This post comes from Colleen Burroughs, vice president of Passport Inc. and CBF’s current moderator:
As over 1,500 participants walked into Epcot’s World Showplace for the opening session of the third iteration of Faith in 3D, they found themselves wandering through glowing lights and neon colored activities designed to inspire writing, drawing, playing, building and dreaming. The initial responses were eyes wide with wonder and jaws dropping in amazement. Perfect – that’s what we were going for!
Then, bright and early the next morning, participants, sponsored by three distinct faith traditions (but welcoming six), were bussed in behind the Disney gates and allowed pre-access to Epcot’s World Showcase®. Just think about that for a minute. How do you go about promptly loading up 1,500 teenagers and adults (that’s 30 charter-sized buses) at 7 a.m. and successfully “sneaking” them all into the park two hours before the regular crowds have even gathered? Well, let’s just say it was magic and some great logistical planning.
One goal of the “ImagiNations” morning is to help young people discuss how to be thoughtful Christians in a rapidly changing and culturally complicated world.
“There is no class project in the country and no youth mission trip that can offer this kind of diverse and informed engagement in one place,” said event producer and Passport president, David Burroughs.
All morning, students interacted with citizens from around the world who have come to live and work as their country’s representatives at Epcot. Participants also had intentional conversations with global Christians (missionaries and field personnel) from each sponsoring communion. Disney’s Y.E.S. (Youth Education Series) educators, who teach school children at Disney year-round, were also on hand to further inform our cross-cultural thinking.
Passport started offering programming at Disney 15 years ago, but with the shrinking of national staffs of youth ministry offices across denominations, the need for collaborative large-scale programs has grown. As a result, steering teams from the sponsoring traditions work hard to celebrate differences while acknowledging our common ground inside the family of God. Sponsoring groups in 2012 were the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Cumberland Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church (USA).
Julie Pennington-Russell, Mark Yaconelli, and Jerry Cannon proclaimed three very different but interconnected challenges around the daily themes of Imagine, Create and Animate. A youth drama team from Asheville, N.C., became the rock-star personalities whose words wove together our thoughts in humorous sketches, musical raps and thought-provoking dramas. “Drive,” the touring band for Miami Music Ministries led us with an inspiring blend of sacred and profoundly relevant secular music.
You can see event pictures on Passport’s Facebook page. You will see us all freezing by the pool or taking our picture with Mickey, but what outside observers can’t comprehend is the magic. Not the Disney magic, but the real-life, tangible energy we all experienced together at this massive youth event. Surely, Martin Luther King, Jr. can see these children, with skin dusted in every hue of God’s beautiful family, gather hand in hand on his birthday. Surely, he can see that we share his dream of what love can look like in the world.