AYTI Ambassador Ian Heseltine interviewed Marty Wyatt, AYTI Program Assistant, to learn more about the impact of Marty’s participation in Augsburg’s Youth Theology Institute. In 2007, Marty was a youth participant, and he was a mentor in 2008 and 2009. In addition to his role at Augsburg, Marty is pursuing a masters of divinity at Luther Seminary.
Here is Marty’s response:
Honestly, the week [of Youth Theology Institute] made me want to come to Augsburg for my undergrad. Looking back this is the biggest impact because of how going to Augsburg impacted my life. I would have never met the people I did or experienced the city if I didn’t go to Augsburg, and that started with the Theology Institute. The Institute introduced me to Augsburg’s campus, professors, students, and staff. They seemed to genuinely care about people and the community. It made me want to get to know them better and be a part of this community that cared so deeply for each other.
I think during the week my faith was renewed. High school can be a hard and isolating time for some and the Institute reignited my faith in a powerful way. I learned (or re-learned?) to look for God in everything, from the mundane to the exceptional. The Institute opened a way of thinking about faith differently than I had before. I began to think critically about what I believe and why, which over time led to a deepening of my faith that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t critically examine it first.
The biggest impact on my theological thinking was probably the classes. This was my first introduction to theological thinking and the classes were taught in an accessible way that made me excited to learn more. The mentors also made a big impact on my thinking–they were open to new and different ways of thinking. They were not afraid to ask questions and wrestle with them with us throughout the week.
The Institute was really my first formal place where I was told my questions and thoughts were valid and theological. I always had deep questions about God, but did not name it as thinking theologically until the Institute. Anytime we think about God and how God relates to us and the world, we are thinking theologically, so yes, these ways of thinking still impact me today and I continue to think about how God is in relationship with all of creation on a daily basis.
One of the things that stuck with me from the week was that worship, or spiritual practice, can really be almost anything where a person takes the time to pause and reflect and listen for God. I still think about that today. I’m a busy person and usually don’t take a lot of time to myself to think about things (unless it’s for a paper) and intentionally sit in what people would think of as worship or spiritual practice. But during the Institute, I realized that anything can be a spiritual practice if you take the time to recognize it as such. This is helpful to remember when busyness seems to take over and you have no time to intentionally worship. You can still fit in time to remember that everything comes from God and refocus and center no matter what you are doing.
One of the most basic things I believe is that all people are beloved children of God and are created in the image of God. To me this means we should treat everyone with dignity and respect and should stand with and fight for the marginalized and oppressed in the world. I also believe that we are freed from the constraints of sin so that we can love and serve our neighbor. I try to approach any contemporary issue I face with these things in mind. The theme of the Institute the year I went was “Imago Dei” (Image of God). These were words that I had heard my entire life, but hadn’t really connected with them in a meaningful way. Because we focused on this all week, I started to see why the idea of being created in the image of God is so powerful. If we truly believe that we are all created in the image of God, then how could we possibly mistreat our fellow people? Fellow images of God? How can we not stand up for the rights of other people and stop oppression?
Learn more about the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute at https://www.augsburg.edu/ayti/