Reformed youth from the Carpathian Basin and beyond gathered in Debrecen, Hungary in July for the biannual Starpoint reformed youth festival, focused on Reformation. The youth attended worship services, participated in daily workshops, and let loose at nightly concerts during the five day festival, resulting in life-long bonds of friendship and the further development of their spiritual lives.
Every two years, thousands of Reformed youth from across the Carpathian Basin gather to worship, praise, and develop in faith together at the Starpoint reformed youth festival. This year’s festival was held from July 25-29 in Debrecen, Hungary. The miraculous thing is that while the entire program takes place in Hungarian, another parallel program also happens in English for international guests in attendance. The opening and closing worships, daily keynote speeches, selected afternoon roundtable discussions and workshops, and evening devotions were all translated into English this year for a group of 27 ecumenical delegates. In addition to this, special morning devotions were held in English for the delegates, giving them a refreshing way to begin each day focused on their faith.
Over 3,500 people were present for Starpoint’s Opening Worship on Wednesday July 25. Throughout the week, the number of participants only continued to grow as youth and volunteers came with day passes, excited to see specific speakers, church ministries, or entertainers.
The theme for this year’s program, Re:form!, could be felt throughout the entire festival. Worship leaders reflected on the theme of reformation, afternoon breakout sessions discussed how to make the ideas of reformation practical for everyday life, and the evening entertainers talked to the youth about living their most authentic lives – an act of personal reformation.
In her opening worship, Violetta Bella, a preacher working in a Mission community in Győrszemere, spoke to those in attendance about how God forms and re-forms us much in the same way as a potter does with clay. As she began her reflection, Bella brought a potter up on stage that shaped and formed beautiful bowls and vases while she spoke. “God forms us gently, like a potter does. We are never thrown away, just gently re-formed when we need it,” she told the audience, pointing to the potter working diligently on the side of the stage. Her words made such an impact that participants were still discussing the Opening Worship long after it had ended.
In his first morning keynote speech, Pastor Pál Mike told the audience that, “Where you are not accepted, there is no church.” Mike delivered the morning reflections each morning during Starpoint and built upon this theme of acceptance and reformation, telling the young people that it is their job to grow and stretch the church.
Small group discussions in the morning helped the youth in attendance process each day’s morning reflection. Some groups were held in Hungarian while others operated in English and were international in their make-up. In this way, all of the youth had a chance to bond and discuss the ways they felt called to live out reformation in the wider world.
Afternoon workshops served to educate, spark discussion, and encourage connections between young people through a variety of different activities. The group of internationals in attendance held quiz games about their home nations and then were also quizzed about life in Hungary, giving them a chance to share a bit of their own culture at Starpoint while also learning about Hungarian culture. A roundtable discussion was held one day, bringing together a military chaplain, an integration specialist, a researcher of Islamic studies, and the pastor of a mission congregation to hear their thoughts on this contemporary topic. Other workshops were held on topics such as silent prayer, the evolution of dating, Tahitian drumming, Roma praise music, and more.
In addition to all these opportunities for engagement, nightly social activities were also planned for the youth, including dance parties, concerts like Margaret Island and Hanne de Vries, and a UNHCR refugee simulation game. Through these activities, youth at Starpoint got to know one another on a deeper level, bonding not just through the theological reflections of the morning and afternoon, but also through the amazing shared experiences of the evening.
Through all of this, the worship services and daily theological reflections, the small group time and afternoon workshops, the free time and evening concerts, Starpoint fulfilled its mission to bring youth together to mobilize and change the world and the church. Szabolcs Szontágh, Head of RCH Youth Office, told those in attendance, “The mission of the church is to interpret the Gospel, but it is your task and privilege to testify it by words and deeds, while keeping in mind that God’s intention for you is eternal life, granted by the grace of Jesus Christ. Re: form! Do not only go to the programs but feel free to ask questions, do not only criticize but add value to them! Do not only ask for things but help others, too! We would like you to enrich the community and look for unity with God. We hope to help you to become an active member of your congregation, or to find your spiritual community. God bless you!”
Starpoint may be over, but its effects are far reaching. Those in attendance in July are already looking forward to the next Starpoint, just two years away!
Article by Kearstin Bailey