Reformation Today

Sarah Blair, youth delegate from PC USA to the Starpoint Youth Festival of RCH shares a reflection on her time in Hungary.


This year, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of an event that impacts me deeply. Regardless of how infrequently I think, talk, or learn about it, the Protestant Reformation played a huge role in shaping my church’s identity and me, personally, into the individual I am today.

Reformation is not just an event that happened 500 years ago when a man nailed his revolutionary ideas onto the doors of a church. It is a process that has been happening for much longer than that and continues today. God is constantly forming and reshaping us as a church and as individuals into who we are meant to be.

Over 4,000 young adults (ages 18-25) gathered at the Starpoint Youth Festival in Debrecen, Hungary this July to celebrate the anniversary of Luther’s brave act, but also to converse about how reformation is not in the past. I had the privilege of representing the PC(USA) and I was joined at the festival by thirty international delegates representing other reformed denominations from Canada, Scotland, England, Germany, Lithuania, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, and Syria. Each day included devotions, worship, keynote speakers, small groups, community building, and cultural experiences. Together with thousands of Hungarians, we grew and learned about what it means to be reformed.

We discussed the important difference between three words: evolution, revolution, and reformation. Evolution is the process of constantly getting better; the new version is always improving on what was in the past (take the iPhone, for example). Revolution is completely throwing away what existed previously and creating something new in its place. Reformation, however, is acknowledging that the original version of something was ideal or perfect and the process of reforming is trying to get back to that state. In a Christian context, this means returning to life as it was in the Garden of Eden. We talked in small groups about what made the Garden of Eden perfect: (1) people were in close relationship with God, (2) all beings were in harmony with one another, and (3) all needs were met. The world today is quite the opposite: our relationships with God are broken, humans are in constant conflict, and many people around the world suffer in need.

Thinking about reformation in our world today led to conversations about the current refugee crisis. I had the opportunity this past school year to work with refugees in California near my university and listen to their stories. After spending time with refugees in the United States, it was fascinating to hear the opinions of my new European and Syrian friends for whom the issue is so much more immediate. It is easy for us as Americans to sit back and discuss the pros and cons of allowing refugees into our country, most of us never having even met a refugee. However, for our friends in Europe it is not a question of whether they will let refugees in, but how to handle the constant influx of people and serve those entering their communities.

Those three ideals from the Garden of Eden are certainly relevant to the refugee crisis. The needs of refugees are not being met as they struggle to find sufficient jobs, housing, and other basic requirements for life. The conflict of war is what causes many refugees to flee their homes in the first place. Then on the receiving end, people are in constant disagreement about whether or not to accept refugees and, if so, how best to deal with their situations. Finally, the issue is so politicized and polarized (like most other problems facing our world today) that we often get caught up in the details and forget our responsibility as Christians. Pretending we can make sound decisions and arguments without considering how we are made to be loving servants, causes us to further break our relationships with God.

Amazingly, amidst a tense political climate, this gathering of thousands of young adults created a wonderful atmosphere of hope. Within the international group, we had many chances to discuss difficult topics, such as women in leadership in the church and the refugee crisis, and it was refreshing to hear that many of us came from church communities that were generally welcoming and accepting. We crossed political, cultural, and language boundaries to form tight friendships in only a week. I feel like the loving and supportive bonds that were built in such a short amount of time with that group are an example of the harmony that can be reached between fellow human beings once we see them as our neighbors.

We realized throughout the week that the closer we helped each other get to God, the closer we were to each other. And the tighter the bonds are between God and fellow humans, the stronger we are as a whole and more capable of reform. A wonderful example of this was during worship when we recited the Lord’s prayer in unison. Most of the week was either in Hungarian or English (for the international delegates), but when the prayer started everyone broke into their own language. Around me I heard the words Jesus taught us to say lifted up to God in English, Hungarian, Korean, German, Lithuanian, Czech, Arabic, French, and Mandarin. It was a beautiful moment of being close to God—together—and a hopeful example for the future.

As participants, we were invigorated by the overall message of the festival which proclaimed young people can be change makers. There are many examples of this in the Bible (Joseph, David, Miriam, etc.) and as one speaker said, “the world is waiting for authentic young people.” I feel I have received this message when participating in PC(USA) events like Triennium, and was elated to know that young adults around the world are hearing the same inspiring conviction. It is encouraging that across the globe the church community is supportive of young people making change to help reform the church and bring it closer to God’s original plan for us.

Young adults have the power inside them to fuel reformation. Given a spark from our experience as participants in the Starpoint Youth Festival, we have come back to our home countries and churches ready to light a fire of love and hope and accelerate the process of reformation. By growing closer to God, we will be bonded to each other and more capable of achieving the three ideals of Eden: we will be in close relationship with God, in harmony with one another, and live in abundance.


Written by Sarah Blair

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