The Great Plains Mercy and Justice Team sponsored the Rev. Kirstie Garnes to attend the 12th annual Young Clergy Leadership Forum in Washington D.C. at the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS). Held Jan. 26-29 on Capitol Hill, the event was limited to 75 participants, age 35 or younger, usually provisional or ordained clergy serving in full-time appointments to local congregations. The theme this year focused on one question: “How can we come together to build a world where all people are able to flourish - spiritually and physically - and enjoy the abundant life God desires for all?” Garnes submitted the following photos and summary of her experience.
My time in Washington D.C. at GBCS was a life transforming event that I will never forget. The first life changing experience that has positively impacted me and the way I view ministry is having the opportunity to stay at Galludet University. Being a part of the deaf and hearing impaired community really opened up my eyes to a new way of living. The experience challenged my communication and interpersonal skills and as a result helped me to become a more inclusive, open pastor.
The second life changing experience that I encountered was being able to hear the stories of various leaders in the UMC and hear their platforms on various social justice issues such as women and children advocacy, poverty, LBGTQ concerns and four life-changing presentations from staff members working on the continent of Africa. One of the questions that I will always remember from Susan Burton who spoke on women and children's rights was, "What would the church look like if women and girls were seen as children of God with sacred worth?" Quotes like these and more encouraged me to never get tired of pursuing social justice and equality inside and outside of the church.
Lastly, one of the most impactful experiences I had was being able to meet Chaplain Barry Black of the U.S. senate and being able to hear his faith story; his time during the Civil Rights era and his ministry to the senators. I remember one of my colleagues asked him, "Can you tell me about Selma?" Chaplain Barry's reply was, "I am Selma!" That was a priceless moment for me.
Leaving this conference, I felt more empowered that I can make a difference in this world. I felt like my voice mattered. Furthermore, I felt privileged to be a part of the United Methodist Church because it became apparent to me that not only does my voice matter, but the Church wants to give people like me a chance to use my voice for the transformation of all people in Christ Jesus. Hallelujah!
– Rev. Kirstie Garnes