This Month in SECUCC History: July 1996

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by Mike Stroud

In the 1980s and 1990s in particular, the national UCC sought to unite the denomination’s teenagers in a Christian spirit of friendship and service. To this end, organizers staged annual “National Youth Events” that were held on college campuses throughout the United States. In July 1996, one came for the first time to the Southeast Conference’s territory, at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

With the theme “One in the Spirit, Sharing Many Gifts,” the 1996 NYE had a capacity for some 3,700 people, both youngsters and adult advisors, to attend a four-day gathering that included worship, keynote speakers, workshops, community service, socializing, and recreational activities. One of the keynoters was none other than Millard Fuller, raised in a now-former UCC congregation in Lanett, Alabama and founder of Habitat for Humanity and the Fuller Center for Housing. Some of the topics discussed included “Who are We? The UCC!” and “Multicultural Education.”

Young people provided some of the leadership in worship and Bible study. Among the adult leaders were UCC executives Thomas Dipko and Edith Guffey. Five workshop sessions provided opportunities to attend some 50 different topics of the youngsters’ choice. Fellowship opportunities featured “coffee houses, movies, snack bar, special theme seminars, and drop-in centers; recreation facilities; the ‘NYE Carnival’ and picnic; dorm vespers.”

According to reports issued after the event, the SEC churches with the largest attendance were two nearby ones, Circular Congregational in Charleston and a then-new church start, Covenant UCC in Columbia, the host city. The SEC coordinator was Elizabeth Clement, now designated-term pastor of Central Congregational in Atlanta.