WEST HARTFORD: Adults encouraging youth to be troublemakers? Really?
One would think that to be counter-intuitive, or perhaps wrongheaded. But that's just what happened at the 7th Annual Youth Revival on Sunday at Manatial de Gracia and First Church in West Hartford Sunday: 175 youth and adults were not just encouraged, but publicly anointed, to be troublemakers.
The Rev. Da Vita (Day) McCallister, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership and Vitality, referred to Samuel as the "original troublemaker," pointing out where it says in 1 Samuel 16 that if he went near the current king, he would be killed.
"If you don’t have a track record of being a troublemaker, don’t nobody care when you show up. They don't. They don’t have a reason to be nervous," she said. But Samuel, and later on Jesus, were troublemakers.
"Jesus shows up at church and is handed the scroll and invited to preach, and Jesus doesn’t say one of those nice soft messages that we ask for young people to say on youth Sunday," she said. "Instead, Jesus stands up there in front of everybody … declaring 'I have been anointed to preach good news to the poor, I been anointed to preach that we should be releasing those who are captives. I have been anointed to say if you are blind you can recover your sight. I have been anointed to declare that people who are oppressed ought to be free.' "
"You want to get yourself in trouble?" she asked. "Stand in front of a room and start talking about poor people. Stand in front of any room and start talking about the prison industrial complex in the United States of America. You want to get in trouble? Start talking about healthcare, and you will find yourself uninvited from a lot of spaces, because you know in our pulpits we don’t want to be too political."
"You don’t need the anointing to play by the rules, to get along with everybody, to be complacent, to be silent," she said. "But if you intend to preach something that is good news to people who are poor – if you name that we got no business oppressing God’s people – you will need an anointing."
Earlier in the service, several youth who have been involved in youth leadership programs in the Conference gave testimony of what they felt called, or anointed, to do.
Chancellur Dixon, a member of Dixwell Avenue Congregational UCC in New Haven, said his experiences at the Silver Lake Conference Center, Environmental Justice for All Retreat and National Youth Event have changed him and inspired him.
"I have discovered that I can actually do more for the world instead of hoping and waiting for something to happen or for someone else to do it," he said. "Yes, I have become anointed and dedicated to helping others have a better life. With God, through Jesus Christ, I, as well, am experiencing a better life."
Carly Chervenak a member of the Mount Carmel Congregational Church in Hamden, introduced herself as "Thinking About Working for God" after having taken part in the Thinking About Working for God program and National Youth Event.
"God has provided me with a beautiful life, beautiful people, and breathtaking opportunities. I live in the light of God. I spread kindness, I share love, I do all I can to help others, and I will never stop working for God. It is the absolute least I can do in return for all my blessings," she said. "God has called me to share my heart, be a light, and just be who He has created me to be. I am forever thankful."
McCallister told the youth that they are all anointed to spread the same message that Carly and Chancellur were spreading.
"You have been anointed to stand up. You have been anointed to speak out. You have been anointed to pray without ceasing. You have been anointed to be loving, you have been anointed to be compassionate, you have been anointed to forgive, you have been anointed to be a troublemaker. So go out and make some trouble, give em something to talk about," she said.
"I want you to trouble those who hate by choosing to love. I want you to trouble those who are blind to injustice by telling them the truth," she said. "Join me at this altar and say yes to a public demonstration of the anointing you already have, to trouble the waters in God’s world until it becomes a kingdom where all of God’s people are loved."
Attendees were then invited to visit one of our anointing stations, to be physically anointed with oil.
The event also featured music performed by youth from various churches, and an offering to the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services that collected $944.
McCallister founded the youth revival seven years ago, as an intentionally multi-cultural, multi-racial event. As she is leaving the Conference staff this month to accept a call at a local church, she was honored at this revival for her work. "This is your legacy," said Debby Kirk, the current Conference Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.