Lay speaker twins inspire others to explore the faith

By Christine Kumar, Special Contributor…

At first glance, they are typical young adults working out in the gym, meeting friends, going on dates and watching the latest movies. Jacob and James Cogman, 18, believe that young people can have fun and still be Christian.

They are also certified lay speakers at Bells United Methodist Church in Camp Springs, Md., where their mother, the Rev. Johnsie Cogman, serves as the pastor. Much of their social life is spent in the two churches where their mother serves—Bells UMC and Mt. Zion UMC in Georgetown. Jacob directs the choir and James plays the drums and they can’t imagine life without God.

“A lot of young people think church is boring and restricts life,” said Jacob. “It’s the relationship with God that gives us life and makes you feel better,” said James. “And as Christians we need to be approachable, humble and not seekers of fame, glory or money.”

From left, James and Jacob Cogman pose for a photo at the Baltimore-Washington Conference Mission Center. This fall the twins, who are both certified United Methodist lay speakers, will be freshmen at Claflin University in South Carolina. PHOTO COURTESY UM CONNECTION

James’ life was transformed when he was a camp counselor at West River summer camp in 2010. “I was in the right place at the right time,” he said.

He was asked to preach to teens when another counselor was unavailable. “It was by accident for me to do it and it felt great to minister to others,” James said. “We need to meet people where they are. West River has become a big part of my faith journey and I realized that you can’t run away from God.”

James also answered an altar call at the installation service for district superintendent, the Rev. Evan Young, in September 2011. His mother was surprised and became very emotional as she tearfully watched her son walk toward the altar. “He was the only youth walking down the aisle and he answered the call on his own without having any conversations with me,” she said proudly.

In April, Jacob and James served as pages in the state legislature in Annapolis for one week. In May, they graduated with honors from the science, technology, engineering and math program (STEM) at Oxon Hill High School in Southern Maryland.

Jacob’s peers in high school nicknamed him, “Rev. Cogman.” Although he felt like an oddball in front of his classmates, Jacob remained strong in his beliefs and faith. He spoke up for injustice, advised his peers to seek better options while making decisions and even emailed inspirational daily devotions to many of them.

“At the end of the year, the seniors thanked me,” he said. “One of my friends even went to church for the first time.”

The twins’ spiritual foundation began at an early age. They attended a Christian school since they were 3 years old and worshipped in a military chapel at Bowling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., for 11 years, where their mother was an Air Force officer. Jacob developed a passion for singing and sang in the adult choir when he was 8 years old and joined the prayer ministry team. James played the drums.

“We never said you have to go to church,” Ms. Cogman said. “They wanted to be there on their own. “We give all the credit to God for the way they are,” she said. “My husband [Bill R. Cogman] is a great role model and very supportive to me and the boys.”

In the fall, the twins will be attending Claflin University, a UM- affiliated school in Orangeburg, S.C., on full scholarships. As they make numerous trips to the stores for linens and other items for their dorm room, they are excited about going away to school and studying politics and justice-related topics.

They are also grateful for the high standards their parents have placed on them.

“There is no excuse for a child to fail,” said Jacob. “Everyone has access to the library, many resources and the Internet.”

They also have God, which for them, makes all the difference in the world.

Reprinted with permission from UM Connection, the newspaper of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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