Last Week I went to the National United Methodist Student Forum in Winchester Virginia. It was the second time I had ever been (the first being in 2008) and I had a great ime. It was four days long and I felt really good about it. I met other students from Wesley Foundations and Methodist Student Groups all over the country. I made some new friends. My Roomate was from Texas, his name was Conrad, cool guy.

I met other people from all over the place, New York, Iowa, California, Arizona. It was cool that so many people could all get together for a common goal like that.

We had great worship services that had music from all over the world and small groups where we would get to know each other and meditate on some bible verses and sermons we had heard. There was some free time built in and we had a few chances to walk around the town and hang out. I really felt like I belonged there and that I may have even experienced some spiritual growth.

I left on a Thursday and came back on Sunday. I went with Sam and Leanna and Lang, our Chaplain.  It was my first time at the Indy airport and we spent a fair amount of time there waiting for our flight, I still managed to have some fun though.

I have in some ways grown up in the UMC, but after experiencing an event like this one where people learn and grow from each other I really do feel that I have chosen it for my own. I love my church and its ability to be principled and open-minded at the same time, even though I may not always agree with all its positions I recognize that at least the are well thought out and decided by a consensus, and are subject to change.

The forum was on the campus of Shenendoah University. The campus was actually quite pretty. It had nice walking paths and water works and plenty of greenery. To be honest the dorm I was staying in (called Funhauser Hall) wasn’t very pretty on the inside. It could definitely use some remodeling. It made even the freshman dorm at uindy look good. But that was the exception most of the facilities on campus were pretty nice and considering that Shenandoah is half the size of Uindy in student population it has a great campus that is actually bigger than ours. I got a chance to play a little frisbee and had a lot of fun one of the nights.

One of the recurring events at forum is the Talent Show on the last night. Considering that many of the people have never met prior to two days before hand they can get some pretty good acts done on short notice. There is always competition between the differnt “Jurisdictions” as to who has the best act, but that generally just works to make things a bit mre fun. By far the most enthusiastic this year was South central jurisdiction, which is the area theat encompasses Texas, Lousiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. The Texas thing might account for it but its also true that the students from this area always seem to be well represented at forum regardless of where its held. Indiana is part of the North Central Jurisdiction, which accounts for most of the Midwest out to the Dakotas.

As expected the Student forum tends to involve the more liberal wing of the UMC though by no means are all the kids there liberal. Plenty are definitely more conservative both theologically and politically. But there tend to be a strong social advocacy tinge to the forum, as there was especially this year as it was a theme for it. In previous  years the forum has tried to have volunteer projects for students to participate in. Fighting poverty and injustices in society tends to be a frequent focus in the forum. This year there were several VOICE sessions that students cold pick from dealing with a particular social issue so that we could be more educated on the topic and discuss in in depth. I picked the Impact of war and violence as mine and I did learn at least a little more about it, especially the views that the UMC and its predecessors have had over time. Definitely a complex topic, but the ability to discuss it in a civil manner with others was definitely nice. Another sign of the progressive streak present at the forum is the recurring presence of MOSAIC a group of LGBT friendly students that advocate their positions within the church. They have held an  optional serice for the past several years at the forum. In the long term the hope is to lift the ban on openly gay clergy and they are making some progress, but it isn’t likely to happen for a while as it is still an issue thats too divisive in the church. One of thewomen who works hard on the worship and music aspect of the forum named DeLynn works with this group. Shes a very nice person and is always going out of her way to make sure that worship and music includes a lot of multicultural aspect. In particular there is a hymn she does called Kanisa Litagengua, which is in Swahili, that I really like and wish I heard more often.

I had a great time this year and I hope I get the chance to go next year. It was fantastic, on one of the nights I hng out with a bunch of people and talked pop-culture, books, and theology way late into the night, which (nerd alert) I really liked.

Student Forum always makes me proud to be a Methodist and it is definitely one of the best things my church does. I only hope they keep doing it and keep giving active young people in the church a voice and an opportunity to interact with each other.