National Youth Assembly Reflections

Scott Buchan NYA Delegate 2014

Seonaid Knox from St John’s Church, Gourock

It was my third time attending NYA this year and immediately it was obvious there were a lot of newcomers. At first I thought this might be a challenge but, in reality, it was inspiring to see so many people eager to be involved in the Church and desperate to know more about God. It was important to me to demonstrate the same friendly attitude that I was treated with the first year I attended NYA, which made the weekend even more special for me as I made lots of new friends, and so after this year all of my favourite things about NYA such as the debates, workshops, the Gala dinner and last but not least the worship, I’ve realised my truly favourite part of the weekend is the people whom I get to share it all with. God has empowered me to do things I never believed I could through the encouraging nature of all the Staff, along the support and friendship I’ve been shown through some of the most amazing people I’d have never met anywhere else. For this I am abundantly thankful that God is working in so many young people to spread the word about Jesus and help shape the future of the Church.

Andrew Morrison from Claremont Parish Church, East Kilbride

“When we worship together as a community of living Christians, we do not worship alone, we worship with all the company of heaven.” ~ Marianne H. Micks. That quotation completely sums up my experience of worship at NYA this year, you could totally sense the presence of God in all that we did! Worship was certainly an integral part of the NYA weekend, with 7 group worship sessions, and many other option-times given throughout the weekend to worship in a variety of ways – all of which were wonderful and engaging.

Unfortunately, worship at Church can, at times, feel lifeless and dull. I certainly can say they’ve been times at Church where I really wanted to worship with all my heart, but the music, ambience and surroundings just didn’t feel very “worshipful” at all. However, this was completely different from the worship at NYA. We sang our hearts out to God along with the fantastic 7 piece band that led us in worship each session. Many of the contemporary songs were completely new to most of us, but that didn’t stop us giving our all to God.

We heard scripture and the life of Jesus being told in a new and engaging way. No longer were they just stories about some guy found in a big confusing book, but they told the life of this amazing man, the works he did, the love he showed and the grace he offers. We sang African songs of hope and adoration. One of our favourites was “Bambelela”, which means “Never Give Up/Hold on (to Jesus)” which we sang in rounds at various points during worship. Most of us were singing it for days it was that good!

There were opportunities for interactive worship, with candles, prayer and art and more. We had a “U2-charist” (i.e. communion with U2 songs instead of traditional worship songs & hymns) which I think made us all think about how we can worship God not just in Church, or whilst doing the traditional “Christian things” (Bible reading, worship music and prayer). We even had the Moderator of the General Assembly come and sing “Listen For The Gospel” to us after speaking to us on the last morning!

The varied worship programme was something we are all really thankful to the NYA staff for doing. We could worship in the way that suited us; we didn’t have to stick to the same format all the time. I’m confident that God really communicated his presence to us through this, giving us all a real passion to go out to our Churches with a renewed sense of the living, loving God that we all worship. Bambelela!

John Haston from Abbotsgrange Parish Church, Grangemouth

This was my first experience of NYA this year and I LOVED IT!!! I honestly didn’t want to go home, we had a lot of fun and I have made a ton of new friends, but this weekend has given me a closer relationship with God. I feel a lot happier with myself. Before I came to NYA, I felt lonely, unloved and felt I couldn’t break through the barrier I had, but through prayer and praise, I have broken through. My friends and family have noticed a change in my life and now all I want to do is work for our God. Can’t wait for the year ahead, I hope there are a lot more changes in my life.

Fraser Ellis from Gorbals Parish Church, Glasgow

Another year, another NYA. Last year was my first year at the NYA and I never knew how much it would change my view on the church until now. Getting involved with the NYA happened when I heard about from two fellow younger members of my Church who were involved with the Church and the NYA in some form. So if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have been back.

This year it was great that I knew what to do so everything was second nature, especially singing African songs as my church loves that (even though the majority of which are over the age of 55). I never thought that Mungu ni mwema would be replaced but thanks to Bambelala/Never Give Up I have something I could teach my church on a Sunday. The workshops were great too although I really wanted to go to all of them but there wasn’t enough time so I went for the easy options, EQUIP on Saturday and Something Sporty on Sunday. I saw a rugby ball when we met for the Something Sporty and thought brilliant but it turned out to be Italian Volleyball and Rounders. However like any good sports person I had a visit to our world-class comedic first aid team when I managed to scrape my elbow just before lunchtime. But other than that the weekend was fab.

