The 2019 Starpoint Reformed Youth Festival took place in Debrecen from 23 July to 27 July. This year, the festival focused on the theme of Unity and Community: The Kingdom of God Surrounds Us.
In the Gospel of Luke, it is written, “The Kingdom of God is among You” (Luke 17:21). This message was the center of the Starpoint Reformed Youth Festival this summer. Three thousand participants from the Carpathian Basin and other parts of the world came together in Debrecen to discuss, reflect, and experience “how the Kingdom of God surrounds us, individually and in community,” said Rev. Márton Járay, the main keynote speaker. The participants attended worship services, engaged in small group discussions, participated in workshops, and enjoyed concerts throughout the five-day festival.
The 2019 Starpoint Reformed Youth Festival welcomed 31 international delegates from 11 countries and 16 partner churches, including delegates from Syria for the second time, as well as from Pakistan for the first time. The delegates arrived in Budapest for a pre-event to learn about the life and mission of the RCH. Besides cultural programs, the delegation enjoyed the hospitality of the Scottish Mission and the Buda Reformed Congregation. Furthermore, they had the opportunity to discuss issues and topics, such as traditions and liturgy, women in church, and responsibility towards marginalized communities, within their churches.
The festival officially started on 23 July in Debrecen. In his greetings at the opening worship, the Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Church in Hungary (RCH), Rev. István Szabó, illustrated various stories of what it is like to walk in faith and reminded participants, “God surrounds us; this is His great secret. He is at the center of the circle and all eyes are on Him, but He is also at the edge of the circle. We are surrounded by friends, sometimes by enemies or troubles, but the joyful experience of faith is that despite all of these, God embraces us.” Living out the wider church community, during the liturgy, the Word of God was shared also in Urdu by Samreen Shahzad David, an international delegate from the Tehillim School of Church Music and Worship of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan.
Throughout the festival, in addition to the workshop and programs in Hungarian, the international delegates were also able to engage and participate in various featured programs in English, including the International and Hungarian quiz sessions, as well as the Kitsch party where they were able to introduce their country and culture. The Starpoint festival also provided the opportunity for participants to learn about the ministries of the RCH, including the Refugee Integration Ministry and the Roma Mission, at the Market of Opportunities.
The international delegates were invited to explore the city of Debrecen. They were introduced to the symbolic role of the city during the time of Reformation, the history of the Reformed Collegium, as well as the congregational life of the Great Church led by one of the pastors of the Great Church, Rev. István Oláh, who is also the head of the board of trustees of the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid (HRCA). The delegates also learned about the mission and service of the HRCA in various parts of the world, including the emergency medical team missions and the fundraising campaign for the Sunday school project in Syria.
During the closing worship on the 27th July, Miri Simo, an international delegate from the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, also participated in the liturgy by sharing the Word of God in Arabic. In his sermon, Rev. Péter Pál Czeglédi, a pastor from Hajdúbagos, spoke of when Jesus walked on water (Mark 6:45-52). He reminded the participants that those who see us, see the brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, the children of the Father. “I believe that if we do not walk by each other, by the grace of God, the storm will calm and we will reach the other side of the sea. [...] On the other side, there will still be tasks and difficulties waiting for us, but Jesus will be there with us. Remember this and surround each other and do not let go of each other’s hands!” concluded Rev. Czeglédi. The closing worship concluded with communion.
This year, the participants of the Starpoint Reformed Youth Festival learned how to share in the spiritual nourishment with one another and were reminded that we are all beautiful creations made in the image of God and we are loved by Him despite our sins, that we need one another and can be at home in His house, that there are no VIPs in the church and we are fulfilled by His spirit. Participants were also able to reflect on how they can shape the world to resemble the Kingdom of God, little by little. The international delegation made their way back to their home countries on 28 July rejuvenated with full experiences and messages to reflect upon.
The international delegates were welcomed to the 2019 Starpoint Reformed Youth Festival from the following Reformed churches (listed in alphabetical order): Armenian Evangelical Community in Syria, Christian Reformed Church in America, Church of Lippe, Church of Scotland, Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, Evangelical Church of Westphalia, National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, Presbyterian Church in Canada, Presbyterian Church of Korea, Presbyterian Church of Pakistan, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, Presbyterian Church USA, Spanish Evangelical Church, United Church of Christ, United Protestant Church of France, United Reformed Church – among them, member churches of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
Written by Priscilla Yang
Photos and Video by Starpoint