by Leanne Johnston* and Vance Morton**
What do you get when you mix 66 youth and young adults with 12 breakout sessions,13 breakout leaders, 1 seven-piece band, 85 sandwich boxes, 26 months of preparation and countless adult volunteers willing to do whatever it takes to have a successful event?
You get Discovery.
You get Discernment.
You get glimpse of the exciting future of our conference/connection
You get God at work in the hearts and lives of the Central Texas Conference.
After 26 months of planning, working, planning promoting, planning, tweaking and a whole lot of praying, the finally came to pass last weekend (Saturday, Sept. 7) at Austin Avenue UMC in Waco. Sixty-six young adults, mostly high school juniors and seniors and college students, gathered for a very full day of worship and discernment. These young people participated in 12 break-out sessions led by 13 incredibly talented adults on such subjects as identifying your spiritual gifts, learning how to articulate your faith, career youth, children’s and campus ministry, understanding the ordination process and understanding seminary – just to name a few.
Those gathered for the event didn’t have to wait long to know that this was going to be a special and powerful day – filled with the presence of God. Music has a way of stirring the soul and some soul-stirring music was indeed brought by a band put together by Jarrod Johnston and Julian Hobdy for the Discovery Discernment Retreat called ”The Candidates.” Many of the band members are “in the process” or candidates for ordained ministry. The Candidates filled the room with beautiful and powerful music, inviting the Holy Spirit to be physically present in the space. Jarrod reminded the young (and young at heart!) participants that they were called at their baptism. The time has come to claim your call to ministry!
The keynote speaker for Discovery was Rev. l, pastor of the 7th Street UMC in Fort Worth (). Lance brought his distinctive story-telling style and brought the word of God in radical and unconventional ways to the young people. Lance shared that he was called out of the kingdom of the world and into the kingdom of God. “When we are stripped of everything we are used to relying on, God is there.” Lance’s story includes many dark moments, but he as he told the group, he learned that it is not helpful to think, “God, why are you doing this to me?” He imparted on us to change it up and think, “God, who are you preparing me for?” Ministry is about being prepared to serve others. How are your circumstances preparing you for others?
Following the message, we were incredibly blessed to have Bishop Lowry facilitate and incredibly powerful service of communion during our morning worship service. As Bishop Lowry prepared for communion he addressed our keynote speaker, Rev. Lance Marshall saying, “I am going to hear two sermons this weekend. One of them is mine. And one of them is yours. Yours is better.” Who preached a better sermon over the weekend is not certain, but what is certain is that all those gathered were blessed and inspired by Lance and Bishop Lowry.
During the service of communion, Bishop Lowry explained the importance of the Elder’s stole and reiterated the importance of young leaders in our church. He also led a breakout session about his own call and journey to ministry, which inspired our young leaders of tomorrow by hearing Bishop Lowry share about his life as a young person and how God used unlikely circumstances to call him to ministry. “My conversion didn't lead me to go to seminary...it led me stumbling back to the Christian faith.”
The Discovery Discernment Retreat was a gift to all who were there and, most likely, for all those who will encounter those who were there in the coming weeks and months. And it wasn’t just the participants who were inspired, those who had been involved in the months and months of preparation came away filled to overflowing as well.
“I went to Discovery hoping to have a word of encouragement or inspiration for young people discerning a call to ministry,” said Lance.” Instead, I left feeling encouraged and inspired myself, energized by the hope and optimism of [all these] young people taking steps to begin a life of ministry and service to God.”
To see the tweets from the participants during the event, visit . It’s an excellent snapshot of the emotions and feelings of the event.