Last week I had the privilege of joining 59 youth and 22 adults representing 9 congregations* in our Conference at the UCC’s National Youth Event (NYE) in Orlando, Florida. It was awesome! Our 81-person delegation from the MN Conference joined 3000 other youth and adult advisors from across the nation, including about 300 from our partner church, the Christian Church-Disciples of Christ.
Imagine the intense energy and vibrancy of those spaces where we gathered… voices raised in song, bodies moving in dance and clapping to the music, minds fully engaged as youth and young adult speakers shared their absolute brilliance and their passion for making a difference. In between worship and speakers and quick dips in the pool there were dozens of workshops on topics ranging from the war in Syria to choosing a college to what the Bible says on a wide range of social issues. The place positively buzzed with life and enthusiasm! And it was all couched in the language of faith, all directed at compelling our youth to see their faith as a launching pad for action, to help them see themselves as the amazing and talented Children of God that they are.
Yesterday I read some of the blog posts our youth participants from Linden Hills UCC made during NYE. As NYE finished up, they were asked to reflect on the question, “How has your life changed because of your experience at NYE?” Here are just a few glimpses of how some responded:
“All the lessons and speeches inspired me to find my passion and help change the world. I’m going to remember this experience for the rest of my life.” – Adam
“I finally can see the impact that words can have and I hope to live in a world where we use our action to fight for the rights of all people and to end the violence in the world.” – Beryl
“I realize that being young is not an excuse for doing nothing about today’s problems.” –Briana
“I feel more comfortable to show who I really am & not to be scared to hide my talents & passions.” –Gayl
I teared up when I read those remarks.
Whether we are 15 or 75, I hope all of us feel empowered and driven as people of faith to go out there and change the world. And I hope that as individuals churches and as a Conference, we heed God’s call to be a people of passion and compassion. As an old UCC bumper sticker used to say, “To believe is to care, to care is to do.”
With gratitude and hope for all the ways you care, and for all you do to make a difference-
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
Our Minnesota Conference participants at NYE received grants from the Conference to help them attend, and our Conference was a major sponsor of the event itself. This support was made possible by our Ashley Endowment, dedicated to faith formation with children and youth.
*Many thanks for the following congregations for sending delegations to the National Youth Event this year. Your prayers, fundraising, and commitment to your youth were outstanding!
- Bethlehem UCC, Maple Lake
- Congregational Church of Detroit Lakes
- First Congregational UCC, Brainerd
- Linden Hills UCC, Minneapolis
- Lynnhurst Congregational UCC, Minneapolis
- Plymouth Congregational, Minneapolis
- St Paul’s UCC, St Paul
- Congregational Church, Rochester
- First Congregational UCC, Princeton