They display a hunger for justice and appear to have a deep rooted sense of inclusion. They are active in the most confusing and unusual ways. They are a challenge to the status quo, they started by asking little questions of those around them and now in unity they are getting louder and are asking boldly big questions.
Who are these rebels?
They are the Sunday School children and their hearts are set on changing the world!
I get to work with some awesome children, children who stand up for others, children who cut their hair and give it away so children with cancer get real hair wigs. Children who ride miles and miles so money is raised for other children stuck in slavery. Children who stand with others in the playground when life gets tough and even in the face of physical danger don't give up on loving others.
A tangible example of this underground revolution was at this years Cake & Debate session at Greenbelt. A potentially controversial session hosted by Diverse Church with the title of something like 'The LGBT Debate' crammed 200 young people aged 11 - 18yrs old into a marque. As I stood and watched the young people filling in I have to admit I was a bit nervous. Having been actively involved in both the LGBT and church worlds for the last 4 years I am incredibly aware of the challenges hosting a conversation on this matter can have. People have strong opinions on the matters of LGBT issues and they often raise their opinions hard and fast, sadly love and respect can quickly dissipate.
To kick start the conversation Sally asked the crowd 'Who here knows someone that identifies as LGBT?' without a hesitation almost all the hands in the room shot up. Bit different to the response I was expecting! I am still having conversations with youth workers who say their groups have no one who identifies as LGBT or that in their church/community it is not an issue so they don't need to consider the pastoral needs of LGBT young people. Seems the ground workers though, the young people in our congregations are sharing in a different journey and they are modelling something new.
One by one I watched amazed as articulate, intelligent, compassionate and graceful young people took to the microphone to share their hearts for inclusion and love of all people. One reflected passionately on the life of Jesus reminding us all, young and old, that he came and caused a stir, loving those the religious right feared and loathed, embracing and redeeming those once written off. I don't pimp out peoples stories but a lot of young people shared their own journeys. They made themselves vulnerable and opened themselves up to critique but with such peace and humility. It was a true kairos moment and a pure privilege to witness.
Biggest surprise though: after each and every speaker the rest of the crowd responded in an unusual manner. For every time someone shared from the microphone the crowd applauded! No rumbles of grumbles, no muttering, sighing, strategic coughing. These incredible young people applauded those brave enough to share their thoughts. The sense of respect and authentic love towards each other was something as yet I have not witnessed in any adult conversation on the subject.
As the session draw to a close I looked around the tent, youth workers were in tears. The volunteer steward next to me said 'I am 59 years old and was starting to loose hope for the church, today these young people given me hope. If they lead we are in good hands.'
'But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.' 1 Peter 3:15
As we head into a new season of youth work conferences I find myself asking whether we as adults can use this example to move forward our conversations on this issue. Can we strive to think a little wider and deeper than simply engaging in a verse by verse battle? Can we take their example of respect, of inclusion, of engagement and allow these rebels to be our role models?
If you are up for engaging I will be hanging out at Open Paris this October and leading a seminar on this at Youthwork Conference this November. If you bring cake all the better!