Youth Assembly brings fresh hope for unity - starting with friendship

15 June, 2023

Photo: Albin Hillert/CEC
Photo: Albin Hillert/CEC

Press Release No: 11/23
15 June 2023

Bridges built, friendships formed - and a four kilometer walk in the beautiful woods just outside Tallinn, Estonia. As the Youth Assembly convened on 14 June, one day before the Conference of European Churches (CEC) General Assembly opened, the young people brought fresh witness to the assembly theme “Under God’s blessing - shaping the future.”

Sharing prayers, singing, and walking together, more than 50 young people readily expressed their hopes for unity and the future among European churches.

Nikoloz Gurgenidze, from the Church of Greece, expressed his hopes for the CEC assembly. “I  would like to see divided Christians get together through theology and dialogue,” he said. “Real unity means real community.”

He spoke with Luisa Albina Kappes, from the Evangelische Kirche im Rheinland. Both are alumni of the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey. “I think it is important to promote and support events for young people,” said Kappes, adding that the first word that comes to her mind about the future of ecumenism is “hope.”

Both agreed that, as social issues seem to divide churches, theological issues aren’t addressed enough. “Sometimes we as church talk only about social issues, and not theological issues,” said Gurgenidze. “We are all created in the image of God.”

Kappes added: “Unity first starts with friendship - unity in diversity,” she said.
Susanna Leppälä, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, said she hopes to become more connected to European Christians from other countries. “I see Christians, cultures and people building bridges - I know it sounds cliche but it’s true,” she said.

As the young people shared an evening prayer in the peaceful woods, they received packets of mustard seeds, an echo from the biblical parable.

Lea Schlenker, from the Protestant Church in Germany, serves as CEC Youth Advisor, and she spoke on the parable. “Mustard seeds are really small and the plants are really high,” she said. “The mustard seed always reminds me that small things can grow into big things.”

CEC General Secretary Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen, in welcoming remarks before the Youth Assembly, thanked the young people for making time in their busy lives - many are students - to attend the CEC General Assembly, whether they are serving as stewards, delegates, or in any other function. “Spend time with one another; explore and experience; ask questions,” Sørensen urged. “Tell stories - and listen to other people’s stories. Celebrate diversity. That’s what reflects the nature of CEC - the seeking of unity in that diversity.”

CEC President Rev. Christian Krieger expressed great joy at the turnout of young people for the assembly. “CEC was created to overcome boundaries and to build bridges,” he said. “Enjoy doing this in these days.”

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For more information or an interview, please contact:

Naveen Qayyum
Communication Officer
Conference of European Churches
Rue Joseph II, 174 B-1000 Brussels
Tel. +32 486 75 82 36
Twitter: @ceceurope
YouTube: Conference of European Churches
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