In a historical event that was a first in 40 years-times, the pastors met with the youth from their churches to hear them in an honest dialogue. The meeting took part on the 3rd of July. Remarkably, the attendees were mostly youth, around 60%. The day aimed for youth to speak about their honest opinion in the church and the liturgy in order to reduce the gap between the youth and the church.
The event started by lunch followed by an opening by Bishop Mouneer where he said that our focus as clergy should be on our youth not only for the sake of the future but also for today. He also acknowledged the Coptic Orthodox Church which managed to build the sense of belonging in their youth and succeeded.
The youth were given the opportunity to have freedom of speech, not to mention, each of them answered two specific questions “What I like in my church?” and “What holds me back from the church?” In answer to the first question, most youth expressed their gratitude to the church where they felt peace and love. “My church is a church with a vision for evangelism and encourages visionaries” Micheal said, from the evangelical church. “My church is not full of words only but living liturgy” Marco expressed his appreciation for the Coptic Orthodox Church. “I love my church because it is humble and serves everyone in need” Francine commented on the Anglican Church. In answer to the second question, most youth expressed that they were not happy with the church because the leaders never involve them in any decisions in the church as well as lack of dialogue with the church leaders and ministers. “The church doesn’t always welcome the sinners” said Helen from “the good news team”.
After hearing the youth, the pastors started talking as well. Bishop Mouneer started the speech by asking forgiveness from the youth for not hearing them before and not being there for them. He, then, expressed his joy that the church started to fix this problem. He also acknowledged the churches that accept youth in their counsels, as a step forward in eliminating this problem forever. Later, he warned the youth from the disease of this age, Life and Business of Entertainment, that it would find its way to the church. Finally, he took advantage of the situation and gave advice to parents to care for their youth and to guide the church constantly to their needs.
“The church needs the one body of Christ; the expertise of the old age and the freshness of the young youth” said Revd Boules Garas from the Catholic Church “Love and humbleness can keep the church united and fill in the gap”. Father Mina, from the Coptic Orthodox Church, gave 3 advices to both the church leaders and the youth; balanced mentality, one enemy and fight the spirit of isolation by discussing the ideas of the youth. Sheikh Emil, from the Evangelical Church, reminded the audience both leaders and youth that the goal is one and also encouraged them to remember that as well as what we believe in.
The historical event ended by practical tips for leaders to take back to their churches such as imitating this meeting in the smaller gathering of each church and hearing out some of the youth who actually abandoned the church. The gathering agreed to meet again prior the next ecumenical meeting in September.