'Get ready for an experience you will never forget'
About 3,000 youth are expected to attend the UCC's National Youth Event, July 22-26, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Young people will trek from each of the denomination's 39 Conferences to participate in this once-in-every-four-years gathering.
A packed itinerary includes scores of musical performances, 129 workshop offerings and 236 possible activities, including service projects, coffee houses, movies, and access to recreational facilities, according to NYE's lead organizer, the Rev. June E. Boutwell of Local Church Ministries.
Under the theme of "The E Attitude," the event will underscore the Bible's call to embrace, enlighten, encourage and empower, Boutwell says. Valerie Tutson, an African-American storyteller from Providence, R.I., will lead daily Bible study sessions.
A variety of worship opportunities will be led by NYE's participants. "All the preachers are all young people," Boutwell says. The preaching lineup includes Marcus Lewis, a youth leader from the Wisconsin Conference and a leader in the UCC's Council for American Indian Ministries, as well as Katie Roedner from the Maine Conference.
"We will have a mainstage session on UCC identity each day, partnering with the UCC Historical Council, the Still Speaking Initiative, and telling stories from local churches on how they are living into God's dream for our future," Boutwell says.
Featured musical performers include inspiring composer Ken Medema; David Kinnick, a member of Brookmeade Congregational UCC in Nashville, Tenn.; and the contemporary Christian duo, Lost and Found.
A house band and mass choir will be led by Gregory and Rodney Milton from the UCC's Southern Conference. "Extravaganza"—a gathering of mission partners, local churches and ministry organizations—will feature live music and fun activities to enable young people to talk with their peers and agency representatives about how they might practice discipleship, Boutwell says.
An onsite meditative labyrinth, sponsored in partnership with the Souper Bowl of Caring and the UCC's One Great Hour of Sharing special mission offering, will be constructed from nonperishable food and toiletry items brought by participants. "Get ready for an experience you'll never forget," says Megan Hoelle, 23, a member of Lake Oswego UCC in Oregon, who attended the 1996 event as a participant and the 2000 event as a chaperone. "The friendships you will make and the things you will learn about yourself will impact you in ways you can't even imagine."