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48 PNC youth and adults attend National Youth Event in Julyat Purdue

Thirty-five youth and 13 adults from 13 PNC churches traveled to Indiana in July to participate in a mission project and the National Youth Event

tara barber
Tara Barber reports on National Youth Event.

Tara Barber of Alki UCC in Seattle, a member of the Education Ministries Committee’s Youth and Young Adult Task Force, reported on the NYE and what led to having a large delegation from PNC.

Two years ago, the task force decided to focus on bringing more youth and young adults to Annual Meeting, on building relationships through periodic gatherings and on recruiting participants for the National Youth Event.

Youth and young adults began connecting with some depth by discussing what it means to live as progressive Christians in today’s world, she said. 

PNC recruiters accommodated the youths’ varying schedules for travel.

Arriving in Indianapolis, the PNC group were welcomed at First Congregational UCC (FCUCC) of Indianapolis where Kerby Avedovech, formerly of the PNC, is the pastor.

The first day, the group “jumped into serving and making connections.  One group designed the Sunday children’s curriculum, applying the lectionary to the church’s summer theme on animals.”

They related Mark 6 about sending out the disciples to the migratory ways of animals, emphasizing the power of trust in traveling from one place to another.

natinal youth event food bank
Erin Lys Jensen, Madison Forhan and Hannah Russell help out at Indianapolis food bank.

They helped prune outside and spruce up the sanctuary before going to Gleaners Food Bank, a local warehouse and food distribution center, where the youth sorted meat and paper products.

Later, Nate Thomsen, one of 10 youth and two adults from Richmond Beach UCC in Shoreline led the group in creating a conference banner, integrating delegates’ handprints.

In the evening with PNC and FCUCC youth, Staci Schulmerich, also of Richmond Beach, led a prayer-poem exercise using songs about imagining, to coincide with the NYE theme, “Imagine.” 

Tuesday, the group went by van to Purdue University, the site for the NYE, touring the Hundred Acre Wood and Art Museum enroute.

NYE on stage
Allie Paige Craswell, Russel Groves, Nate Thomsen and Ellen
Clark cross the NYE state with the PNC banner.

Photos or food bank and worship by Aislyn Jeanne Crane

“Opening worship had us up on our feet, with our conference leading the way for a participatory experience.  That evening Margaret Irribarra of University Congregational UCC in Seattle was a star in a mock Celebrity Squares game show,” Barber said.

On Wednesday, cousins Philip and Tyler Coleman from University UCC participated in service projects along with Susan Andresen of Normandy Park in Seattle. 

Two PNC adult leaders facilitated workshops. Irribarra led one on developing leadership in youth groups, and Dana Sprenkle of Shalom UCC in Richland offered one on interfaith youth groups. 

PNC youth participated in a wide variety of workshops—ranging from creating Mandalas to the Gospel according to “The Simpsons” and “Harry Potter,” a workshop called “Tattoos, Piercings, and Jesus” and more. 

“Each day we were inspired to imagine the world as it could be,” said Barber.

Lolisa Gibson talked about living with HIV/AIDS and how her struggles have been transformed as a gift. 

J.R. Martinez, an Iraq vet and now TV star urged youth to keep two skills in their pockets—their abilities to adapt and to overcome. 

Youth offered testimonies to the power of faith in their lives. 

“The music had us standing and swaying, singing and dancing,” Barber said.

The UCC Collegium of officers were present at NYE, bringing messages of hope and connection, and engaging with the youth via twitter! 

NYE delegates
National Youth Event delegates commissioned at Pacific NW
Conference Annual Meeting.

The NYE encouraged the use of personal technology. 

“We used our phones and contact lists to pray for each other,” she said.  “We lit virtual candles, tweeted, texted and used Facebook to communicate with folks back home. 

“We engaged the theme beyond the usual activities by participating in a literacy labyrinth, where stacks of donated books created a larger than life path to imagine a world where all can read,” Barber continued.  “There was a flash mob one day, and a celebration of faith and fitness.” 

Thursday, there were more workshops, plenaries and an evening worship, in which seven PNC youth offered the call to worship, enacting the dynamics of bullying. 

“It was a risky testament.  Our youth embraced the opportunity to speak powerfully to name this awful reality,” she said. 

An after-worship concert in an outdoor amphitheater featured spoken word by Climbing PoeTree and sung word by Rhema Soul.

Friday, the focus turned to going home and imagining creating one church on returning, said Barber. 

UCC General Minister and President Geoffrey Black rose through the floor of the stage in his armchair to offer greetings, insight and engage in a twitter town hall. 

Conference ministers then hosted community town halls on a variety of topics. 

“Most popular was our own Mike Denton’s gathering, where he inspired and challenged youth to imagine Jesus’ disciples as a youth group and then to dare to dream what our youth groups could do to change the world,” Barber said.  “We were charged to bring the spirit and experience of NYE back to our conferences and churches.  Our conference will be taking themes from NYE to shape our Mid-Winter events at Pilgrim Firs and N Sid Sen.” 

The evening closing worship Friday at the amphitheater included enacting the story of the loaves and the fish. 

Philip Coleman of University Congregational UCC shared his perspective on what “Faith, is…”

We helped inaugurate the national ‘Faith in...’ campaign,” said Barber. 

UCC minister for youth advocacy and leadership formation Waltrina Middleton offered “prophetic testimony to our abilities to not only imagine, but also to do it in the name of Jesus,” said Barber.

“The week was good and intense,” she said.  “We stood tall as a conference, engaging well beyond what our numbers.  The adult leaders were incredible, faithful, caring individuals. 

Our youth represented us well.  They came together and immersed themselves in all that was offered,” she said.  “We experienced health challenges and supported one of our youth through the sudden death of a family member.  We embodied Christian community.”

As NYE participants were changed by their experiences, Barber believes they return to their home churches, where they will bring change. 

PNC delegates took several different flights home as part of an effort to keep costs down.  The last group to head West had time to go to the Indianapolis Zoo.

“Youth groups raised funds for many months to be able to attend, and we wanted to be good stewards of their hard earned funds,” she said. 

They also had support from an Annual Meeting offering and the Youth and Young Adult Task Force.   

For information, visit  and at our facebook page Pacific Northwest UCC National Youth Event Group.


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © September 2012





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