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24 October 2018 | Binfield, UK [Kärt Lazic/tedNEWS]

In a remarkable feat of organisation and planning, a 19-year-old Newbold undergraduate student, together with his brother, visioned an event that would encourage youth to do far more than “Stay strong and stand firm!” the message they often hear from the pulpit.

Adventist Identity 2018 group[Photo credits: Asun Olivan]David Keszeg wanted youth to hear more than that message, but to have practical help in facing the tough questions of life and uncertainties -- both within and outside the church.  Thus the first-ever Adventist Identity Symposium.  The aim, to help youth develop a sense of certainty about what to stay strong in and where exactly to stand. What is being an Adventist truly about? Who are we and what do we stand for?

The remarkable result is that over the weekend of 12-14 October, about 750 people met in the newly refurbished sports hall at Newbold College of Higher Education, with roughly an additional one thousand viewers following online, seeking answers to those crucial questions.

The primary online interest came from some European countries who organised their own local Adventist Identity Symposiums, centred around the Newbold live stream.

Adventist Identity Ty 1Ty GibsonThe speakers – Ty Gibson, Tihomir Lazić, and Marcel Ghioalda, supported by Marianne Dyrud during the Sunday Q&A session – all tried to unpack different aspects of the core, and the challenges of being a part of this worldwide church. Starting Friday evening, Ty Gibson challenged the participants to be brutally honest about how we sometimes come across as “God’s too peculiar people” – speaking a different language not just literally, but also culturally and spiritually, from the people we are trying to reach.

He also emphasised the importance of distinguishing between what aspects of our faith and practices belong to the category of “the timeless essentials”, which to “always-to-be-revised doctrines”, and which to personal “opinions” or “speculations”. When an idea travels from one of these categories to the other, misunderstanding and disunity follow.

Sabbath morning worship dealt with spiritual diagnostics, when both Ty Gibson and Tihomir Lazić took a closer look at the particular tensions that are polarising the church today, and their historical roots.

Watch the Sabbath morning sermon here

After gaining a more informed perspective on where we currently are and how we got here, the afternoon aimed to take a look at the future – where do we go from here? Newbold church pastor, Marcel Ghioalda, elaborated on which factors shape our personal and corporate identities. The speakers emphasised the special story of God’s love that the Adventist movement is called to share with the rest of the world, not only by preaching it, but also by embodying it.

Sunday brought along an intense discussion about a significant aspect of our daily lives: How should a young person integrate their Adventist identity and sexual identity?

Keszeg was pleased with the mix of thought-provoking talks, engaging and uplifting worship, and fascinating discussions over meals. “The Adventist Identity Symposium is a call for action to young people all around Europe and the world. We need to stand up and be the change instead of waiting for the church to change.”

Tihomir Lazić, the TED Public Campus Ministries director noted that “there are many events organised for the youth, but hardly ever do we see something so large-scale entirely led by young people.”  He added, “This inspired many to dare to believe that they can do something similar in their local contexts.”

As one participant put it, “Don’t underestimate the youth. They don’t need to be catered to – they need to own this church and, if given support like what happened here, wonderful things will happen.”

Adventist identity David KeszegDavid KeszegKeszeg was inspired by this very idea, noting his concern about young people “becoming lazy and lethargic in a religion where they don’t grow spiritually.”  He wanted to “create a space where young people can learn, grow and develop their faith.”

How can more established leaders enable the youth to “own this church”? Lazić emphasises the importance of providing and safeguarding space for youth to make their God-given dreams come true and of being there to support and mentor them whenever necessary. “The youth need to have a voice and actual agency in our church. This takes a lot of trust but returns triple the blessings.”

Both organisers and participants went home with a renewed confidence in a church that is not afraid to tackle tricky questions, with boosted courage that making great things happen is possible for the youth, and with a fresh enthusiasm to dig deeper into the vast love God has for His people.

Matija Kovačević, a Newbold MA student in New Testament, enthused, “May this event be only the first of a series of AI symposiums that will spring up from within many European countries to help us renew our sense of identity and reappraise the incredible character of the God we follow and await, intrinsically motivating us to stay/become true to the distinctive Biblical Adventist message and live and share it in the 21st century.”

Review the weekend and discover the essence of PCM with this engaging video:


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Sajitha Forde-Ralph, associate editor
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