United by faith
The National Christian Youth Convention is more than just singing songs and meeting new friends. It is about living out faith in practical ways.
It was a few days after Christmas.
While many young people were still out partying and planning for their New Year’s Eve celebration, more than 900 people from Australia and overseas came together for the biannual National Christian Youth Convention 2011 (ncyc11) in the Gold Coast.
Approximately 200 delegates aged 16-25 from the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT attended.
For many, ncyc11 offered a forum to share and discuss their faith with a multicultural group of young people with different understandings of Christianity.
Local and international guest speakers were invited to share their faith stories.
Keynote speaker Gillian Best spoke about her work as a Youth Ministry Coordinator with the Methodist Church in Northern Ireland.
Pop/folk group Remember Seven told stories through music that they wrote while in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Celebrated magician Christopher Wayne used everyday magic tricks and illusion to communicate the gospel message. Among tricks he performed was creating snow in the hall in the middle of a Queensland summer.
Mr Wayne inspired many young people with his performances and workshops. He spoke about engaging young people through the use of simple card tricks and illusions, so making the gospel message more inviting.
“Christianity is largely something I experience in the city,” Mr Wayne said.
“What I saw this week was young people, not just from all over Australia but from different places of the world, all united in one thing: their faith.
“It helped me appreciate and see the bigger picture of what faith is all about. There isn’t necessarily one way to go about worshipping God or living a Christian life.”
One of the highlights of ncyc11 was the New Year’s Eve celebration. This was the first NCYC held over New Year. While the Gold Coast is known as a party destination, ncyc11 offered something unique.
New Year’s Eve organiser Fa Ngaluafe wanted to mix her Tongan culture with the youth culture in Australia.
“A lot of young people go get wasted and make up these New Year’s resolutions they can’t really remember the next day,” Ms Ngaluafe said.
“Being on the Gold Coast, we wanted to create a party atmosphere where no-one would want to leave because it’s pumping right here. You don’t need any alcohol; you don’t need any drugs to have a great time.”
The night began with a dance party and plenty of outdoor games. Close to midnight, everyone ventured outside where a Tongan minister and Tongan singers in traditional outfits led them in worship and prayer.
At least 100 young people came forward to pray in groups and recommit to God.
Community leader Laura Baird reflected on New Year’s Eve.
“I usually spend it not doing much,” she said. “This year it was significant because I realised it was the beginning of something new for not just me, but for everyone. We had a Tongan feast together after countdown, which I really enjoyed because it made it feel like a family, like we were a community.”
Her words resonated with many others who enjoyed being a part of a community where faith was shared, explored and acted upon:
“Not feeling like I am only one person but instead being part of a community.” (Stephanie Harvey, New South Wales)
“You can meet new and different people, and make new friends. The best part is that we all love and worship God.” (Iyeesha Jetta, WA)
“It was great worshipping with other young Christians and getting to know new friends.” (Heath Reynoldson, QLD)
The convention also provided an outlet for young Christians to live out their faith through Submersions.
These planned activities encouraged delegates to take action and do something in the community. Activities varied from building a house for a refugee family, to visiting a monastery, to public demonstrations and expressions of faith.
Delegates were challenged throughout the one-week event to be more proactive and to create their own opportunities for Submersion activities in their own communities.
Dave Andrews, one of the Bible study leaders, encouraged delegates to continue to live out their faith after ncyc11. “I want to help people to feel like anything they do, no matter how big or small, is really significant and really important,” he said.
When Rockhampton and areas in central Queensland were flooded, some delegates from the Victorian and Tasmanian synod took the initiative to donate their money to support the flood-affected communities.
One week after the convention ended, a number of adult volunteers from ncyc11 and some Oxley Uniting Church friends lent a hand in delivering 380 bags of ice to flood-affected residents in Brisbane.
At a time when the Uniting Church demographic is ageing, seeing hundreds of young Christians doing something for God and for the community was both inspirational and reassuring.
Julie Gozali is Online Content Coordinator for the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.
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