church tomorrow and the church of hundreds of years in the future. Let us create a community where we can show God’s love as we are called to do. In the Gospel of John, Jesus calls us to “love one another, just as I have loved you.” Let us begin this process by loving one another in this room. I call for the church and this General Synod to have a deeper, truer, lasting, and Christ-like peace. Let us truly listen to what each person has to say. Let us open our hearts and form a great church for all generations to come.