The ecumenical youth meeting "Global Youth Faith Event 2021" (GYFE 21) with more than 260 participants from nine countries, which took place digitally from July 4-11, 2021, ended last Sunday with a transcultural worship service.
The GYFE 21 is the invention of an international team of youth workers, pastors and ecumenical and volunteer workers from the four church districts of Dortmund, Hattingen-Witten, Schwelm and Hagen with their eight partner churches in West Papua, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Kenya, Zambia, Namibia and Great Britain. The team was supported by the Office for Mission, Ecumenism and Church World Responsibility and the Office for Youth Work of the Evangelical Church of Westphalia, the Ecumenism Department in the Dortmund church district and the United Evangelical Mission (UEM).
"At the beginning of the year, we met digitally to consider how we could organize an international youth encounter together - in the midst of the pandemic," said Christina Biere, regional pastor in the Office for Mission, Ecumenism and Church World Responsibility. "Together, it then quickly became clear: Right now, contact and exchange is especially important for young adults, and right now, the shared experience of the pandemic makes it possible to develop empathy for one another and engage in learning from one another." From the beginning, GYFE 21 was developed together - nine country coordinators took care of all participants from their country, made sure that internet credit was available and communicated the respective local time of the devotions and workshops. Where the incidence figures made it possible, analog meetings could also be organized at short notice - for example in Dortmund, where several young people met every evening in the International Volunteershouse.
The week-long GYFE 21 program was made available to participants via interactive, digital padlets - pinboards. Carolin Daubertshäuser, a staff member in the Ecumenism Department in Dortmund, developed creative activities in a group: "It was important to the team that there were both direct encounters in digital meetings via Zoom and activities that the participants could do on site without the Internet." Each day there was a dish from a different country to cook, a video impulse on a daily palm, an impulse to paint, photograph, write poetry or dance. In addition, there was an hour of Bible sharing on the Zoom platform and a thematic workshop on topics such as climate protection, fair fashion and polyphonic digital singing with Vera Hotten from the Pop Academy in Witten, who was supported by Espérance Mirindi and Louis Purba from the International volunteers house in Dortmund. The young adults then compiled their experiences via photos and short reports on the Padlet - the digital pinboard.
One result is a collage of photos of the sky as taken by the participants in their various locations throughout the week. Jenny Kolbus, a member of staff at the Contact Point for Protestant Youth in the Dortmund church district, put the photos together. In this way, the message of the project comes across particularly well: "One week together. One Sky. One Body of Christ."
"I am very happy," says Jacques Nkomezi from the Presbytery di Gisenyi in Rwanda in the final video, "that the Global Youth Faith Event contributed a lot to my faith through Bible reading, music and cooking different dishes from different countries." Kangwa Kapasa from the United Church in Zambia moderated the closing service and writes in the feedback: "This was really a great initiative. Thank you for being inclusive and welcoming each viewpoint across the world." And Danushka Madushanka, local coordinator for the participants from the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka, says in retrospect: "I saw that there were people who lost their friends and families. But because of GYFE I saw that they were smiling, and they came out from their sorrows. Thank you for teaching us that the best counselor is togetherness."
First, GYFE 21 was a stopgap because there could be no travel. Then it was something entirely new: a digital, transcultural community experience. But above all, it was ecumenical empowerment by young adults for young adults. The organizers will also evaluate GYFE 21 together and are already happy to recommend it to others.
With the words "May God's countenance be upon you that we may stay safe and connected!" Edward Nondo from Zambia concluded the closing service, which will be available for viewing in the coming days. Today already the closing video of Louis Purba, South-North volunteer of UEM in Dortmund, gives a good impression of the event.
Christina Biere (Office for Mission, Ecumenism and Church World Responsibility)
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