Doing it yourself – a completely different Sunday

Are we a church of consumers who just sit back and allow themselves to served? A group of young Austrians, Slovaks, Czechs, and Hungarians demonstrated just how different things can be at their most recent youth convention: a divine service in the do-it-yourself style.

The three-day gathering in the spring of 2018 at the idyllic Wörthersee in Austria was captioned by the words: “We feel like …” But this time, in contrast to the usual invitations of this kind, the young people were not allowed to simply sit back and enjoy—they would be required to help along.

On Friday the 217 young people and their leaders gather at the picturesque lake, where they are greeted by beaming sunshine and welcomed by District Apostle Markus Fehlbaum and Apostles Jürg Zbinden and Philipp Burren. After praying together, the newly confirmed young people are officially introduced and welcomed into the ranks of the youth. Then it is time for a proper bite to eat, which has been prepared by the members of the local district. Thus strengthened, the youth are in a better position to get to know one another and celebrate together with a disco evening.

We feel like … building

After breakfast on Saturday morning, the agenda calls for some work to be done. Once the young people have been split into groups, each group is given a mission. “The chalices have been forgotten. We urgently need your help! Please use the available materials to build four chalices we can use for Holy Communion on Sunday,” reads one such assignment. The young people also need to construct the altar, the conductor’s podium, the cross, and the offertories on their own. In order to accomplish their tasks, they have branches, cans, polystyrene, some boards, and paint at their disposal.

The groups with talented craftspeople in their ranks are at a clear advantage. But before all the hammering, sawing, gluing, and painting can begin, the young people must first of all develop a plan: what should the altar look like? What material should be used to craft the chalices, and how should the altar be decorated? If any group is unsure about how to fulfil its task, it can ask one of the youth leaders with building experience for advice.

We feel like … wordsmiths

Even the young people who have no idea about building or artisanal work are busy. This is because their mission includes other assignments, for example, the following: “The District Apostle is asking for your assistance. Please prepare an intercession for the divine service—totally of your own making. Whether it is read aloud by one of you, in pairs, or in a larger group is completely up to you.”

The young people are also to formulate—and speak aloud—a prayer for the departed, a contemplative text for the divine service on Sunday, and a prayer to start off the events on Saturday evening. Any of the youth who have ever had the thought, “It can’t be all that difficult to preach,” are now racking their brains in the endeavour to put to paper a Bible reading that corresponds to the motto.

We feel like … making music

Here the members of the youth orchestra will have an easier time of it. They will neither need to formulate texts nor do any carpentry work. Instead, they will need to practise. This is because they are responsible for the musical programming of the Saturday evening and the divine service.

The organisers conceived of this format for the youth convention to ensure that the young people were not just there to consume, but rather help along in crafting the event. The creative ideas that the young Christians have developed are proof that their plan is working well. Another positive is that—without being told to do so, and without even discussing it beforehand—all of the groups that have received a mission start off with a prayer before doing anything else …

We feel like … being together

After all the hard work, the young people take advantage of the free afternoon in the sun. In the evening they gather again in the discotheque for a contemplative, but also fun-filled event to prepare the way for the divine service on Sunday. It includes a poetry slam, music, and some texts written by the young people.

As long as the evening may have been for some, everyone needs to wake up bright and early the next morning—because the divine service will begin at ten o’clock in the Pörtschach Congress Center. There, the District Apostle and the young people will work hand in hand in the divine service, which is based on an excerpt from Matthew 6: 10: “Your kingdom come.”

We feel like … divine service

One of the youth performs the reading that one of the workshop groups formulated the day before. In addition to Apostle Zbinden, two young Deacons serve along, and after Holy Communion, one of the young people utters a prayer that one of the youth groups formulated for all the young people of the world.

Small wonder that the youth put off their farewells as far as possible after lunch. No one wants to go home yet. But the future holds some comfort for them: Bishop Peter Jeram has introduced IYC ambassadors Sarah Zingerle and Kevin Krückl, who whet the appetite of the youth for the International Youth Convention in 2019 with a short preview. This spares everyone from having to say farewell. Instead they can say, “See you next year in Düsseldorf!”

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