The slower-paced summer days at Bethany Seminary were enlivened by eight youth who attended this year’s Explore Your Call, July 24-August 3. Hailing from five districts—Kansas to Virginia—they arrived ready to engage with peers, teachers, and mentors. This annual program for high school students is offered through the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults at the Seminary.
Four years after being reinstated, EYC continues to present youth with variety, challenge, affirmation, and contemplation in its programming. Classroom sessions with Bethany faculty are balanced with field trips, worship, group sharing, and recreation. Through it all is encouragement to think about one’s own faith story, the nature of call, and the many facets of ministry. As one student put it, even the “fun” had elements of learning!
“Day after day I was amazed at these young people and the depth of their theological questions,” said Russell Haitch, director of the Institute. “Also, the way they explored different avenues of ministry and cared and prayed for each other was thrilling to witness.” Haitch, a Bethany professor, is joined in leading the class sessions by Steve Schweitzer, academic dean, and Tara Hornbacker, professor of ministry formation, missional leadership, and evangelism.
Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs, helps plan EYC and participates in the leadership. She notes that over the past few years, class time has evolved to include less prepared content and more group study and interaction around themes. This year, the text of I Peter served as the core for exploring faith and the church.
Houff and other EYC leaders have also emphasized the personal connections that form among the youth who attend. Says Amelia Gunn from Easton Church of the Brethren, “EYC was probably one of the most impactful experiences that I have ever attended. The community and the connections that I made in ten days were truly incredible and unforgettable. I learned so much about not only ministry but also community, fellowship, and spiritual growth. I was amazed with how much we shared with each other and how much we grew spiritually together.
Others who participate in leadership include pastors from nearby Churches of the Brethren, who host individual students during the weekend. Brian Mackie, pastor of White Branch and Nettle Creek Churches, participated for the first time this year. “Over the course of two weekends, I had four students shadowing me who were helpful, friendly, and eager to learn. I was glad I could share with them a slice of what pastoral ministry is all about. They got a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a pastor, helped lead worship, and asked questions about ministry.”
The group also visited the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio, and traveled to Chicago, where they spent time at the Reba Place community. Information sessions on vocation and the variety of programs for youth in the Church of the Brethren engaged them as well.
EYC is generously underwritten by Barnabas Ltd. of New South Wales, Australia, enabling youth to attend at no cost other than their own travel to Richmond. Next summer’s EYC experience is being planned; dates and other information will be announced when available. Contacteyc@bethanyseminary.edu for more information.