By Holly McCray
WHAT: Youth 2011
WHERE: Purdue University
WHEN: July 13-17
THEME: “More Than”
“You think you are ordinary? Think again.”
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Youth 2011 is the national youth gathering for The United Methodist Church. It is an event held once every four years. It features outstanding Church leaders as well as the best ecumenical speakers, bands, and talent, along with thousands of young United Methodists.
With a Bible in one hand and newspaper in the other, Shane Claiborne assured the mostly teenage crowd in Yukon that he wanted to talk with—not at—them.
“Let’s try to figure out how to take the words of Jesus seriously,” said the young adult and Christian activist who founded “The Simple Way” faith community in Philadelphia, Pa.
Sponsored by the Youth and Young Adult Councils, Claiborne spoke in Oklahoma at four venues Oct. 16-17. At Yukon-First UMC, he spoke with youths from across the state during the annual Youth Summit.
Claiborne pointed out two newspaper stories. One reported growing obesity in America; one described children crushing weeds to make biscuits for food in Afghanistan. He challenged people to create different endings to such stories by looking to Jesus’ way of living. In prayer, he asked God to give the young Oklahomans “eyes to see the pain and suffering right here.”
“Mother Teresa would say Calcuttas are everywhere. Find yours,” he directed.
Claiborne has served with the Catholic saint in India, on peacemaking teams in Iraq and Israel, and in ministry at the U.S.-Mexico border. Jailed after a civil protest in Philadelphia, he said an officer tried to take his Bible from him. The jailer told Claiborne, “It’s a dangerous book.”
Following the way of Christ is not about doing great things, but “about doing small things with great love,” Claiborne said. “It’s about allowing people to taste how good our God is.
“Ask yourself, how do my gifts and passions intersect with the world’s needs? It’s not about being a doctor or lawyer—but what kind of doctor or lawyer. It’s not just how do I make more, but how do I live with less. Through subtle ways, maybe someone can hear about God through us.”
“Where is our Calcutta?” high-school cheerleaders once asked him. Now they volunteer at a retirement center, visiting residents and doing manicures and pedicures for some. Another teen group hosted a prom for youths with disabilities.
Throughout the weekend, Claiborne urged people to work together. Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs. God is Trinity. “You are not the Lone Ranger. Be a community,” he said.
“Be creative. For me, being a Christian is about being continually transformed.”
Pastor Amy Venable of St. Stephen’s UMC, Norman, said a group there recently studied one of Claiborne’s books. Claiborne preached twice there and gave presentations at Edmond-Acts 2 UMC and Oklahoma City University.
“The people were very inspired by him. He got at the heart of what we all struggle with,” Rev. Venable said. “I hope it will spur us to do (even) more with the people who are poor in our midst.”
A sixth grader at St. Stephen’s gave Claiborne the gift of a picture she drew. It depicted Earth and Claiborne linking hands with many, multicultural people.