Twenty-four youth from three congregations of the UCC's Central Atlantic Conference took part in a 10-day pilot program sponsored by the World Council of Churches to empower the spiritual development of the church's youth leaders.
From June 26 to July 6, young people from Little River UCC in Annandale, Va., Christ Congregational UCC in Silver Spring, Md., and Heritage UCC in Baltimore, Md., traveled to Geneva, Switzerland and Cluney, France, to participate in the "Youth-Global Experimental Learning Initiative," a program developed by Little River UCC that has been adopted by the WCC as part of its Decade to Overcome Violence initiative.
During the trip, youth visited the WCC's headquarters in Geneva and Cluney's TaizZ spiritual community, where they explored how to practice a more-proactive approach to peacemaking.
"It is a way for youth to find constructive ways to challenge the sources of brokenness in the world and work for reconciliation," says Bob Lingo of Little River UCC. "It was initiated in 2003 to provide youth with an appropriate response to the September 11 attack and other examples of violence affecting their lives. The overall goal is to provide a multiracial group of youth participants a more realistic grasp of the effects of racism and prejudice in the world."
Eight youth from each congregation and eight adult advisers participated in leadership training in Geneva on issues of youth, racism and violence, Lingo says, before visiting TaizZ, the ecumenical community devoted to peacemaking.
"[We were able to] worship and learn with young people from other countries who were there to take part in an international program on overcoming violence," Lingo says.
Prior to the trip, youth participated in a yearlong training program led by the Rev. Jennifer Morazes of the WCC. She was assisted by the Rev. Lydia Veliko, the UCC's minister for ecumenical relations, and Peter Makari, Global Ministries' area executive for the Middle East and Europe.
The Y-GELI program is a three-year model involving two national-learning experiences in addition to the international one. The youth already have participated in a civil rights immersion and an American Indian experience.