The PSI young writers held their annual conference last weekend in Sydney at Petersham Baptist Church. Russell Modlin the chairman of the 'Leadership Group Young Writers' led the 43 young writers (plus 6 others) to establish their own agenda for the future setting out the start of a Vision and Mission statement.
The young writers came from all over Australia, New Zealand with four internationals from Mozambique, China and the USA.
This is the third such "awards" conference where 20 Panellists over 25 weeks marked each and every young writer's article – the first awards conference was in Melbourne 2013, last year in Tweed Heads (Gold Coast) and this year Sydney.
This conference was divided into two parts, the first was dedicated to a future agenda under Sunshine Coast's Russell Modlin's leadership, and the second was an afternoon session on "Comment writing" with Christchurch Sophia Sinclair and Cambridge NZ Jeremy Suisted leading.
Setting the agenda
Russell Modlin led off with a presentation on the young writer culture and how leadership is developed within this 'grass roots bottom up paradigm'. This was followed by a presentation on the history of the young writer ministry by Laura Veloso so as to provide context. David Chang the previous editor of Christian Today (the publisher) presented algorithm % – 50% Google searches, 22% direct links and 18% the Christian Today site and 5% web surfing.
Sophia Sinclair completed this first part of the morning session (before the small group breakouts) with a run down on the roles within the Press Service International young writer ministry -
Leadership Group Chairman's Office
Week Co-ordinator's Office
This breakdown presented the young writers with a thorough explanation of how the day to day operations function, the 'article reminder' system and the pesky deadline. The helpful correspondence between the editor and the young writers was highlighted as feedback is a constant request by the young writers in the program.
The young writers broke up into their Week groups – the young writers are set up into five separate Weeks – to help explain this, there are 5 weeks in a Cycle – each of these Weeks has up to 20 young writers. It is a full-on program.
Russell Modlin had three sets of questions for these breakout groups – the first was prior to lunch, the second and third after lunch - each set of questions were designed for the young writers to consider vision and mission in their endeavours.
They realised their 5 week articles came around all too quickly - they are writing individually - yet how collectively this functions in terms of the various aspects of ministry development and long term vision.
The final session was a highlight of the conference with Sophia Sinclair chairing the session and introducing Jeremy Suisted who set out a very thorough and colourful account of a theologically presentable article in both candour and sound biblical announcement.
Jeremy Suisted once again entertained and yet set forth profound teaching on comment writing in order that their readership can both follow and reason the subject at hand and come out with a firm catch-cry challenge and or comprehension of the article's main thrust in direction.
Sophia Sinclair then set forth a range of critical writing techniques and again the young writers broke up into their Week groups - and had there been time - this format would have continued - such was the interest. Just one aspect of Sophia's presentation was the nature of an article 'title' with all the various implications. A wonderful session enjoyed by all.
The annual teaching
This privilege falls to me each year. In 2013 my teaching centred on the remarkable feats of David's Mighty Men and likened these young writers to David's Mighty Men as they sit before their key board. Last year a story of Michelangelo who had this huge block before him with chisel in hand and he was asked what he was intending to create. He responded that he was releasing the angel within. Ephesians illustrated this was what they were doing as they sat before their key board - releasing the angel.
This year 2015, my text came Ephesians chapter 6 verse 18 "And pray on my behalf what utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel." I noted most of their lives they will be going about your usual routines but as Paul says, there will be occasions when with 'boldness' they will be given opportunities to express the wonderful message of Jesus.
To illustrate, I wore a curly green wig – and the lesson I was given as a young minister - by my mentor the (late) Reverend F P McMaster MBE who served at Canberra Baptist Church for 29 years. Have fun and laugh at yourself and carry-on with your friends, every minister needs this for balanced emotional stability - but - "When it counts, make it count." When these young writers come to focus on their article, as Paul says with boldness, "When it counts, make it count."
The end of the day was celebrated with the annual awards and a big thankyou to Sam Gillespie, the man on the ground in charge of the day program – facility, morning and afternoon teas, lunch and dinner. A huge effort. The dinner was named 'Tony Dunkerley Dinner' as an honour for his reflections at previous young writer conferences (he passed to Glory last December).
Over the lunch break three young writer videos interviews were captured on film by producer Belinda Croft – Jeremy Dover interviewed Charlotte Goiris (model and actress) along with Sophia Sinclair (editor) and then Jeremy Suisted interviewed NZ Matt Browning of the (national) NZ Young Leadership Forum / Movement.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html