Warm summer breezes wafting up and across Slater Hill on the north edge of the Purdue University campus helped provide a comfortable setting July 13 for closing worship services of National Youth Event 2012 in West Lafayette, Ind.
With the get-up-and-move beat of Tribe of Judah setting the mood, the 2,500 youth and leaders – clad in their white “I Have Faith,In (the name of their church or town)” T-shirts – gathered for one final time.
With all due respect to the comma, it was time to put an exclamation point on four days of fun, fellowship and worship.
As one youth was overheard saying, “This was the best four days of my life.”
NYE co-conveners W. Mark Clark, associate general minister, and Waltrina Middleton, minister for youth advocacy and leadership formation, were joined by other members of the UCC Collegium of Officers in offering words of blessing and support.
After the large gathering reflected in song on the NYE theme of “Imagine” (“More Than We Ask or Imagine”), the Iao UCC Youth of Wailuku, Maui, offered a soothing sound with “Ua Mau – Hosana” (“My Peace”).
To the accompaniment of urban percussionist Tony Carpenter, Middleton then gave an animated reading of “The Gullah Poet,” paying homage to the Gullah language, which is steeped in Jamaican Creole and Bahamian and West African dialects.
During the “Fishes and Loaves” communion service, boxes of juice and packages of Goldfish snacks, placed in several stations on the hillside, were available as attendees were invited to “Take. Thank. Share.”
Youth from a dozen Conferences helped offer the benediction, expressing the blessings they had been given at NYE, as well as their belief in and commitment to the UCC’s “Faith,In” project. In addition, youth from France and Germany gave thanks both in their native language and in English for the extravagant welcome shown them at NYE.
Following the commissioning by Middleton and the Rev. Geoffrey Black, UCC general minister and vice president, the masses gathered up their blankets – and their memories – and headed for home.