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60 from PNC join in National Youth Event in Orlando

About 60 youth and adults, representing 14 churches from the Pacific Northwest Conference, joined 3,000 youth from around the nation at the joint United Church of Christ and Disciple of Christ National Youth Event July 26 to 30 in Orlando, Fla.,

Youth engage in discussion at the National Youth Event.

Kevin Peterson, a chaperone from Wayside UCC in Federal Way, said that many ideas were discussed around the theme, “Believe,” based on Hebrews 11: “Faith is the confidence that what we believe will actually happen.”

For him, the words of a song sung at the closing worship summed up the discussion and challenge to youth on believing:

“Believe in the joy found in community and friendships; believe that we can shape and are shaped by culture; believe that empathy and cross-cultural dialogue is possible; believe that God loves us fiercely and endlessly; believe that the Gospel can be found in the unlikeliest of places, but most importantly, believe that in this world of brokenness, we are empowered and called to be love in this world, no matter our age or what anyone else tells us. Let your light so shine! “

“That was a powerful and important message for everyone, especially youth, to hear,” said Kevin.

He praised the youth, chaperones, national staff production team and volunteers who pulled together the 2016 National Youth Event. 

Conference Minister Mike Denton and Amy Johnson, a member of Wayside UCC and a member of the national staff in Justice and Witness Ministries  also participated. 

Kristen Almgren of Admiral and Fauntleroy UCC did much of the behind the scenes legwork, including registration, and Staci Schulmerich of Richmond Beach UCC made arrangements for the flights.

Youth join in a mission project at Fauntleroy UCC before the NYE.

Jenn Hagedorn helped organize the pre-event, held at Fauntleroy.  She led a workshop raising awareness of privilege as part of the focus on how young people are shaped by their culture and community, said Tara Barber, coordinator of the group. 

Philip Coleman, one of eight attending from University Congregational UCC in Seattle, felt that the NYE “brings together the best of the best.”

He found it to be a “transformational and formative” event—a time to learn about how cultures interact, about work to bring  joy to veterans at a VA hospital and about inspirational speakers who work to change the world.

Speakers included The Peace Poet, Aidan Thomas Hormaday, Miko Peled and Trisha Prabhu.

“We were taught that we can change the world.  All it takes is us risking a small port of ourselves to believe,” Philip said. 

Interacting with UCC and DOC youth, he learned about accepting people, learned about who the UCC is and learned about “our part of this world as youth of the church.”

David Weasley, acting youth director at First Congregational UCC Bellingham, shared his reflections in the church newsletter. 

“What a blessing it was to attend the National Youth Event with five of our high school students, traveling with a larger group from Whatcom County and a larger crew from the Pacific Northwest Conference.  We all came together with 3,000 other UCC and Disciples youth in Orlando for three days of worship, service and exploration,” he said.

PNC youth spent a few days beforehand doing some service, learning about and getting to know the others traveling with them. 

On Sunday, Aug. 21, the youth gave a report to the Bellingham church during worship. 

For David, some of the “holy moments” of the NYE included studying anti-racism with PNC youth in Seattle, and seeing youth be inspired to dig more deeply into the themes in a workshop.

Another holy moment was seeing youth be brave in sharing honestly and in reaching out to new people, forming and re-kindling some dynamic friendships with other youth in the conference.

In conversations about the theology of Disney World, where the conference was held, one youth noticed that there were few symbols of any religion present at the Epcot Center.

“We spent some time discussing what other religion, what other priorities might be getting in the way, and how we might respond as people of faith,” David said.

Bellingham youth experienced worship that was dramatically different from worship at their church, and choose to risk an encounter with that worship. 

“I was particularly touched when one of our young people described her wonder at the spirit-filled performance of a dance group of young African-American women,” he said.

“There were also heart-filled conversations with youth who are deciding what is important in their identity, who are continuing to discern their calls in the wider world and who keep being willing to consider how the Divine is appearing in their lives, hearts and communities,” David said. 

For information, call Amy at 253-653-2786 or David at 360-734-3720 or email


Copyright © September 2016 - Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ News


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