'A weekend full of wonderful celebrations – celebrations of God’s love for us and God’s open invitation to all.' The words come from Dan Morrell, Youth Assembly Moderator for 2016-17, in describing the 2017 event. ‘Yet, at the same time, we remembered those who may feel marginalised,’ added Dan, ‘and we acknowledged that life isn’t always full of celebrations and happiness.'
Feasts and Festivals: We’re all invited was the theme of the Youth Assembly at Whitemoor Lakes, Staffordshire, from 27 to 29 January. The keynote speeches were delivered by the Revd Jenny Mills who focused on several festivals and helped Youth Assembly participants to ask questions about believing in what they were singing. They discovered that well-known songs like Away in a Manger weren’t all they seemed to be! Small group discussion allowed people to talk about what they’d heard, and pray together.
A series of issues-based workshops unpacked the theme further. Workshop leaders included the Revd David Downing, speaking about the Day of the Dead festival; Liz Kam on the refugee crisis and Kirsty Mabbott discussing global food security. One of the sessions also saw some of the Youth Assembly members go to the National Memorial Arboretum; something they described as a truly moving experience.
Creative workshops took place on Saturday afternoon. This year, URCYA welcomed the return of a drama workshop, café philosophique and non-cook cooking. New to the programme were festival mask-making, sensory writing and “wee French sing”, which explored the Iona and Taizé communities, and café style worship.
Business sessions saw resolutions passed on children’s and youth events at Synod meetings, climate change and the future of the church. After that, Youth Assembly was ready to unwind – and unwind they did at a ceilidh brought to them by Sporrandipity.
Dan Morrell said the service of Holy Communion was a special time for many. ‘We shared our Communion as if we were at a dinner party,’ he explained, ‘and we talked to each other about what it must have been like to share in that final meal with Christ. We were reminded of the invitation to all by singing the song, For everyone born, a place at the table. This was just one instance of our amazing Assembly band, coordinated by Phil Richardson, providing heartfelt music throughout the weekend. A notable aspect of this year’s event was the real sense of community. It really felt like we were one Assembly together, worshipping God. A great time was had by all, with many new faces who want to come back next year.’
New Youth Executive members were inducted by Alan Yates, General Assembly Moderator, and it was also announced that Hannah Jones will be the next Youth Assembly Moderator. Watch out for more details and photos of the Youth Assembly on social media, and the URC and URC Youth websites.