The 2008 National Youth Event kicked off on Thursday, July 24 with a welcome party of inflatable jumping and water games, swimming and recreational sports, movies, bowling, pool and board games, campus tours, a DJ on Presidential Courtyard along with free hot dogs and "not dogs". After Canadian band Starfield rocked Thompson-Boling Arena with a pre-event concert in the early evening, the NYE House Band guided us into worship with the rousing NYE theme song "Living the Life" as hundreds of youth processed across the stage with banners from their respective church, Association and Conference groups. Youth and young adults lead worship as liturgists.
Global Missions Intern Krista Johnson offered a compelling sermon that included faith reflections on her internship and life in Jerusalem as well as encouragement for the youth of our denomination. "I hope for peace with justice and security for Palestinians and Israelis," said Johnson. "I hope for an end to the violence, an end to the occupation and a future that will be better for Israeli and Palestinian children. I hope. And I may be in Indianapolis or I may be in Jerusalem. I may be in Bethlehem or I may be in Knoxville but I will continue to work toward that goal. In the mean time, I am honored to be in community with you all, as young people of the United Church of Christ, as you discover what it is that you hope for, what God is calling you to do and be, and to learn to live inside that hope…We stand up proudly together as young people with a passionate, creative commitment to making this world a better place despite the drone of the world that this cannot be done. We can be people of hope. With God's help we can change this world… and start living the Life that God calls us to."