by Wayne Scott, Youth Program Director at Pilgrimage UCC in Marietta, GA
On Martin Luther King, Jr weekend (Friday, 1/18 – Monday, 1/21), 123 UCC youth and leaders from 13 difference UCC congregations converged on the Blowing Rock Conference Center in Blowing Rock, NC for the annual Winter Youth Retreat. This year’s theme, “Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly” was based on Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Together our youth explored this theme in large group sessions with our speaker, Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, and in small group sessions facilitated by Wake Forest Divinity students. In addition to our speaker’s reflections on the theme, the large group sessions included short 1-2 minute videos as well as musical selections supplied by the band, Gravel & Silk. During the small group sessions, the youth were invited to participate in exercises that helped demonstrate the theme and stimulate conversation among each group of students. Time was allocated between each session for individual church groups to come back together and process those discussions in addition to free time for our youth to engage in fellowship with each other.
On Sunday afternoon, some of the groups participated in community service projects – volunteering at Casting Bread Soup Kitchen & Food Pantry or at the Watauga County Humane Society. At Casting Bread our youth helped pick up donated food from a local grocery store and prepared meals that would serve the following week’s guests at the soup kitchen. At the Humane Society our teens helped socialize some of the dogs in order to help them become more adoptable.
The following congregations from the Southern and Southeastern conferences of the UCC were represented at the event.
- Central Congregational UCC in Atlanta, GA
- Church of the Savior UCC in Knoxville, TN
- Circle of Mercy in Asheville, NC
- Land of the Sky in Asheville, NC
- Circular Congregational UCC in Charleston, SC
- Congregational UCC in Greensboro, NC
- Elon Community UCC in Elon, NC
- First Congregational UCC in Asheville, NC
- Hillsborough UCC in Hillsborough, NC
- Pilgrim UCC in Durham, NC
- Pilgrimage UCC in Marietta, GA
- Umstead Park UCC in Raleigh, NC
- United Church of Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, NC
Special thanks to all those involved in making this a meaningful event for our youth!