More than a thousand people from throughout the Uniting Church community took part in the five days of worship, teaching, fellowship and fun at the National Christian Youth Convention’s Yurora 17 in January at Stanwell Tops south of Sydney.
NCYC has become a beloved tradition of the UCA since 1955. Every two years, young people come together to discuss faith in the context of the contemporary world.
Yurora is a Dharug First People’s word meaning ‘passionate’, and that sums up the feelings of so many who attended this year. Sarah Howells, from Hobart North Uniting Church and Zac Nicholas, from Launceston North Uniting Church, share their reflections of Yurora 17 with Crosslight.
Daily inspiration at Yurora
Sunday/Monday Day 1 and 2
The day started with a morning devotion based on the idea of ‘home’ and what this meant for each person.
A question was posed which challenged me: “Where is Jesus’ home?” something I had not really considered before.
At first, the easy response seems to be ‘everywhere’, as Jesus came to Earth for all people. But the responses that we gave as answers to the question “What is home for you?” were things like, “A place where you feel part of a supported environment” and “Where you feel safe but humbled by other people”. So maybe Jesus could be said to have found his home amongst people he spent the most time with and cared for, such as the oppressed, tax collectors and the poor.
In a Bible study run by Christian Students Uniting, I learnt about hermeneutics, a reading strategy used for better understanding biblical texts.
There are three easy steps to this.
One is reading behind the text to look more deeply into the historical and social context of the literature.
The second is reading within the text and using the context to analyse reasoning behind words used or the literature style.
The third is reading in front of the text and considering the consequences. Using these techniques the context of why, and what Bible passages meant for that time become clearer and easier to comprehend.
One really inspiring thing on the first day was the dancing by a group called ‘The Dusty Feet Mob’, a group of young adults and children from Port Augusta, SA. Most of these young people are of an Aboriginal background and use dance as a form of regaining connection to their culture and learning about the past treatment of Aboriginal people in Australia.
Tuesday Day 3
One of the things I am learning here is the importance of learning from other people’s cultural differences and background. It has been good to share stories and communicate with others about how to read the Bible, undertake prayer and walk your faith journey.
Today I also went to a workshop on the future of the Uniting Church, which was run by Assembly. Although this was a space for constructive criticism, I found it inspiring to hear from delegates, young and old, about their visions for the future of the church. Ideas were discussed about how to more efficiently share resources over the internet.
In the Bible study today we looked at the story of ‘The faith of a Gentile Women’ (Mark 7: 24-30) which reminded me that we need to be persistent in our prayers and faith and to open our eyes to the ways in which God might be already answering these prayers.
It also reminded and challenged me to be accepting of all peoples. The Gentile woman is seen as an outsider and because of this; initially she is treated differently by Jesus and his disciples. When the woman persists and her voice is heard, it can be seen that her request for healing is from just a desperate mother worrying for her child, like any women would be no matter her background.
Today started with a reflection on Psalm 29 and the question was posed, “How would you approach someone with great power?”
I discussed this question with a few other people in a small group, where we came to the conclusion that we should act in the same way we approach every other person but with a certain amount of reservation in order to honour the person.
A question was asked “When can we see God’s power in the world?” One way that came to mind was the sheer beauty of nature and how God’s power is shown though the unique beauty of the world.
The final part to this session was “What will you do with the power of God?” This question really challenged me as I had never really thought of the power of God flowing through our hands to then impact the world. I had seen God’s power as a tool to gain strength to support our daily endeavours in the world.
Something that inspired me – and will continue to inspire me – is the way Yurora has been a place where a community of people from every kind of background, race and stage of their faith journey can see through the social barriers and just simply fellowship together.
Constantly in today’s world of technology and globalisation, people put up unnecessary and hurtful unspoken barriers. But at Yurora people were committed to welcoming and accepting anyone into their own heart.
Thursday Day 5
Over the whole experience of Yurora I have learnt many things. But I think the most important thing that I have learnt is to find and remember God in everyday life by finding your Yurora – or passion – and chasing it, and never giving up.
For me the worship sessions were good reminders that there are hundreds of youth and young people within the Church. Being able to worship and fellowship with other young people is really encouraging and uplifting in a world where many young people live without faith.
One challenging thing about conferences like Yurora is that at the end of the week you have to go home.
Then at home you have to overcome the pattern of settling back into daily life where nothing has changed.
Implementing the wisdom you have learnt over the conference can be like starting a new fitness plan – if you take it seriously it will last, if not the chances are slim.
I believe God, through NCYC, has given us all the challenge to use our Yurora experience to grow stronger in our individual relationship with him and the people in our lives.
My experience of Yurora can be summed up quite simply as A-MAZ-ING!! I was challenged and had my faith strengthened every day.
The first day was not particularly special as it was essentially just pleasantries and other getting-to-know-you things, however that night was one of the most excellent experiences I had. The power, energy and passion which flowed from the opening rally helped us to bond and stand together as we began, or continued, our journey of faith.
The next day had many more amazing experiences, with the option for workshops and other ways to develop ourselves. This included beginning a four-day long Bible study led by an excellent man called Julian ‘Jools’ Hamilton, where we started off by looking at the passage Jeremiah 1: 4-19.
It was such a relief to hear someone as incredible as Jeremiah himself say the things I and so many others have thought and to hear the overwhelming support God gave as a response. We also talked about the call, how it begins with God, involves resistance and that the call being of God will always be with you.
Another of the things that Jools talked about on that first day was the source of the word enthusiasm, which derives from En+Theo meaning “in God.” He shared a quote about passion which is “set yourself on fire with Christ’s passion and people will flock from miles around to see you burn”.
One of the other activities was a workshop called Improv in Ministry. This was a theatrical workshop where we saw how movement, flow and just a slight tilt of behaviour and posturing can change the nature of a situation.
Later in the week we looked at the passage in which Jacob stole his older brother’s blessing. Jools also spoke about the concept that helped to tie all of the readings together, which was transformation. Not only transformation of self but also others through acceptance and understanding.
Jools’ final words to us on this day were “You are loved and held by God himself, you are surrounded by the divine light, so go and love the others and find yourself.” This statement was empowering and encouraging for the continuation of our journey.
The third passage that Jools spoke about was Matthew 13: 46-50, about the merchant finding an exquisite pearl and the Kingdom of God being worth it all and more. The fourth passage that we spoke about was Exodus 3, which dealt with Moses learning God’s name. The name we learnt and talked about was Ehyeh asher ehyeh, which translates to “I am that I am”. We also talked about the concept that “if you put someone in a space of love they will flourish”. Jools spoke about the idea of loving empathy, which helped to tie off our arc of transformation of self and others. Loving empathy is the concept of standing side by side with the other even if they were once called the enemy.
Yurora, for me, was a series of circumstances in which I was able to discover my passion of helping those around me and developing my community.