By Rev. Sadie Cullumber, Pastor at Harbor Christian Church
UNITE is a leadership conference for youth and young adults that Rev. Benjamin Barlow envisioned three years ago. Those of us who have been working with UNITE from the beginning know how hard this work is. I can’t possibly sum up the full purpose of this conference, so I will simply try to lift up a few of the powerful things that are happening as a result of what we are now calling the UNITE movement. One of the many purposes of this conference is to, through mentorship, model healthy forms of leadership. One of the most important lessons in leadership is knowing that when you have a powerful vision, you can’t make the mistake of holding onto it too tightly; in other words, you must know when it is time to pass the torch onto someone else. This spirit of passing the torch of responsibility and leadership is tangible throughout the UNITE movement at all levels of leadership.
If I am seeing one thing clearly as a result of UNITE, it is this: our young people are ready to lead and they are far more incredible than most of us are giving them credit for. It is time for us to actually do the thing we always say we want to do, but somehow never find ourselves doing: listen to our young people, hear their vision for their future, and then empower them to create that future.
Let’s empower our young people to envision a world where we tear down dividing walls rather than erect them. A world where we stop squabbling over minutia and instead embrace one another because our differences remind us of how awesome our God is. A world where we put our energy and our time and our resources into building bridges and building the body of Christ. A world where we care about issues that may never directly impact us simply because we love someone that is impacted. A world where we finally see what Jesus saw: that we belong together, however different we are, we belong right next to one another, working as the hands, and feet, and the very heart of Jesus to heal this world.
And I guess my question is: who better to heal this world than those who will inherit it, those who will live in it the longest?
When we step back and let young people lead, they will show us how to step into uncomfortable spaces. They will show us how to timidly forge new relationships that will get strong as we do God’s holy work together. They will show us that while the big world prefers that we remain separate, God is calling us together, God is uniting our young people. And we don’t want our older generations to miss out on this powerful movement that will change our region whether we support it or not. In fact, the fledgling UNITE movement has already brought together a diverse group of strong leaders. These leaders are strong not because they want the glory but because they empower new leaders to carry on the work. They are passing on the work to newly empowered people who are passionate about the unity of our region.
Let’s learn from the movement that our young people are starting. Let’s be the generations that look to the future by empowering those who will inherit it. Let’s set an example by stepping back and allowing the vision of our young people to guide us into a future of radical unity.