Youth and Young Adult Program heads into the city at General Synod
From a meal with those less fortunate in a downtown-Cleveland park, to the bright lights of the theater stage, the youth and young adults at General Synod 2015 will be immersed in the city like never before when the event comes to Cleveland this summer. After all, the theme of the event is “Unexpected Places,” and the Rev. Waltrina Middleton believes that will encourage spiritual experiences beyond the walls of the church – and even the walls of the convention center.
The Youth and Young Adult Program begins June 25, one day before the start of General Synod 2015.
“The whole point of the Youth and Young Adult Program at Synod is to help them think of the theme in interactive and contemplative ways,” said Middleton, national minister for youth advocacy and leadership formation. “To model the message of love and community, we can’t stay in the convention center. We have to get out.”
The UCC’s Ministry for Youth will host the first General Synod Meal in the City on June 27. In partnership with the local nonprofit Catholic Workers House, registrants are invited to share an outdoor meal with those in need from the community. Bread for the World will provide educational and spiritual resources to help youth imagine ways they can engage with the issues of hunger and homelessness after Synod. Bread for the World will also lead a letter-writing campaign through which youth will write letters on their empty meal bags to Ohio’s congressional representatives sharing their concerns about hunger and homelessness. Registration fees for the meal will go to nonprofit agencies that support those who are homeless, displaced or hungry, and Middleton expects 300 to 400 registrants.
“This program will take to the streets – literally – for a boundary-breaking dinner in the city,” she said. “But we’re not just going for a meal – we’re going to understand the critical urgency to respond to hunger and homelessness.”
Another effort will take advantage of Cleveland’s theater district, the second largest in the country after New York City. Partnering with Cleveland’s brand new Near West Theater in the Gordon Square District, youth and young adults will participate in theater exercises with local thespians and meet with playwrights, producers and community organizers committed to using fine arts as a tool for social justice. On stage, the youth will participate in group and individual activities that reflect on the realities of their communities, the nation and the world, and provide inspiration for response and action to social issues.
“For so long, theater has been a powerful vehicle to teach and to inspire, and a tool for healing, speaking prophetically, and being witness to social injustices,” Middleton said. “This is an activity that will speak to the personalities and spirits of young people, and also challenge them to think about God in unexpected places beyond the walls of the church.”
Throughout General Synod, the youth and young adults will continue to engage with the local community by walking in the Cleveland Pride Parade, taking part in a literacy-focused community service project, and visiting some of the city’s most popular attractions during the Youth and Young Adult Program’s Cleveland Rocks Field Day.
“It’s important to be connected to where we are and the people who live there,” Middleton said. “Sometimes the greatest act of hospitality and welcome is to be in a place of solidarity and say, ‘We are here to serve.'”
For more information about the Youth and Young Adult Program at General Synod 2015, visit the website.
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