Youth Get Comfortable with Discomfort



--By Rhea Summit**--

When about 150 youth from Western Pa. United Methodist and Evangelical Lutheran of America churches got together at St. John of the Highland Lutheran Church north of Pittsburgh the evening of October 9, it was like a family reunion with aroma of delicious food cooking. These children of God were reunited with old friends and made new friends playing “ice breaker” games. After a filling meal and a trip or two to the ice-cream sundae bar, they sat back to relax and watch a movie.

But this movie was different than others. The video “I Am Not a Racist- Am I?” is a one-of-a kind feature documentary by Point Made Films, an independent production company in New York. It challenged the youth, their adult leaders and pastors alike to examine their hearts about racism.

Watching the video and talking about race in a diverse group, many became noticeably uncomfortable. That was the point -- we all need to become more comfortable by being uncomfortable, so that we can have open, honest conversation, getting to the heart of racism to dismantle it.

After the video, time was spent “popcorning” words, thoughts, and feelings.

Thoughts and feelings

The evening closed with a moving service of Holy Communion with this prayer: “Let us not be afraid to sit with the ugliness, the messiness, and the pain that is in community together. Let us pray with our eyes open and our feet firmly planted on the ground, forgive me when I have remained silent, … equip me with a zeal for righteousness.”

This event got good reviews.

I liked how many people came for the experience. I liked meeting new people from other churches and areas.  The video was inspiring and touching and hopefully will help us make a difference,” said Kayle M., a high-school senior from the Greensburg District who rode to the event on the “East End Express,” a bus provided by the connectional ministry of two churches. It was Kayle’s first time at a Conference youth event.

"This was not a heavy-handed, overbearing conversation, but one that was designed to use youth perspectives to share a message and then discuss it," said the Rev. Greg Cox, Director of Connectional Ministries and parent of two of the youth.

“ I thought it was just great.  The facilitators were wonderful, gracious and prepared to involve people,” he added. 
?Each participant left the event with a gift -- a heart-shaped “worry stone” inscribed with the words, “Keep Jesus in Your Heart.”  The gift was not for keeping. The recipients were challenged to give it to someone they don’t know who appears different from them, as an opening for a conversation.
That’s youth getting to the heart of racism, loving God and neighbor.

For more information on the video and additional resources: Cokesbury has some exceptional curriculum to help youth navigate current “hot topic” issues, including racism. Visit
**Rhea Summit is pastor of New Alexandria UMC in the Greensburg District.