Six youth and two advisors from across the denomination came together for a year and a half of meetings and brainstorming sessions before finally arriving at Fort Collins, Colo., for National Youth Conference (NYC). Each member was recommended for the job of working with Kelsey Murray, NYC coordinator, and Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, to create NYC.
Murray is a 2014 Bridgewater (Va.) College graduate. She joined Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) and relocated from Lancaster, Pa., to the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., for a year, specifically to serve as NYC coordinator.
“I hope the youth take this mountain-top experience and learn more about themselves and about God,” she said. “This week was created to make a space for youth from all across the US and beyond to learn and grow in their faith. I hope they take their energy and love for God and others home to their churches, schools, and everyday life.”
For the National Youth Cabinet, the conference was a labor of love. The group developed the theme; helped select the logo, speakers, and scriptures; suggested late-night activities; helped create resources to promote the event; and have volunteered during the event. They arrived in Colorado a few days before NYC started and helped put together the main stage in the Moby arena--from lighting to backdrops. During the NYC week, they have been introducing speakers and participating in the first row of every worship service.
Connor, a freshman at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., and an attendee at Columbia City Church of the Brethren, valued “being able to experience the behind-the-scenes work of this wonderful youth event that will influence the youth of our church.”
“I loved being part of NYC and sharing with other youth about Brethren values that explore important topics of the present day,” said Emilie, a senior from Somerset Church of the Brethren.
Erika, a Bridgewater College freshman, attended the previous NYC four years ago. She liked being able to influence the messages shared in this year’s conference.
“I valued being an integral part of planning and providing an incredible, unique community for the youth of our denomination,” said Haley, a previous NYC attendee and a member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren.
Hannah, who attends Mt. Vernon Church of the Brethren, appreciated how the youth cabinet demonstrated “that God does not just work through adults, but is active in all of us.”
Trevor, a freshman at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, loved sharing important values with youth from across the denomination.
After attending five NYCs, beginning in 1978, Carol Elmore, advisor and youth/choir minister at Oak Grove Church of the Brethren, said this is the very best of the church. “To be a part of creating an event with youth who love God and are in leadership feels like I’m passing it on. It feels good, when the news is so ugly, to have so much hope in this room [Moby Arena at NYC].
Linville Creek Church of the Brethren pastor and youth cabinet advisor Nathan Hollenberg knows the power and transformation that NYC provides. He was initially excited to work with the cabinet and guide their efforts. Over time, however, this idea of guiding the youth shifted to a mutual ministry as he worked alongside the cabinet, Murray, and other leaders. “This group created so much of the big picture of NYC,” he said. “They not only envisioned it, they built it physically and spiritually. So we have a deeper connection after this experience.”
Throughout the week of NYC, Murray said she has seen God moving among the youth and advisors, as they have grown closer to one another. “The Holy Spirit has been moving in the months leading up to NYC in the way that the wider church community has shown their love and support of me, as well as NYC as a whole,” she said. “The way the youth invest time and care into the week truly shows the way God expresses love for us as well as love for others.”
The NYC theme, “Bound Together, Clothed in Christ,” describes the trust and friendship forged in this journey of preparing for and holding National Youth Conference. As this journey nears an end, the denomination is invited to call forth the next group of leaders and youth who will put their energy, love, and prayer into creating NYC 2022.
-- Mary Dulabaum contributed this report.
The NYC 2018 Press Team includes Laura Brown, Allie Dulabaum, Mary Dulabaum, Nevin Dulabaum, Eddie Edmonds, Russ Otto, Frank Ramirez, Alane Riegel, Glenn Riegel, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.