Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Reflections: CCYM Winter Retreat

I've been the conference youth coordinator of our CCYM for just under four years now. I was a CCYMer myself when I was in high school, and when I was asked by the youth to take over for the 'retiring' coordinator in 2003, I felt like I couldn't pass up the opportunity. It's been a bumpy four years so far. The first couple years were difficult because getting a new youth coordinator is like getting a new pastor for the youth, and the previous coordinator, Rev. Dave Hays, who was the coordinator when I myself was a youth, was dearly loved. He and I are quite different in personality and leadership style, and the transition was sometimes hard.

The next couple years were hard because we are steadily moving towards a merger of four(!) conferences and we've been in conversations as CCYMs with coming together, starting already to share ministries, and, at least in NCNYCCYM's case, changing how we do things now so that when we do merge, we'll already have like structures to deal with. We've dealt with a series of changes, one right after the other, and this has been stressful for youth and adult leaders alike. One thing that I've found in working with young people is that it is wrong to assume that young people aren't attached to "the way things are" just because they are young. Young people might adapt better to change than older adults, but it is still painful for them to go through these changes. So, these four years as coordinator have been much more difficult than I expected, and the last few months in particular have been very hard, as we've made some major changes to our schedule of events.

This past weekend, we held our annual Winter Retreat at Casowasco. I will admit, I was anxious about the event and how it would go given all the internal issues we've been going through. But I was really pleased at how the weekend went. In fact, it was the most fun I've had at a CCYM event in a long time. Weekends like this - the sharing the youth do at weekends like this - I am always reminded of why I'm doing this. Being part of the journey of young people at this transitional time in their faith journey is a gift. Hearing youth articulate their faith and have revelations and experience God's call and get senses for the first time of their unique identities - priceless to witness.

Part of our event involves a time when youth have what we call 'open witness' - a chance for them to come forward and share what God's been doing in their lives. I want to share just some of the general ideas they shared:
  • "Pay It Forward" to new people involved in CCYM
  • 1 Cor. 13 - "Everything stops but love"
  • Ecclesiastes 7:8 - "The end is better than the beginning"
  • "Beth is a pushover"!!
  • Psalm 121
  • "Where did we see God's face today?"
  • from Dr. Suess, "Don't cry because it's over, laugh because it happened."
  • One of our adults read a passage from Galatians - 3:1-5, from The Message, which is fabulous and a poignant text for those of us ever caught up in trying to be good enough for God.

We had three great keynote speakers - a DS, an elder, and a probationer (who is actually younger than me!) Rev. Becky Laird shared a powerful song - "Come Rest" from Considering Lily. I also heard "Changed for the Good" from the musical Wicked - two of the youth sung this at the talent show. I'd never heard it before, but it was apparent that all the youth had - they were singing along. Also, we had two youth who just recently returned from a jurisdictional Mission of Peace trip to Nicaragua. One of them shared a responsive litany that they used on their trip, a merging of Isaiah 65 and the Prayer of St. Francis, which I will leave you with:

Responsive Litany (please credit Rev. Ted Anderson with this arrangement if you use this.)

Leader: The voice of God cries out, 'Behold, I have come to create a new heaven and a new earth, not like the old creation which you and your ancestors knew.'

People: O God, make me an instrument of your Peace.

Leader: The former troubles will be forgotten; the ways of injustice will be hidden from my sight.

People: Where there is hatred, let me sow Love. Where there is injury, let me sow Pardon.

Leader: Nation will not lift up sword against nation; no child will hunger; the face of the earth will not be laid to waste.

People: Where there is doubt, let me sow Faith. Where there is danger, let me sow Hope.

Leader: People of all races will build houses and inhabit them side by side. They will plant vineyards and share fruit.

People: Where there is darkness, let me sow Light. Where there is sadness, let me sow Joy.

Leader: The mountain of God will be recognized as the highest of all mountains, and God's people shall be one.

People: Grant, O God, that we may no so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand.

Leader: The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw with the ox. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.

People: For it is in giving that we receive, in pardoning that we are pardoned, in consecrating our lives to be messengers of your creation that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

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