Youth President Trip to the USA 2017

Each year the Youth President is given the opportunity by The Methodist Church to go to a country and to see the work that the Methodist church is doing out there. Now, there’s an awful lot in the news at the moment about the US, but I’m a great believer in going and seeing myself rather than hearing an account, as such on the 31st of July myself and Doug Swanney (Connexional Secretary) were privileged enough to go to the US and too see some of the work that the church is doing out there. 

We first went out to Atlanta, and we found out immediately that it’s one of the busiest airports in the world as I had to line up for the best part of an hour to get through customs. Having got a good nights kip we awoke the next morning to find a waffle maker at breakfast which immediately improved my day. We headed off to the new Global Ministries building and were given a tour, it’s a really great space they have out there. I then went to Emory University to meet with a group of young people called the Global Mission Fellow’s. These young people are going all over the world to go and work in churches for the next two years, a few are working in Ireland although none in the mainland UK (I have hopes that this much change) by coincidence at the same time as we were at Emory a group of young Methodists from the Pacific Islands were also though having their first ever Youth Conference, we joined them in a session called Opportunities for Ministry which was led by Sam Halverson who is the Associate Director of Connectional Ministries for the North Georgia United Methodist Annual Conference (Responsible mainly for Youth Ministry). 

We then went and had some talks with the heads of the Global Mission Fellows about how we as the Methodist Church in the UK could engage more with them and possibly get some young people to work with them in the future. This was a really interesting talk as I hadn’t really heard of the Global Missions Fellows before heading out, and it’s such an amazing opportunity for young people that I really want to spread the word about it throughout the connexion. I then met up with Sam again and went to supper with him and some youth workers and talked about their work in universities, which brought about some really interesting ideas about how we could do more work in universities here. We then headed off to the baseball (as I really wanted to go see a game) we saw a home run and all. 

We started day 2 meeting with Thomas Kemper who's the General Secretary of GBGM (Big boss) where we talked about the work that the GMF's have been doing and some possibly future plans for it. We then met with David Logeman (who thinks that Wales is exotic) talking about the identity of the church and having some meaningful talks about what attracts young people to church and what the church needs to do about that, this was very inspiring and when put in context with the statistics for mission report from conference this year is a conversation I hope to be having with more people this year. Next we went to the commissioning of the GMF's which was an amazing service, thoughts and prayers go out to all 45 of them as they start their 2 years. Following this we dropped in too 3 churches in the Atlanta area to talk about their mission and ministry with young people and to see their amazing spaces, we finished at Roswell Methodist Church where we spent some time talking to the young people/adults and joined in with their worship, Doug got very excited about going to chick-fil-a.

The next day we flew off to Washington DC and went to Wesley Theological seminary and met the President of the seminary and the Dean of admissions and talked about their work (and the West Wing) Having talked about the West Wing, I suggested we go to the national cathedral where both me and Doug fanboyed for an hour, casually going round reciting Bartlet's famous speech (the views were absolutely stunning) we then went to dinner with The General Secratry and the Director of communications for The General Board of Church and Society and had some very thought provoking conversations about the current state of the world and Methodism's place in it, which again is a conversation I hope to have a few times this year with various people. Doug and I then had a wander down Pennsylvania Avenue and saw the White House and also saw Marine One land.

The day started with us going to the United Methodist Building which is located in the coolest place as if you turned to your left you could see the Supreme Court and if you turned to your right you could see the Capitol building (the land was brought so they could encourage senators to support prohibition) we met with Aimee and Katie where we talked about the seminary and intern program that they work with and how we could make some connections with them. Next on the agenda was meeting Jean and Kyle from the council of bishops and went to have lunch with them in the Senate dining room, where we had the famous Senate bean soup. Next we met Giovanni Arroyo from GCORR and went to the museum of African American history which was really interesting and thought provoking, we saw various displays chronicling African American history possibly the most thought provoking was a coffin which was used at the funeral of Emmett Till, he was a 14 year old boy who was beaten, lynched and then shot because he offended a white women in a grocery store. Just the image of the coffin truly shocked me as to how a human could do that to another. Doug and I spent the evening going around various monuments around DC before heading over to Carmines for a delicious supper.

Our final couple of days was spent going round and seeing some sights like going to the Air and Space part of the Smithsonian, we also saw the Kennedy flame and Arlington cemetery and did a bit of shopping. We went to Foundry United Methodist Church (It was where Bill and Hillary Clinton went to church) and had a really good sermon there talking about anger. It raised some interesting questions about whether sometimes it’s good to be angry and how to use that anger in a good way.

In summary, it was a great experience to go to the US and have some really productive conversations. It was also quite challenging at times as they do things very differently to us in the UK, and there sense of what a connexion is, is quite different to ours, there were also times were what I think and believe was challenged as attitudes towards certain aspects of church life are very different to ours, which made me wonder as we are all followers or Christ and also of Wesley theology why we don’t agree on everything. I come away very excited about some of the opportunities that could come to fruition especially working closely with the Global Mission Fellows and hopefully having some young people from the UK apply next year and maybe having some projects for them this time next year. 

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