UM Students Spend Memorial Day Weekend Considering Their Call
July 21, 2011
By Daniel R. Gangler*
EVANSVILLE, Indiana – Singing, "Now we'll overcome all divisions and darkness by lighting our way," more than 275 United Methodist students and campus ministry leaders opened the 2011 United Methodist Student Forum on Thursday, May 26. The United Methodist-related University of Evansville hosted the four-day event.
The hymn was written specifically for Forum, a national leadership development event for young adult college and university students. DeLyn Celec, worship arts coordinator of Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, a United Methodist-related institution, led the hymn.
Continuing with the Forum theme, "God is Calling … Will You Answer?" the Rev. Motoe Yamada of the California-Nevada Annual Conference told the students and campus ministers and chaplains, "God chose you to be here. You said 'yes' to God to be here …. Life is not about you. Life's about Jesus Christ. Not about me or them, but God's calling."
Yamada serves as senior pastor of Japanese United Methodist Church (www.sacjumc.org) in Sacramento.
(At left, Yamada preaches at opening worship at Student Forum. Photo by Dan Gangler.)
Basing her sermon on 2 Corinthians 4:5-6, Yamada asked her listeners whether people can see their light – meaning, "seeing life centered in Jesus Christ because life's about Jesus Christ." She reminded her listeners their calling is not always a wonderful thing; "Sometimes, it's challenging, even scary. Remember, Jesus is with you when you say 'yes.'"
She then shared how God called her to go to Japan after the tsunami to assist in any way she could. "Sometimes answering the call means sleeping on floors, not knowing what types of food you will be eating," she said.
"Are you willing to share the light with others? Is God calling you to do something?" she asked.
Worship closed with participants arm-in-arm singing, "Here I am, Lord." This was one of six worship or devotional times during the meeting.
The Rev. Meg Lassiat, GBHEM's director of Candidacy, Mentoring, and Conference Relations, said one of the most exciting parts of this year's Forum was the chance to Skype with a United Methodist Student Movement Steering Committee member, Shelton Berry, who is currently serving in the Air Force and working as an assistant chaplain in Kyrgystan. Chaplain Harold B. Owens, Lt. Col. USAF, provided a homily during the Saturday evening worship service and Berry introduced the evening's guest preacher.
"Being able to connect across the globe and share in the excitement of seeing and hearing Berry and Owens was an inspirational moment and a highlight of my work with the United Methodist Student Movement," said Lassiat.
The Student Forum of the United Methodist Student Movement focuses on:
- Worship and social justice advocacy;
- Leadership training for campus ministry; and
- Networking and developing legislation for General Conference.
More than 180 college and university students and 95 chaplains, campus ministers, and other professionals related to campus ministry attended the May 26-29 forum sponsored by the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, based in Nashville, Tennessee.
The event was planned by a 16-member steering committee chaired by Nickie Moreno, a student at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. Retreat at Forum, an event for chaplains and campus ministers, is held in conjunction with the student event.
"This year's Forum provided students with the chance to draft, debate, and vote on legislation that the participating delegates have supported for General Conference 2012. As students learn leadership skills and develop ways to affect the life of the denomination, the Student Forum is an important place for participants to have an active voice and effect on the legislation that will be presented to the next General Conference," Lassiat said.
The legislative session is composed of student delegates from each Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. Each Conference may send an unlimited number of students to the Forum, but only three are voting delegates and there are six alternate delegates.
This year delegates considered nine petitions to the 2012 General Conference, the top legislative body of The United Methodist Church, meeting next year in Tampa, Florida. Petitions included one on bullying, others on the Reconciling Student Movement, human sexuality, the need for a statement on human sexuality in the Social Principles of the Church, and equal rights regardless of gender identification. Saturday was spent in legislation sessions.
The Methodist Student Movement was formed at a conference held in St. Louis in December, 1937. Two years later, The Methodist Church established The Methodist Student Movement, which met every four years. The last such national gathering was held at Lincoln, Nebraska in January, 1965. The idea of a national student movement was resurrected as a national leadership training event for students at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi in May, 1989. According to the current event program book, "the Forum was very successful from the beginning and has been held each year to the present." Student Forum '94 drew more than 220 students from 54 Annual Conferences. More than a dozen were students from other countries. At the May, 1996 Student Forum at United Methodist-related Oklahoma City University, delegates created the new United Methodist Student Forum.
For more information about the United Methodist Student Forum, visit www.umsm.org/studentforum. To learn more about GBHEM, visit www.gbhem.org.
*Daniel R. Gangler serves as director of communication for the Indiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.