The 2007 Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention will be the 67th such convention in the history of our Protestant Reformed Churches. With God’s blessing, this convention will be for the great spiritual benefit of the young people who attend, just as the past 66 conventions have been.
The 67th Young People’s Convention! Could anyone at the first convention have imagined that the Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies would still be having conventions in the year of our Lord 2007? Could anyone then have dreamed of a 67th convention?
But that gets us thinking: how will our 67th Young People’s Convention compare to our first? What was that first convention like? Where was it held? Who went? What did they do? And more importantly, what was the goal of that convention, and what was the value of that convention for those who attended?
This question is not one of idle curiosity. Instead, the question comes out of a desire that the conventions of this generation be for the spiritual good of our young people, just as the conventions of that generation years ago were for their spiritual good. And especially, the question comes out of a desire that our 67th Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention be for the glory of God, just as the first Young People’s Convention was. After the first convention, they could confess, “The Lord was surely with us.” After the 67th convention, we want to be able to say the same.
So…what was that first convention like?
The first convention was held in 1939 in South Holland, Illinois.1 That was a fitting setting, since it had been the Young People’s Society of South Holland that had come up with the idea of doing something to unite all of the young people’s societies in the Protestant Reformed Churches. The fruit of that idea was the National Convention of Young People’s Societies—the first convention.
There are certain ways that the convention this year will be different than it was in 1939. Probably the most noticeable difference is that our gathering this August will last much longer than our gathering did that August. Then, the conventioneers arrived one day and went home the next. Now, the convention lasts from Monday through Friday.
Another difference is the number of young people attending this year compared to that first year. In 1939, 114 young people registered. In 2007, hundreds more have registered. Similarly, the number of Young People’s Societies participating is far greater now than it was then. In 1939, the Young People’s Societies of Pella, Oak Lawn, First, Hudsonville, Holland, Hope, and South Holland were officially represented, with unofficial representatives from Oskaloosa, Creston, and Kalamazoo. In 2007, there will be members from the Young People’s Societies of all our churches, Lord willing.
Yet another difference is the assessment of dues then and now. In 1939, each society member was assessed eighty cents to help pay for the convention. In 2007, each society member was assessed ten dollars. A good bargain then, and still a good bargain today!
In spite of these relatively minor differences, the convention of 1939 and the convention of 2007 are identical in the most important areas. The goal is still the same now as it was then, and therefore the value of the convention remains the same.
The goal of the convention in 1939 was that the Young People’s Societies be united in their mutual spiritual edification. They expressed this goal in one of the resolutions they adopted at the convention: “The purpose of this convention is to unite all Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies to work in close unity and in this manner secure a sense of solidarity in order to seek the mutual edification and development of talents as becomes Christian young people.” In other words, the Young People’s Societies wanted to come together for spiritual growth. This goal was met by the activities of that convention. The first evening, they sang Psalter numbers, prayed, read Scripture, and heard an hour-long address from Rev. G. Lubbers out of Ecclesiastes entitled “The Days of Our Youth.” The second day was taken up with meetings from morning until evening. Most of their time was taken up with organization and laying the foundations for future work together as Young People’s Societies. The evening of the second day was spent in fellowship and Zion’s songs.
Spiritual growth together as young people is still the goal of this 67th convention. The evidence that this is the goal can be seen in the fine way the convention is presented and advertised by the host, Grandville PRC. Although we look forward to these things, the focus is not the trip to Cedar Point, not the beach or facilities, not the banquet, but the speeches. The first thing one sees on the convention home page (www.prcconvention.com) is the theme of the convention, “Living Sacrifices of Thankfulness,” and the text, Romans 12:1, 2. The spiritually edifying speech was the focus in 1939, and the spiritually edifying speeches are still the focus in 2007.
Because the goal of the Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention remains the same now as then, the value is the same today as then. The value is that like-minded young people of the Protestant Reformed Churches may come together for fellowship and encouragement. More importantly, the value is that the young people may come together to grow spiritually through the speeches and discussions. And most importantly, the value is that the young people may come together to the glory of their covenant God.
The secretary of that first convention in 1939 offered the following prayer at the conclusion of her report to the Standard Bearer. God answered that prayer, and we pray that He continues to do so not only in 2007, but for generations to come.
May this convention be the forerunner of many more and may the Lord our God continue to bless our Young People’s Societies, so that we may be a rich blessing for our Protestant Reformed Churches, both now and in the future. God be with us till we meet again.
1The information in this article having to do with the 1939 convention comes from the Standard Bearer, volume 15, issue 22, pages 528, 529. The convention was not held for a couple years during World War II, which is why the convention of 2007 is the 67th and not the 69th convention.