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New Fire movement dreams, takes action

By Jordan Blevins

Minneapolis, November 11, 2009  – With a prayer of thanksgiving and guidance, asking for, “the work of the Spirit in expanding our communications ... the gift of prudence as we lay organizational foundations … the gift of discernment as we pilot our New Fire seed grant project … for a Spirit-filled outpouring of glad and generous hearts as we expand our circle of New Fire”, the participants of New Fire 2009 left this space having dreamt dreams, and then implemented action plans for a vision of a revitalized young adult ecumenical movement.

A vision statement which declared, “New Fire is movement-building work to call the Church to re-imagine its mission to live out the God-given mandates of love, justice, unity, and peace on a global, regional, and local level” was given the backing of the participants of New Fire, with the launching of the Ecumenists of All Ages fundraising initiative. All of the young adults present made their commitment to the movement by donating at least their age, seeing a collection of more than $650 lay the foundation of their work together. The invitation to partner with and to match this commitment will be extended to the participants of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service General Assembly on Tuesday.

A set of goals was also adopted, first in the next 6 months, and then in the next year. Participants committed to:

·         Form New Fire Task Force, expand diversity and representation 

·         New Fire concept paper and grant proposal finalized including long term wish list  

·         Funding for next year’s New Fire event 

·         Tools for witness:  logo, tagline, and promotional materials 

·         Seed grant pilot program, empowering local ecumenical possibilities  

·         Organized single database of contacts for targeted outreach 

·         Launch and further develop the Ecumenists of All Ages Campaign and  involve at least 100 under 35 and 100 over 35 

·         Fundraiser/Development roundtable for deepened collaboration           

·         Leadership training – resources, tool-kits, trainers - empowering young adults for local ecumenical work 

All of this was the result of a weekend full of worship, conversation, relationship building, and issue education. The participants of New Fire 2009 began on Saturday by hearing from more seasoned ecumenical leaders, including the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, who challenged the participants with the message of unity in Christ, saying, “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.”  They also heard from Rev. Peg Chemberlin, the President-elect of the Council, who told them to, “Don't wait for the title, don't wait for the authority, take a risk." 

Saturday afternoon saw participants explore different forms of ecumenical dialogue that they could take back to their local contexts, including a theological table discussion of ministry, social justice trainings on climate change, immigration, health care, and gun violence, and just some table conversation over dinner. The evening ended as they began discussing their vision and goals for the movement, preparing for the work of the next day, before closing in a powerful worship that included pieces from numerous different traditions. 

On Sunday, participants began with worship, at the Church of All Nations in Minneapolis. Worship was a blend of the Church of All Nations sharing their multicultural vision for the church and the New Fire movement sharing their ecumenical vision – and exploring the intersections between the two. Church of All Nations was chosen as the New Fire movement seeks unity not only among communions, but unity in Christ among different ethnicities and genders.  

That afternoon saw the further development of the purpose statement and goals, including the Ecumenists of All Ages Initiative and plans on a more sustained fundraising proposal – with a concept paper presented including things like a permanent New Fire Movement coordinator, a New Fire Task Force, and young adult participation in ecumenical events. Even more significant, in an effort to build local participation in the movement, were ideas around local ecumenical training, seed grants for local ecumenical events, and regional events to make the movement more grassroots.

The evening was spent sharing the vision of the movement with seasoned ecumenists, including National Council of Churches staff and denominational representatives. The New Fire Movement shared their vision, proclaiming, “New Fire is movement-building work to call the Church to re-imagine its mission to live out the God-given mandates of love, justice, unity, and peace on a global, regional, and local level.”  An intergenerational conversation around the goals and vision explored how the seasoned ecumenists can aid the members of New Fire in achieving their goals  - but also saw the young adults calling on the seasoned ecumenists to join them in this revitalization of the ecumenical movement.

Sunday evening closed with another powerful time of worship together, as participants lit candles around the purpose statement, dedicating themselves to carrying this vision forward.  Monday concluded the event as they gave concrete ways they would take their experience with them – committing to financial support, spreading the word, and taking ecumenical action at home. Prayer partners were picked to help sustain one another in the journey, before the participants closed in prayer.

New Fire, “creates a space to work for human reconciliation, and facilitates new vision through awareness-raising, relationship-building, education, ecumenical formation, worship, civic engagement, and leadership training.” This is the vision for a revitalized young adult movement, a flame dreamed of, and then put into action, by the participants of New Fire 2009.

Jordan Blevins is assistant director of the NCC Eco-Justice Program and a member of the New Fire delegation.

Photos by Kathleen Cameron

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212  (cell) ,

The New Fire Gathering of young adults is funded in part by the Anna Van Loan Trust to honor Zelah Van Loan "for the purpose of providing for a Biennial Congress of Youth of America, to devise the best methods for youth to apply Christ's principles for the betterment of humanity and to bring young people to Him."

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