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2009 gathers with the aim
Minneapolis, November 7, 2009 -- Forty young adults from 17 communions, 15 states, the District of Columbia, the Philippines and Canada, have gathered here this week-end with an ambitious aim: to launch a nation-wide movement of young adults for Christ.
"The world desperately needs our example," said the Rev. David V. Fraccaro, Young Adult Ecumenical Formation Coordinator for the National Council of Churches who provided staff support for the New Fire 2009 planning team.
"We are a broken, fragmented world," Fraccaro told the conferees. "We can be a powerful witness for Christ, especially if this movement catches fire."
New Fire 2009 is meeting November 7-9 prior to the annual General Assembly of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service. The General Assembly meets in Minneapolis November 10-12.
The first New Fire gathering was held a year ago prior to the General Assembly in Denver. The event generated much enthusiasm on the part of young adults who discovered they had an important role to play in the ecumenical movement. The movement has a Web page created by the Young Adult Task Force of the U.S. Conference for the World Council of Churches, www.faithconnectsus.org, and considerable energy has gone into the planning of the current meeting.
One of the group's goals, Fraccaro said, is to bring together young adults who are already active in unrelated ecumenical and interfaith groups.
"There are numerous young adult organizations that are meeting all the time, but if you go to their meetings you'll never see a familiar face," Fraccaro said. "A lot of people have never heard of the other organizations."
Another goal of New Fire is to reintroduce ecumenism to young adults who have lost interest. "We want to take ecumenism down from its elite rafters and make that world real for you," Fraccaro said.
The Rev. Reggie Bachus of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., leading the group in opening worship, expressed high hopes for the movement,. "We need to know there is still power in the Holy Spirit, still power in our being together," he said. Citing the popular movie, Field of Dreams, Bachus said, "If you ignite the flame, they will come.
Leaders the young adults describe as "seasoned ecumenists" were present to encourage the group.
The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches who will be installed next Thursday as President of the National Council of Churches, urged the participants not to wait until they were older to seize the mantle of leadership.
She cited Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old who now staffs the White House office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. DuBois went to then Senator Barack Obama three times before he was able to convince the senator to add him to his staff.
"Don't wait for the title, don't wait for the authority, take a risk," Chemberlin advised the young adults.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC General Secretary, asserted that "the unity of the church is a gift, not simply an achievement. Unity is not a matter of us coming together in agreement. God has acted in Christ to bring the world together to God's own self. Everyone who has communion with Christ is united with everyone who has communion with Christ."
The message of ecumenism is that all Christians are inexorably united and can no longer look upon other Christians as different, Kinnamon said.
He recalled sitting in a meeting the Chaldean bishop of Baghdad during the 1991 assembly of the World Council of Churches in Canberra, Australia, when the U.S. was bombing Iraq.
"The bombs are falling on you, too," the bishop said, pointing out that if Christian sisters and brothers in Christ were experiencing the bombing in Baghdad, all Christians shared the experience.
Kinnamon urged the young adults to reject modern idolatries of Christianity, including "the idolatry of claiming absolute knowledge of God's will. God is God and we aren't."
The Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, director of the NCC's Women's Ministries, urged participants to be patient. "We need to stand together on the historic (ecumenical) movement that is there and not reject it because the structure cannot move fast enough," she said. "The ecumenical movement is about relationships and listening."
The New Fire participants will worship Sunday in the Church of All Nations, a Presbyterian congregation in Minneapolis. They will be joined Sunday evening by ecumenical officers of NCC member communions and by National Council of Churches and Church World Service staff.
The sessions Monday morning will include a strategy session on how to stay connected.
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