Now I can’t wait for next year just to see if I’m still as clumsy.

Alastair Ross from Greenbank Parish, Edinburgh

Even though I’d never been before, I could sense that the NYA was going to be something of a special weekend - not only for being something I have long craved (debating current issues with diverse peers while bringing a Christian perspective into play, no matter our individual strength of conviction), but also on something of a personal level too. I am pleased to say it did not disappoint! Despite some initial nerves (and consistently disorientating déjà vu) I began to settle into the non-stop rhythm of the weekend (Bambelela and the other songs helped with this greatly), meeting some amazing people and making new friends along the way.

The small groups setup was probably one of the best organisational ideas I’ve seen in regards to a debate and as such I hope to see this emulated elsewhere. As for the events out with the main debates, I felt overwhelmed by the choice of the workshops and didn’t want to have to choose only one of them to go to (what a nice problem to have!). Also, the late night discussions (‘The Great Divide’) were some of the most open, frank and enlightening discussions in which I have ever partaken, covering topics usually considered too taboo to be talked about by members of the church.

Despite not listening to the advice of not staying up late three nights in a row (I didn’t want to miss a thing), I was just too wired from the past few days and too uplifted by personal revelation to care: I can honestly say I have never had such an ingratiating, liberating and rejuvenating experience and pray that next year’s NYA brings the same sense of community and love as it did this year.

Catriona Muckart from Dornoch Cathedral

For me the discovery of the NYA was wonderful, and wouldn’t have happened at all if it hadn’t been for my minister whose daughter had attended a few years ago. There are many lovely and welcoming people in my church, however the average age of the congregation is about 105. (Ok, maybe 60). Therefore the realisation that there are also many folk my own age who not only attend church, but consider it a vital part of their lives was extremely liberating in a ‘Yay it’s not just me’ kind of way. It enabled me to find a sense of community within a faith context, which had eluded me previously. I was made to feel so welcome by everyone, and over the course of the weekend met some amazing people. I also cherished the opportunity to take an active part in the discussion and debate surrounding the prevalent issues examined at the assembly. Once I got the hang of the lingo that is! Being a first time debater I struggled slightly at the beginning, but with the help of my small group, soon got to grips with things. The NYA was a fantastic experience for me and I hope to see everyone again next year!

Gemma King NYA 2016

NYA 2016 was my fifth NYA but it was different from previous NYA’s for me since I was in the worship band. Each NYA for me is a great chance to catch up with friends from previous NYA’s and meet new friends.

As usual we had three main topics of discussion, this year’s discussion topics were Gender Justice, Mental Health and the Future of Ministry. Each topic was introduced by a group of speakers then we had time in our small groups to discuss the topics in depth before coming back together as a whole group for an open floor discussion. In the discussions about Gender Justice we talked a lot about gender stereotypes and the extent to which they are helpful. The discussion on Mental Health was the most emotionally charged discussion with many people giving personal testimony. One of the main things we felt was needed was training and better education and the United Reformed church Youth Moderator made us aware of the work they had done on the issue. Monday’s topic was The Future of Ministry where we discussed the variety of forms of ministry that there are and that are being developed in the Church of Scotland.

Over the weekend there was three workshop slots where we could explore various issues. I went to a workshop about what bystanders can do to help prevent sexual violence which discussed what sexual violence is and the small things people can do to prevent it happening. The second workshop was about Ecumenism, it was led by Iain McLarty and other people from the Ecumenical Relations Committee. This workshop was such a great chance to explore the range of experiences we had of ecumenism. It was the one which was most interesting to me because of my work in Student Christian Movement. The third and final workshop I attended was Side by Side – Faith Movement for Gender Justice where we looked at practical ways faith communities could work to bring about gender justice in the world.

As always the Moderator of the General Assembly addressed us. Dr Russell Barr taking up the theme of the Team worship gave his story of faith. Each morning Liz Crumlish one of the members of the pastoral team lead the team of staff and volunteer helpers in a short time of worship. As usual we went to Gartmore Parish church and joined them in the Sunday morning service – it is always great. This year’s worship was special for me since I was in the band. It was an amazing experience being in the band at NYA.

It was not just a weekend of business and worship it was a time of fellowship and fun too. The icebreaker on the Friday evening took the form of an Escape Room type game where in our small groups we had to unlock a box by figuring out the codes for several padlocks. Saturday we had our traditional ceildh which was great fun as usual. NYA 2016 for me was amazing weekend of fellowship and learning.