From wire and special reports
United Methodist college students from Mississippi will feel the impact of a recent trip to Washington, D.C., for a long time.
Bradley Reaves of Olive Branch put it simply: Student Forum was a perspective-changing, life-altering experience. I had no idea that the UMC is a church so focused on social justice and reconciliation.”
Reaves, a student at Mississippi State University, was among seven students from Mississippi who attended the 2008 Student Forum held May 22-25.
From a panel on the racism of mascots held at the National Museum of the American Indian to an Anacostia River boat tour focusing on the environment, the students met with lobbyists, legislative aides, United Methodist agency officials and a tenants’ group that works for equitable housing.
“Student Forum was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life,” said Josh Gray of Ocean Springs. “Never before have I met so many people from so many different backgrounds and heritage traditions. It made me realize how close-minded I had become by staying in my ‘Mississippi’ comfort zone.”
Other students who attended the event included Chris Dedeaux of Gulfport and Mississippi Gulf Coast, Janyce Gibbs of Biloxi and Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, Lorenzo Flowers of Hollandale and Mississippi Valley State University and Hunter Berch of Starkville and Millsaps College. Susan Vuyovich of Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, Perkinston, traveled with them as their UMSM advisor.
Also on hand was University of Southern Mississippi senior Shawn Foles. He was elected last year to serve on the Steering Committee for the Washington event.
Gray was most impressed with the worship sevices. “We experienced a variety of worship styles and speakers who were pleasing to the entire body, not just one particular demographic of people.”
Reaves was among the group that visited the Anacostia River, a tributary of the Potomac, that had been cleaned from being one of the most polluted rivers in the nation.
Delegates also attended legislative meetings where discussion was held on resolutions and amendments submitted by students. Reaves said, “I learned much of the phenomenon known as Holy Conferencing; there was much conferencing for me with students from every jurisdiction in the country,” Reaves said. “I count this experience as invaluable, and I truly believe that this experience will help me in my future work with the United Methodist Church.”