From the Worldwide Faith News archives

United Methodists help launch spiritual center at YMCA

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Tue, 18 Dec 2001 15:26:38 -0600

Dec. 18, 2001 News media contact: Linda Green7(615)742-54707Nashville, Tenn.

A UMNS Feature
By Linda Green*

A new spiritual formation center that could be the precursor to a church
entirely led by youth has been opened by African-American United Methodists
in West Ohio, in connection with partner organizations.

Located at the Greater Dayton West YMCA, the Triple 'A' Jubilee Youth
Spiritual Formation Center was launched in August to give area youth and
young people a foundation for Christian ministry and service.

Triple A began in a local United Methodist church, but officials recognized
that relocating to the YMCA would reach a larger number of youth between the
ages of 10 and 18. "We jelled with the YMCA's initiative to return to their
roots of being a Christian organization," said Geneva Aldridge, the center's
project director.   

The stated mission of the YMCA is to put Judeo-Christian principles into
practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.
The organization, which celebrates 150 years on Dec. 29, was transformed
from an evangelical group of young, urban Protestant men to a broad-based,
secular, community organization serving men, women and children across all
religious and social lines.  

In explaining a return to its Christian foundation, Monique Harold,
executive director of the Dayton West YMCA, said that as an organization
grows, sometimes its mission gets hidden behind inclusiveness and ecumenism.
"This makes our Christian roots often hard to express because we welcome
everyone regardless of their religious tradition and accept them in Jesus'
name," she said. "Although we are Christian, we have to be sensitive to and
have respect for other denominations and traditions."

That sensitivity has to go hand in hand with the Y's values of building
character through the promotion of caring, honesty, respect and
responsibility, she said.

As the Y grew, its officials wanted to reinforce the organization's
Christian roots. "At the Greater Dayton West Y, we are revamping everything
and taking strategic steps forward to make sure that we keep Christianity in
the forefront of all that we do," Harold said. 

Acknowledging that every moment is a teaching and learning moment, she said
each individual can make a difference in someone's life through Jesus

"Spiritual formation is based on Christian principles that focus on guiding
and training and the development of God-given potential through holistic
programming," she said. "The foundation here is set and now is the time to
prepare our youth to be the leaders God created them to be. I'm thankful
that the YMCA is structurally sound enough to be open to all denominations."

The name Triple A was chosen to celebrate the trumpet sound of Jubilee and
to celebrate the components of alleluia/praise, achievement and advancement,
Aldridge said. "This is a celebration of a time when all that which was lost
is returned," she said.

Supporters, advisors, consultants and network partners of the center include
the West Ohio Chapter of Black Methodist for Church Renewal (BMCR) and the
United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Network partners
include the West Ohio Ministerial Recruitment Institute, United Methodist
seminaries in Ohio, and local churches. They provide resources, advice,
evaluations, mentoring training and interns.

The concern expressed by the West Ohio BMCR for area youth prompted the
churchwide Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville, Tenn., to
get involved, according to the Rev. KilSang Yoon, a board staff member.
Spiritual formation is important for young people and necessary for
developing future leadership in the United Methodist Church, he said.

"The ministry is one of the pilot projects through which young people could
be shaped and formed to sense what they are called to be," he said.

The center, which is open and inclusive, embraces the call for spiritual
formation, leadership training, guidance, nurture and love on behalf of
children.  Its mission is to establish a forum to create a new generation of
Christian leaders. 

Triple A directors want to help young people grow in strength of character,
knowledge and understanding of the call to Christian witness and
discipleship, become role models for others, develop a sense of who they are
and what they are called to become and further develop their minds, bodies
and spirits -- all with the goal of establishing a United Methodist church
for youth.

"Our youth have indicated that they would like to start a youth church,
where they could actively be engaged in the activities and design of their
own worship experience because being relegated to fifth Sunday is not
enough," Aldridge said.  

Conversations are under way with West Ohio Conference officials, local
churches and other Methodist denominations to develop a model for a United
Methodist youth church.

A youth church would give young people a sense of ownership and belonging,
Yoon said. As they grow up into adulthood, they will be encouraged to attend
United Methodist-related colleges and become leaders in the church.  He also
expressed hope that some would respond to God's call to ordained ministry. 

# # #

*Green is news director of the Nashville, Tenn., office of United Methodist
News Service.

United Methodist News Service
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