At this pivotal time in The United Methodist Church (UMC), it was an honor and privilege to gather with other young clergy from around the country to learn about the work of the General Board of Church and Society at the 18th Young Clergy Leadership Forum (YCLF).
I felt challenged, convicted, and called to do better. I became a United Methodist in college through campus ministry, because of our social piety and stance on social justice. But, if I am honest, I have often found it difficult to engage in social piety and acts of justice while serving the local church, for fear of alienating congregation members. I will admit I am ashamed and convicted about the times that I did not speak up, out of fear of people.
Over the course of the three days at the YCLF, it often felt as though I was drinking information from a fire hose. We covered many diverse topics, such as the work of The General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), creation care, the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church, grassroots organizing, and visiting elected officials. We heard from dynamic speakers who have first-hand experience in each of these areas, and who allowed us to pick their brains during our social hour each night.
I am most thankful for the time we spent at the US Capitol Building with Senate Chaplain Berry Black. Over the course of an hour, he challenged and called us to three things. First, he challenged us to not defile ourselves. He used the words of Johnathan Edwards from Edwards’ resolutions: “Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.” Second, he challenged us to be ten times better by having excellence in preparation and character and to be the very best on paper. Finally, he challenged us to tap into the untapped reserve of the Holy Spirit. His words spoke deeply to me. They challenged me to not simply settle so that I keep up appearances with people, but to use the prophetic voice God has given me to cry out for peace and justice in the world.
I believe one of the most important take-away lessons for me from the YCLF is that my voice matters. Time and time again over our three days together, we heard from multiple presenters that our voice matters. In a world where young people are often looked down upon, that statement became a breath of fresh air. I have come to appreciate the duty and responsibility of educating myself on current legislation and speaking with my elected official on both a state and national level.
While in Washington, I had the opportunity to do just that. In the midst of the impeachment trial, I had the opportunity to speak with staff members of both West Virginia Senators about our Social Principles and about supporting a call to justice and peace in the Middle East.
I am thankful for this program and the experience and knowledge I have gained. I am excited about the connections that I have made with colleagues in our United Methodist Connection and for the impact that we can make in the UMC. I look forward to continuing pursuing justice and advocacy as my faith in action.
Rev. Sarah Allen