This reflection from NYE participant Emma Welsh-Huggins -- a member of First Congregational UCC in Columbus, Ohio -- talks about the exciting, inspirational moments from the first day of the United Church of Christ's National Youth Event.
"Extravagant Welcome" was a phrase well chosen by the leaders and organizers of the 2012 National Youth Event. From the first minute of walking onto Purdue campus, groups were presented with bounce attractions, balloon animals, face paint and were even serenaded by a few brave souls via karaoke.
The youth were greatly entertained while our youth leaders checked in and registered. From there, they moved into the dorms -- a process that came with many happy exclamations and a little decorating.
However, the true highlight of the day came with the first plenary worship and welcome. Before the groups walked into the cavernous music hall, the magnitude of the event hadn't sunk in. Some 2,500 youths, from all over the country -- and in some cases, the world -- rushed into velvety seats with an air of excitement.
The program flew by, with appearances by Kenwood UCC Youth Choir, Carissa Yinmed, M.K. Asante and J. Kwest.
One of the most powerful moments throughout the service was that of Yinmead's, a youth from Hawaii. She spoke of trials growing up, how she came to the UCC, and about the importance of family, even where there is thought to be none. "Christ's extravagent welcome welcomed us [Yinmead and her family] to a family with virtually no family resemblance," she said. She also closed her remarks by encouraging the audience to remember the welcome they once received, and to strive to give that to others.
Throughout the evening, it became clear to those attending the importance of what they were participating in. The lessons learned, just from the welcome worship, were enough to change the course of a life. As keynote speaker M.K. Asante urged us to believe, you must "transform an observation into an obligation." Use this week as that observation, and find your obligation, at home and beyond.