As the stage is set and the House Band warms up, anticipation bubbles over as youth pour into the Crown Coliseum this morning. Everyone has come ready and prepared with clothes pins decked out in colorful affirmations and a sea of Youth Service Fund (YSF) apparel.
The lights dim, the countdown begins, the youth scream and we’re off! It is officially the Saturday morning session of Pilgrimage 2019. By 10:05, all of the youth are standing with hands raised singing a resounding line, “Oh, every knee will bow before the lion and the lamb.” Not ten minutes later, a loud “Your love is here” roars through the arena as little white lights pop up around the crowd.
They sway as the spirit of God moves through the crowd with dynamic force and pull just as a tidal wave crashing overhead. The spirit passionately continues as Reckless Love begins playing, and the little white lights are joined by hands in the air as eyes close and bodies sway through the worship.
The center stage is then taken by the Conference youth officers. After introductions comes a video describing all of the Conference youth events, including Kaleidoscope, Breakaway, ACS, and Global Vision. It shared youth testimonies of how the events have shaped their relationships with Christ and strengthened their bonds with other youth of the conference. After the video, Conference Treasurer Becca McCartney and friends model the YSF apparel.
Then it’s officially time for Christian Calisthenics. After an explanation of how the dance works, the Romantics’ song, “What I like About You,” begins playing as confused youth start flailing around as they keep pace with the CYC on stage.
After our blood is pumping, a beautiful dance performance is given by Marissa Lewicki. She mesmerizes the crowd as God moves through her in an expression to the song “Let Go.”
Adam Garner of Saulston UMC introduced his testimony with a reading of John 4:39. He moved the crowd with his story of a shattered home life and how God picked up the pieces to shine light in and through his life. The morning’s scripture, 2 Corinthians 12:9, is read in both English and Kiribati, a Pacific Island language.
With this, we transformed into a worshipful tone, ready for a man to take the stage to share the word of God. Humbly, he walks on with jeans, a t-shirt, and socks on. That’s right; socks but no shoes. Bishop Leonard Fairley shares with the crowd how we have all made mistakes, but we are all sons and daughters of a very forgiving God. He suggests looking at the world in grace-tinted glasses. The Bishop poses these questions to the crowd to ponder during the service:
If I could see myself through the eyes of God’s grace and unconditional love, how would I see myself?
If I could see the world through the eyes of God’s grace and unconditional love, what would I see, and how would I live?
He reminds us that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. God has made us whole in him. God’s love is deeper, and it reminds us that that love is forgiving and never fails us. The Bishop tells us not to let our failures define us because God has a purpose for all of our experiences. He quoted the confession and pardon that we participate in when we meet at the communion table. He broke down the phrases that we are speaking, reminding us of the importance of the confession and how it shows that we are not perfect. We cannot have grace without sin.
As Bishop Fairley closes, he asks us to look to our left and our right. He says, “You are looking at a person who has made and will continue to make mistakes.” Let grace work through each other today. He asks us to remember that “you are graciously made, see each other as God sees you.”
As the House Band takes the stage, the session could be perfectly represented by the simple and powerful verse, “You rescued me so I could stand and sing. I am a child of God.”
*Article by Cameron Burnette and Emily McCartney