The National Youth Event is coming; are you going?
Written by Laurie Bartels
Two friends share a quiet moment during NYE 1996 in Columbia, S.C.
© Gordon J. Svoboda II
What do Y2K, the millennium and spirituality have to do with the UCC's National Youth Event this year?
All those elements figured into the creative process in designing the colorful theme poster for NYE 2000, to be held July 6-10 in Ames, Iowa, on the Iowa State University campus.
Graphic designer Luke Andrews of Medina, Ohio, says he kept thinking about "the big year 2000 thing." Andrews, now 20, designed the poster last year as an all-digital image.
"I thought it was fitting," he says. "We're going into this technical age and I wanted a good way to bring that sort of thing across."
Andrews, who helps his father run a printing business in Medina, says designing the poster by computer was a way to blend the technical with the spiritual. Andrews' interpretation shows multicolored human shapes all around the circumference of the world. At the top of the earth with arms outstretched touching the world, the figures appear to be doing cartwheels. At the base of the earth, the same figures with arms outstretched over their heads, appear to be balancing the world on their hands.
The Rev. Cliff Herring, a three-time veteran adult advisor to the National Youth Event, which occurs every four years, says the gatherings are "one of those mountain top experiences that they [young adults] don't get often."
Herring, pastor of St. John's UCC in Howertown, Pa., says that NYE reinforces his belief that "there are a lot of kids out there who know how to live their lives with integrity and faith," a fact Herring says sometimes gets lost in a world of sensational news.
Living lives of integrity and faith will tie into the theme of keynote speakers Marian Wright Edelman and the Rev. Héctor E. López. Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, will speak on "being responsible in creating a world with justice and well-being for all." The international children's advocate is scheduled to speak Saturday evening, July 8. López, UCC Central Pacific Conference Minister, will address youth at the Friday evening plenary on "growing into the multi-racial-multicultural UCC."
But what happens once the suitcases are packed and everyone heads for home? Does the experience change lives and linger with the participants?
As an advisor to youth, Herring thinks it does. "The youth are touched by the sheer number of kids there and the fact that they are all gathered there celebrating God," he says.
The Rev. Gordon J. Svoboda II, Minister of Education for Youth Programs and Leadership Development for the UCC, agrees. "We get such a rich variety of participants," he says. "But no matter who they are, youth still have issues about relationships and living in community and leaving their families," he says. So these events do become "faith expanders ... faith commitments are made during these events."
Still, having something concrete to use for faith development after the event would help and for that reason, Svoboda wants to supply each participant at the National Youth Event with a resource.
"Each participant will receive a copy of Maren Tirabassi's new book of worship resources and prayers of young people," says Svoboda. The book, "Blessing New Voices," was published by Pilgrim Press and designed specifically with youth in mind. The publishers will receive a pretty tall order with organizers hoping to bring between 3,500 to 4,000 participants to Iowa.
For Cliff Herring, there is another after effect of NYE along with the spiritual lift. "It reminds me of how old I've gotten," he says with a smile.
NYE information or registration materails are available by contacting Gordon Svoboda II, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland OH 44115-1100; phone 216/736-3789; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit the website at www.ucc.org/youth
NYE T-shirts never die! They just make new friends
Freelance writer Laurie Bartels, a member of First UCC in Lakewood (Ohio), regrets that her daughter won't be old enough to attend NYE until 2004.