By Jenny Williams
Next summer has a special event in store for junior high students: Immerse! will bring youth who have completed seventh, eighth, and ninth grades together to share questions, experiences, and ideas about faith, all within a community of friendship and support. Sponsored by the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults at Bethany Seminary, Immerse! will take place at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College June 12-17, 2014, and is free. Participants are only responsible for the cost of transportation to and from the event.
Russell Haitch, professor of practical theology at Bethany, is overseeing the event as director of the institute. “As its name implies, the purpose of Immerse! is to go beneath the surface and dive more deeply into learning about the Bible and questions of faith. For young people who may be thinking about baptism or just what it means to be a Christian, we want to create an engaging, friendship-forming, potentially life-changing experience.”
Youth participants will take part in worship, classroom time, group activities, and recreation, enjoying the amenities of Elizabethtown College and surrounding area. The central Pennsylvania location is ideal for incorporating Brethren history into the week’s schedule, such as visits to historic sites. Leadership will be provided in part by Bethany faculty and staff, including Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs; Steve Schweitzer, academic dean; and Haitch.
Bethany faculty and staff are enthusiastic about engaging with this age group, their energy and personalities, and the life questions they are beginning to ask. Dana Cassell, minister of youth formation at Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren, says that her church’s junior high group also was enthused to hear about Immerse! “I think that their excitement centered around the opportunity to travel together, being with their peers from around the denomination, and the exposure to the reality that this ‘church thing’ is bigger than our congregation–an exciting prospect for middle schoolers.”
Registration is open on the Bethany Seminary website at www.bethanyseminary.edu/immerse/register . In compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, parents of children under 13 are required to complete the Parent Consent Form as part of the application process. For more information, contact Bekah Houff at firstname.lastname@example.org .
A note for clarification
Immerse! is for junior high students interested in experiencing the Bible and Church of the Brethren history more deeply. Participation is available to roughly 30 participants. Although Immerse! happens to have the same location and similar date range to the Church of the Brethren National Junior High Conferences, it is a separate, grant-funded program of Bethany Theological Seminary.
The next National Junior High Conference is being planned for June of 2015. Contact Becky Ullom Naugle in the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office for more information about National Junior High Conference. Call 847-429-4385.
— Jenny Williams is director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind.