By Martha Weiss
On a cold, snowy, weekend in January, the Christ Church, Dover, youth group joined 1,500 other young people from many denominations at the 31st Annual Youth Rally Marathon in Ocean City, Maryland. Sponsored by the United Methodist Church’s Young Peoples Ministries, it was an amazing, memorable experience!
Christ Church’s youth leaders learned of the event from Joanne Fisher, youth minister and director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Easton. We immediately put plans in place, because part of our mission is to expose our young people to the larger church family. With generous support from the Diocese of Delaware, Province III, and our parish, eight of our youth were able to attend.
While our youth group had been to a Province III gathering in the past, they’d never been to one so large! The kids and leaders were particularly impressed with the plenary sessions. The music was fantastic — headlined by Tenth Avenue North, along with Jimmy Cravity, the Social Misfits Club, and Jasmine Murray. The theme for the weekend was, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb. 12:1). The keynote speaker, Preston Centuolo, was funny, relevant, and engaging. Sharing some powerful personal stories from his youth, he encouraged the kids to find courage in knowing that they are not alone — that God is always with them, and they are indeed part of a great cloud of witnesses! Outside of these large gatherings, young people and youth leaders broke off for workshops on various topics related to our theme. They were thought-provoking and practical.
During the weekend, our group gathered with other Province III Episcopalians for meals, games, and discussions. The highlight was the Scavenger Hunt! It was wonderful to connect with other Episcopal folks in this way, and we look forward to reconnecting down the road.
One of the great joys of youth retreats is watching the trust built between the kids and the leaders, and among the youth themselves. Folks generally quiet opened up quite a bit in exploring what faith means to them, and folks generally loud settled down long enough to do the same! When we asked our young people what this weekend was like for them, they spoke quite a bit about growing deeper in their relationship with God and getting closer with each other. When asked about their favorite part of the weekend, they responded:
- All the groups that sang and Preston
- Getting to hear all the artists’ testimonies and how they related to me
- I loved the music and meeting new people
- Hanging out with our youth group and getting to know each other better
The Christ Church youth group encourages other youth groups to consider attending the next youth rally and/or Province III event. It was well worth our time, and we are grateful to all who helped us take part. We are already making plans to raise money for next year’s event.