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Emmanuel Community: youth ministry powerhouse
Australia's largest Catholic Youth Conference, Ignite, took place at the Mueller Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane, over four days, from 26-29 September, 2013.
Over 1200 attended, most from Brisbane many from southern Queensland and northern NSW, and others from the rest of Australia.
The 2013 Ignite theme was "The Call" with its four key words: "Encounter", "Experience", "Equip" and "Empower" to dramatise the Ignite enthusiasm to transfrom the Australian scene with well-informed, highly-committed Christians.
High profile, popular speakers were a major drawcard. They included Media Commentator, Melinda Tankard Reist, Campion College President, Dr Ryan Messmore, and former Wallabies player, James Holbeck.
Frank Sullivan, the Executive Officer of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council attended to lead a Workshop at which young people could pose questions regarding the highly-publicised Royal Commission.
The Ignite Conference Co-ordinator, Luke Plant, was delighted as the young people "connected with Jesus Christ". "This is something we have been time and again", Luke said, "how our young men and women experience the Gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit at Ignite".
Making a difference
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, a keynote speaker, captured the event's enthusiasm with his words, "There is a call that burns deep in your heart - a call to something greater than you know. Will you answer? 'Here I am, send me!' (Isaiah 6:8)." In this spirit, Ignite youth is firing a new Catholic generation to stand and make a difference.
Meanwhile, the 2013 Ignite team created a mobile phone app that included the conference schedule, maps, Twitter feed, a mobile phone album and You Tube channel. The conference was also live streamed on the Ignite Conference website.
Brisbane's Ignite leads the way with its well organised and attended rallies aimed at practising young Catholics where they can experience a sense of unity via worship, prayer, inspiring speakers and some socialising.
However, behind Ignite and much of Brisbane's Catholic young adult scene has been the remarkable Emmanuel Community, an offshoot of the charismatic movement in the Australian Catholic Church.
Since its foundation in 1975 in the Archdiocese of Brisbane, Emmanuel has been a dynamic force for renewal, especially among young people and is now one of dozens of "new movements" energising the Church worldwide.
The Emmanuel Community believes that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son who became one of us and lived among us. Jesus is the revelation of God's love for all people and the name given Him is "Emmanuel" which means "God with us" (Matthew 1:23).
The Church formally welcomes the contributions of these new communities and movements, such as Emmanuel, which was, itself, recognised officially in the Archdiocese in 1979 and by the Holy See in 1990.
Emmanuel Youth's vision is to see the Church full of young people active and on fire for God, the Church and its evangelising mission. Emmanuel arranges events such as Ignite but also ongoing ministry outreaches to teenagers and young adults in conferences, rallies, camps and retreats.
Each initiative seeks to provide opportunities for young people to personally experience Jesus, grow together in faith and be empowered by the Holy Spirit for mission in their world. The key events have distinctive and appealing titles such as Fuel, Voltage, the Zero Gravity Summer Camp and the Young Adult Weekend. However, Ignite is the jewel in the Emmanuel Community's ministry crown.
The teenage secondary year under Emmanuel Community leadership commences with the four-day Zero Gravity Summer Camp in January. Over 200 students attend the annual camp arranged around faith and holiday recreational activities: on the one hand, there are Mass, Reconciliation and ample opportunities to explore faith issues; on the other, there is room for games, swimming and hikes.
The participants' responses are invariably positive: "Zero Gravity is the best camp I've ever attended. It was awesome!", "This was the best four days of my life", "I experienced God in a whole new way!", "Well planned, great speakers, awesome music, amazing prayer, great liturgies!"
On the other hand, "Fuel" is a monthly rally held at different venues across Brisbane, an afternoon and evening event. "Fuel" draws hundreds of Catholic teenagers to create a vibrant atmosphere of heady involvement. There are youthful leaders and speakers, the music of the Emmanuel Band, personal testimonies, prayer responses, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Mass, a meal and socialising.
"Voltage" is a weekly, Friday evening, event for Catholic secondary college students. Voltage participants are invited "to join us for fun with crazy games, awesome food and inspiring discussions about God, faith and life." Hundreds attend regularly.
In June there is an annual weekend for young adults, late teens to early thirties, at Camp Lawrence near the Moogerah Dam. Tash Pennington, of the National Evangelisation Teams and Luke Plant of the Emmanuel Community arrange this three day break.
In all this, the last word will be given to an experienced Queensland parish priest who remarked to the writer: "There is not a lot happening for young Catholics in Brisbane unless the Emmanuel Community is involved!"
Contacts: Emmaus Centre, Cnr Herbert Street and Central Avenue, Paddington. Youth Organiser: Scotty McDonald (07) 3217-5199, mobile 0449-894-989 and email: scotty@ emmanuelcommunity.com.au
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 26 No 10 (November 2013), p. 10
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