It has become a fun, educational and symbolic tradition for the Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministry to begin its biennium in Cleveland, Ohio, at the United Church of Christ national headquarters. When CYYAM leaders gather from Sept. 27-29, they do so ready to chart a future for advocacy during the next two years that will take their justice work to the corners of the world.
"Being in Cleveland in some ways helps us connect to our foundation and center as believers and servants of God within this denomination," said the Rev. Waltrina Middleton, minster for youth advocacy and leadership formation with the UCC's Local Church Ministries. "These are young leaders who will represent their denomination and lift up the pillars of our faith throughout the wider church. It makes sense that they will begin their journey over the next two years here in Cleveland, where some will come to learn about our denomination's covenanted ministries, conferences, associations, history and polity for the first time."
Youth and young adults attending the gathering will meet partners and staff at the UCC national offices who share their commitments and goals as young leaders. The council members will also go through some orientation on the covenanted ministries, team building exercises, CYYAM officer elections, and map out their goals for the next two years.
Last biennium, the focus centered on Justice and Witness Ministries issues. This biennium, Middleton said that CYYAM will take what it learned from Justice and Witness Ministries and apply it in a global context. Global Ministries will invite CYYAM members to take a journey of self-discovery that broadens their view of who they are, their place in the church, their community, and the world, and has launched a new resource to help support that journey.
"Because CYYAM's mission is to advocate, communicate, coordinate, and network with youth and young adults across the UCC, we will be introducing a new youth curriculum, R.E.A.D.Y!, to support this work," said Tracey Carnes, executive for mission education and interpretation with the UCC's Wider Church Ministries. The new resource hopes to challenge participants to engage with others different from themselves as they broaden their view of their role in the church and world.
The weekend begins with a commissioning and pinning ceremony with the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, the UCC's general minister and president, and keynote addresses from Carnes and the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, the denomination's ecumenical officer.
"We also hope to build on our interfaith and ecumenical partnerships," Middleton said. "Being global may often require us to step outside of our faith context and enter into sacred spaces that are completely unfamiliar territory. How do we do that responsibly, respectfully and with intention as young leaders committed to diversity, inclusivity and intercultural work? These are some of our aims for the next two years. We are also really excited about strengthening our strong partnership with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which shares a global ministry partnership with the UCC's Wider Church Ministries."
The weekend will conclude with an outdoor community worship service in downtown Cleveland. Among the 20 youth and young adults leaders on CYYAM are two members who sit on the new United Church of Christ Board and five representatives from the church's Historically Underrepresented Groups. Six of the 20 are between ages 13 and 17, and the 14 others are between ages 18-30.
"This biennium is going to be filled with border-crossing experiences that will stretch us and build upon the many gifts and strengths these young leaders already bring to the table," Middleton said. "We can't wait to welcome them to the Church House and Cleveland, and formally introduce these 20 amazing young folks to the wider church."