Youth rap with Calvin
A news feature from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches
John Calvin wore sun glasses and rapped his story to the tune of the popular music classic, "We will, we will rock you". Audience members, invited to write their own raps, produced comic songs about God's mission, Calvin's example and the singer's sense of calling.
There are voices which say that the church in Europe today is dying. But the energy and engagement on show at a recent youth event in Lyon, France - timed to coincide with the 13th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) - exuded hope and expectation.
The eventdubbed Le Grand Kiff brought together some 1200 young people from France and abroad.(Kiffer means "to love something and find it cool.")
Organized by the Reformed Church of France, the youth programme (18-22 July) was designed as an introduction to the theme of the CEC Assembly: "Called to One Hope in Christ".
Five days packed with activities ranging from an exploration game in Lyon to rock concerts, film nights, group Bible studies and a wide variety of creative workshops, were geared to have this generation of 15-21 years express where they are vis-à-vis our planet, God, the church and themselves.
The programme included time for youth to explore opportunities to express solidarity with the world. Organizations like Scouting France, CIMADE, FAIR TRADE and OIKOCREDIT Lyon introduced themselves and their key themes through a range of simulation games and interactive workshops.
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) used the occasion to share how the Alliance engages young people in its work. Marie-Line Demeuse from the United Protestant Church in Belgium spoke enthusiastically aboutthe Comrades, Artisans and Partners(CAP) youth work camps. Rooted in the missionary relationship between the United Protestant Church in Belgium and the Rwanda Presbyterian Church, the camps bring young people from several countries together to serve the needs of each church and build lasting relationships to overcome the legacies of colonialism.
Demuse told young people at the event, "In our camp we calculated our energy use and waste production per person per day. As you can imagine, this gave vastly different outcomes for the delegations from South Africa, Rwanda, The Netherlands or Belgium. We talked about alternatives and God's care for creation and the steps we can take together".
WARC is involved with the camps through the mission project "Making a Difference" in which churches in Rwanda, Southern Africa and Belgium share mission expertise.
Jet den Hollander, WARC's executive secretary for mission, linked Demeuse's CAP camp stories to the work of other youth networks in the Alliance as they think through the implications of WARC's "Accra Confession", a statement issued in 2004 calling on churches to resist negative economic models and preserve natural resources. See http://www.warc.ch/documents/ACCRA_Pamphlet.pdf
The same call for justice came through in the song "Violencia" performed by Belkys Teherán from Colombia who together with her compatriot Gustavo Quintero formed the Calvin rap choir.
As for Calvin himself, he developed new ecumenical dimensions at Le Grand Kiff as he was brought to life by Stefan Marculet, a Geneva-based student from the Romanian Orthodox Church. "Born in France", Marculet rapped, "A refugee to Geneva, I fought in my life for these ideas: Equality for all, especially the poor, equal education and respect for the earth. We can change the world!"
That conviction was clearly shared by the youth united at Le Grand Kiff.
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