Wednesday, October 26, 2005

First junior high conference is deemed a major success.

Tony Bruner stood before a group of 250 junior high youth and advisors and told them they were part of a special moment. Never before had a conference for their age group been held on a regional or national scale in the Church of the Brethren. Yet here they were, meeting Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in New Windsor, Md. Eight districts from Pennsylvania to North Carolina took part.

Bruner co-chaired the planning committee with General Board Youth/Young Adult Ministry director Chris Douglas. More than a year of planning went into the weekend, which carried the theme "Be Strong and Courageous."

They had no trouble finding junior highers willing to come. Douglas said registration was capped at 250 due to the facility limits of the Brethren Service Center, and a waiting list quickly grew. While most events were held at the center, the group slept at a nearby middle school.

The conference packed the allotted time with worship, meals, small groups, workshops, optional service projects, games, and tours of the center. Worship messages came from Mennonite drama team Ted & Lee, New Creation Project pastor David Weiss, and Annual Conference moderator-elect Belita Mitchell, who pastors Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren. Brethren folksinger Joseph Helfrich led music.

"It's really putting God in perspective," said Laura Kownacki of Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, who said she particularly enjoyed a workshop with Ted & Lee. "They should make it a week long." She also liked the "hot hats" that participants received: red caps printed with "Jr. Hi."

Organizers said the response indicated a need for more such events. In the meantime, Weiss urged the junior high youth to continue offering their gifts to the church and the world. "Young people, we need you now!" Weiss said. "(Others) need to see you making a difference, and they can. There are so many many ways you can make a difference. Will you put your life in the hands of an extraordinary God?"

Source: 10/26/2005 Newsline

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