Elyse Burton is a junior at Tualatin (Oregon) High School. She has playing the violin since kindergarten and is a member of the high school chamber orchestra. She is also on the varsity girls soccer and tennis teams. Elyse attends Portland Mennonite Church where she helps with the children’s worship. Over the summer she enjoys volunteering for the city and a children’s music camp.
As a high schooler, my summer options are many. I could attend summer camp with friends, volunteer in my community, job shadow in preparation for college, work to earn some money or go on family vacations. I choose to prioritize convention in my list of summer options for many reasons. I live in a city and am surrounded by many different church options where I can go to worship and learn about God. However, convention week is special to me. It is a time when I can form deeper connections and bonds with people in my own youth group in a setting that is away from our usual Sunday morning coffee runs or Sunday night hangs. Spending a whole week together is very different from seeing each other once a week.
The convention format, with group time after the worship services, helps the message sink in and allows us to learn from each other. We all get something different out of it, and we find ourselves teaching each other why it is meaningful to us.
On a broader scale, the Mennonite convention is a way for people my age, to experience the variety and understand the quantity of people who share similar beliefs and a common faith. From my perspective, this is very eye opening!
In Oregon, there aren’t many Mennonite churches around. This is very different from where my Mom grew up in Kansas. It seems to me, she had a Mennonite church on every street corner. In my experience, if you mention to someone that you are Mennonite, they will probably assume that you are Amish. During convention week, I look forward to eating meals with people I don’t know very well, playing games with people from different states and worshiping alongside new faces. It is amazing to see people who are so different from one another come to the same place and worship together.
This year, I have had the opportunity to serve on the convention worship planning committee and spend time with the people who are behind the scenes making this whole experience happen. Making connections with the people that plan this has really shown me how much time, energy, thought and prayer each one puts into this process and that they do all of this with the youth’s growth and enjoyment in mind. It has been cool to see that the convention isn’t primarily planned around what is most entertaining, but that a lot of thought is given to the way each day of convention will help us learn about God. The goal is that everyone sitting in a worship service will experience God for themselves.
I look forward to convention for all of these reasons, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I am also excited for the free t-shirts!
To find out more about MennoCon19 visit Convention.MennoniteUSA.org