It might seem like a trivial task to help with the logistical arrangements of a major meeting. However, for the “stewards” of the World Council of Churches (WCC), this task means more than merely helping out.
“Yes, we do get to help with documentation and logistical arrangements of the meeting. However, this is accompanied by learning about different ways of living the Christian faith and experiencing a multi-cultural environment,” said David Rubén Romero-Mazzini, working with the Evangelical Youth Network in Peru.
At the age of 26, Romero-Mazzini is working as a youth steward at the 60th Central Committee meeting of the WCC, taking place from 28 August to 5 September at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Greece.
The stewards programme is designed for young adults aged between 18 to 30, who get the opportunity to participate in ecumenical events under the auspices of the WCC. At the Central Committee meeting, where one of stewards’ tasks is to contribute to the “running of the show”, they also engage in dialogue and get introduced to the council’s work.
“I honestly knew little about the WCC before I came here. My involvement in the youth activities is restricted to my small church,” said Judit Agota Kantor, 23. She comes from the Baptist Union of Hungary, and participating in the WCC Central Committee meeting is her first “international ecumenical exposure”.
Kantor came to Crete with no “real expectations” other than to learn about the work of the churches. This subject interests her greatly because she is also a student of international relations. Churches’ perspectives on international issues is what makes the meeting a positive learning experience for her.
Given the tradition of stewards’ programmes in the past, this initiative is considered a platform of ecumenical formation for young people. It is also said to be an opportunity where “ecumenical leaders are in the making”. However, Nam Ki-Pyung, a 28-year-old student of theology from the Korean Methodist Church, has a different understanding about the role of youth in the churches.
“Young people are always considered the ‘future of the ecumenical movement’. However, I find something cliché about it. I think we are not the future, but the present of the ecumenical movement,” said Ki-Pyung. For him young people in the churches have a great potential now. If they are given a chance, says Ki-Pyung, they can contribute fresh perspectives on issues of ecumenical concern.
At the Central Committee meeting in Crete, more than 20 stewards work in support of and coordinated by WCC staff. They contribute to the prayer life, documentation, logistics, as well as helping attendees of the meeting in particular ways.
Yet, for Jean Nenda-Nyeche, the meeting means “widening of horizons”. “The reason why I applied for the stewards programme was to extend my perspectives on ecumenism. While we get to help in running the meeting, it is also an opportunity for us to listen to the ecumenical and church leaders,” noted Nenda-Nyeche, 25, a steward from St. Paul Anglican Church of Athens, Greece.
While the Central Committee, a primary decision making body of the WCC, continues its final full-length meeting before the council’s upcoming 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea next year, the young participants make a significant contribution to the life of the meeting as stewards.
(The Full Article can be obtained from the World Council of Churches website here: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/eng/a/article/1634/youth-learn-different.html).