After only one full day at West Central Regional Youth Event, I can’t say enough how much the young people and adults of the Iowa Conference UCC impress me. Not only have they thrown themselves fully into this event, they have allowed programs to help them “color outside the lines,” as some in our group are fond of saying.
Yesterday began with short worship and “listening groups.” Let me tell you a little about these groups, which, I’m proud to say, were designed by youth and adult leaders in the Iowa Conference. (And, many of them are facilitating the groups as well.) These groups of 13-15 people, are made up of people all from different churches. This means participants probably don’t know anyone in your group very well, at least initially. Then, they engage in prayer, scripture reflection and games that help them to listen to each other and to God more effectively. As you know, this is a difficult thing to do with a bunch of strangers. The Iowa Conference and all the groups from around the region, are quickly developing these new relationships.
We did some more listening during our plenary session when Karen Georgia Thompson,
Minister for Racial Justice at the national setting of the United Church of Christ, led us in a discussion of judgment and stereotyping that happens because of race, ethnicity, gender. Though most people admitted that these discussions rarely happen in everyday life, even in our churches, they fully engaged and offered up some amazing insight about their own experiences of stereotyping and being stereotyped. We will delve deeper into this discussion during the next few plenary sessions. I can’t wait to hear more of their insights!
During our conference gathering times, we delved deeper into discussion by naming the problems and challenges facing our communities and our churches. In the next few days, we will continue to dream ways in which conference youth and young adult ministries can grow and change in the coming months and years.
Finally, our night was capped off with a wonderful workshop and concert by Iowa-based Sheltered Reality. This youth drumming group with a mission to do good in the world energized us at the end of the day. And, I (and many others) even got to drum on stage with them; this fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a drummer!
I’m eager to see what happens today! With two more full days left, the possibilities are endless!