By Maggie Franzen, a young volunteer at YMCA World Council
Safe, welcoming, and relaxing environment are the words I’d use to describe the devotions each day at the YMCA World Council. All faiths were welcome, and attendees could choose to interact with the program or just be in the audience to learn and watch.
At the beginning of every devotion session, the participants are welcomed with lovely music and dim lighting, making them feel welcome and free to worship and practice their faith. The audience then was asked to join in song and stand if they felt comfortable.
Discussion topics were based on the pillars of YMCA Vision 2030.
The first session discussed meaningful work and community. Speaker Dori Gorman asked the audience to consider what the value of wholeness meant to them. Some said wholeness meant “a feeling of being together”, “feeling complete”, and “the body, the mind and the spirit”. During each session, there was a speaker virtually or in-person who belonged to a different faith or point of view. A devotion and story are told, and Kerry Riley delivered a prayer during the wholeness session and gave a point of view I found to be impactful. Kerry said, “Today is not devotional. It’s about affirming our wholeness through faith and feeling good about that…without wholeness, it’s hard to ignite hope.”
The theme of hope concerning Meaningful Work was the theme of the second devotion. Zaina Rafidi spoke about what hope meant to her. She discussed the high unemployment rates, especially for youth in East Jerusalem, and how mental health in youth has been declining. They are still fighting for their freedom. The word hope came through in “not free yet”, but hope is still prominent through the word ‘yet’. The faith perspective presented on day 2 was the Danish Christian faith delivered by Anna. In her faith, hope is a task, not a promise, and she believes that the YMCA helps create solid fellowships, and that’s what hope is built on.
There were two Bible readings related to hope. The devotion was delivered through Zoom by Medhat Mahdy, who said that the YMCA was one of the first to see diversity as a good thing and not a liability. Diversity is the one word he would use to describe the YMCA in all ways. The devotion ended with the audience sending in their prayers.
The theme of the third devotion was to ignite responsibility in the context of a sustainable planet. Pious Mannah started the session by discussing how important it is for the youth to get involved in “sparking responsibility” and how this can be done through faith, in your community, or even on a larger scale. The challenge presented was working together and with ourselves to ignite responsibility to do what we can to create a sustainable planet.
The faith perspective of this session was one of a Buddhist faith; the speaker was a YMCA volunteer named Benyapa. She believes there is a lack of responsibility around the world and believes that Buddha’s teaching can solve that issue. This can be done through the five moral Precepts that include abstinence from killing living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxication. By following these values daily, we will help create peaceful environments, she said.
Finally, the absolute devotion followed the theme of dignity in a just world. The context was delivered by Jason Bushbascher, Y-USA. He discussed Tribal unemployment and other themes among the youth in that community; there is a lot of intergenerational unemployment, poverty, hopelessness, and despair. There are also common depression, delinquency, and suicide trends among youth, which is his context and challenge for a just world.
The faith perspective came from a Y member who practices Hinduism. This perspective was delivered by Chandrashekhar Paraji Kharat, Bombay YMCA India. He began by saying how much dignity and joy working for the YMCA brings him, then continues to express how his faith teaches him to work with love, trust, and be considerate about everyone’s feelings and beliefs. Those things motivate him to work and bring him a sense of dignity. His faith also teaches him to trust himself and his work. As all sessions did, it ended with love, trust, belonging, song, and prayer.