Young people are brimming with passion.
Whenever young people get together fireworks happen. We have grand plans, elaborate schemes and deep understandings. We build community with wreckless abandon and love with everything we have.
Throughout my years as a young person I have been provided time after time with the opportunity to have my say and to experience the Church in all of its richness – to have access to meetings and individuals with whom many others could only imagine.
In 2010 the Church of England Youth Council, through which I have been provided with many of these opportunities, invited me to pray during an historical ecumenical service in Westminster Abbey. More recently I’ve had the opportunity at the start of the new General Synod Quinquennium to participate and see for myself one of the few occasions the Queen is seen to receive the Eucharist. I’ve had lunch with several archbishops. I’ve been invited to talks with theologians who lead in their field and have been honoured to receive not only these but many other opportunities which have all been a real privilege.
What astounds me is the disconnect between the part of me young enough to feel the borderless aspiration of young Christians and the part of me that takes my role representing young people at General Synod so seriously. I’ve seen the limitations and boundaries – struggling to ask for the walls to be taken down rather than just trying to get past them.
It didn’t take much reflection for me to realise that when I found myself in discussion with Synod members, I felt so totally isolated. It’s not that I didn’t have wonderful mentors and kind friends to guide my time at General Synod, it’s that when I opened my mouth to respond to a question directed towards me I wasn’t answering as me, I was answering as a young person, or as a Christian. When I’m with other young Christians I don’t need to be the young Christian, I can be myself, and I fit in to those little communities as neatly as I’d like to fit in anywhere.
I have learnt to be genuine and it has changed everything. People spoke to me differently – whilst we started our conversations with observations about the weather as we always did, this time we carried on the discussion, covering topics about my life – not my pseudo “young person life” but my actual life.
And then we talked about their lives – their children, their jobs, their hopes and fears and I realised that that passion doesn’t subside with age. The grandest of plans, the most elaborate of schemes and understandings that really touch the deepest of issues don’t come from Generation Y. It comes from God who was residing under the skin of those I presented with a pseudo-personality and who I find in so many if I only remind myself to take down my walls rather than manoeuvring around them.
Written by Leah Bell. Leah is studying for an MA in Mission, is youth advocate at General Synod, and lives in Cambridge with her husband, Josh. You can follow her on Twitter @leahmarybell. Follow the Church of England Youth Council on @CEYCnews