Big eye opener

Big eye opener

August 31, 2004
Written by Staff Reports

Russell Litke, Miranda Skladany, Kimberly and Jennifer Wargo, and Kyle Johnson (counter clockwise from left), all members of Middleburg Heights Community UCC in Ohio. NYE photos by Cathy Clarke.

NYE participants make their way to the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville.

Energy abounded at the UCC's National Youth Event, July 22-26, in Knoxville, Tenn., where a record-setting 3,800 UCC people gathered to participate in a smorgasbord of worship, recreational and fellowship opportunities.

"[NYE] was a big eye opener to me in regards to our larger church family and the enormous breath, reach and diversity of the UCC," reflected one participant in a thank you note to the UCC's worship and education ministry team in Cleveland. "It is so encouraging and hopeful to be part of such an organization. I think that the UCC really is living its 'e-attitude' of embrace, enlighten, encourage and empower!"

Our page 1 story includes an account of some of the event's highlights, but here's a photo digest that showcases more of the fun.

A wrap-up video, produced by the UCC's proclamation, identity and communication ministry, is available for $10 (DVD) or $8 (VHS) and can be purchased by calling the UCC's worship and education ministry toll-free at 866-822-8224, ext. 3874.



More photos and video from NYE 2004!

Ali Kraley photo.
Meanwhile, beyond Knoxville

For a group of UCC youth from Stockbridge Congregational UCC in Massachusetts, it will not be hard to write the obligatory back-to-school report on how they spent their summer vacations. In mid-July, the group of five young people, accompanied by adult advisor Tim Geller, journeyed 11 hours by van to Columbus, Ohio, where they partnered with First Congregational UCC, and a group called "African American Ministers in Action" to register potential voters.

Taking to the streets and visiting crowded shopping malls, the youth ventured throughout the heart of the city to find people "ready, eligible and open to new access to democracy," Geller says, indicating that their efforts were met with gratitude and enthusiasm. One 14-year-old boy—known only by his first name, Chris—asked to join the UCC group as it canvassed his Columbus neighborhood. Geller recalls how Chris grinned with pride when he got his first registered voter.

For Chris, Geller says, that experience "could be his first step toward a life on engagement with the system, rather than victimization by it."

But just as moving, Geller says, is how the process affected the members of his youth group.

"The currency of empowerment has flowed both ways. We left Stockbridge with some measure of conviction and an abstract concept of empowerment of the disenfranchised," Geller says. "The abstract has now become flesh in every conversation and exchange of power."

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