Young people embrace service and connectivity at General Synod 27
Written by Kelly Burd
April - May 2009
Approximately 400 youth, youth leaders and adult chaperones will participate in "Youth @ General Synod," a week-long program that includes service work and faith conversations as well as the work, worship and fun of General Synod June 26-30, in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Many UCC youth are still riding high on the waves of the 2008 National Youth Event and excited about the chance to experience a similar faith-based adventure and contribute their presence, perspectives and gifts to the church at General Synod.
Designed for high school students, "Youth @ General Synod" will be held June 24-30. It combines General Synod events with service projects, educational programming, social networking and recreational activities.
The program began as an idea of Conference-level youth staff who envisioned General Synod as an opportunity for youth to engage in service and justice work of the church as well as committees and plenaries. It offers a viable option for youth groups that would otherwise be forced to choose between a service or mission-based summer trip and a wider church gathering such as General Synod because of budgetary limitations.
Program participants will be housed at nearby Aquinas College, a Catholic Dominican liberal arts college just three miles from downtown.
Service with a smile
Three days during the week have been set aside for service work and building relationships in the wider community. Staff persons from Habitat for Humanity of Grand Rapids are working to both host youth at their sites and to identify other agencies and organizations in the community where our youth will serve.
The Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, the UCC's Executive for Volunteer Ministries, has provided helpful resources for participants to reflect on the faith underpinnings of their service work. Blaufuss emphasizes the importance of having groups prepare for a mission trip or service experience by examining, through scripture and conversation, how service work relates to our desire to follow Christ.
Resources are posted online at <ucc.org/young-adults> to help youth leaders to facilitate faith conversations before, during and after "Youth @ General Synod" or other mission or service-related trips. Youth groups are encouraged to learn and discern the lessons of advocacy and justice from their experience at General Synod, and explore how they can continue to follow Christ by serving others and seeking justice in their own communities once they return home.
Youth leaders considering bringing a group to General Synod should act quickly; the deadline for online registration with full payment is April 15, 2009. Registration information and forms are available at <ucc.org/young-adults>.
"Youth @ General Synod" participants are encouraged to bring their own labeled, refillable water bottles and event bags or backpacks as part of the wider church effort to offer a more environmentally sustainable event than in years past. They are also invited to bring and decorate an unmarked T-shirt from home to wear as self-made souvenirs. After-hours activities will include films, karaoke, board and card game options and a Saturday night concert featuring Jason & deMarco.
Youth coming with families, or youth groups that register for General Synod only rather than the "Youth @ General Synod" program, can still attend these events. After-hours recreational activities for youth with parents/chaperones will be available nightly at General Synod.
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Several opportunities are also offered for young adults coming to General Synod. An after hours gathering is scheduled and a 2030 Clergy Network gathering will be offered Sunday at 9:30 p.m.
Youth/Young Adult consultant Thom Chu has established a texting network for young adults 19-30 who wish to be in the loop for impromptu social invitations while at General Synod. Young adults will be able to connect with their peers by sending cell phone text messages inviting others to gather for meals, discussions and recreational opportunities. Participants must be 18 or over to sign up for texting at <ucc.org/young-adults>.
The Rev. Kelly Burd is the Interim Minister of Youth and Young Adult Ministries on the UCC's Congregational Vitality & Discipleship Team.
Youth and young adults are invited to participate in the election of the 2009-2011 Council for Youth and Young Adults (CYYAM) to be held during General Synod 27. Delegates will vote on candidates for their respective regions and results will be available by the close of business Monday, June 29.
General Synod presents an opportunity for the wider church to benefit from and embrace the gifts and ministries of our youth and young adults — offering unique and valuable perspectives needed in our collective discernment and ministries. They too are called by God to be the Church: to celebrate God's presence, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, and to proclaim the Good News with their lives.