Memphis Conference youth learn, worship, serve at events like June 3-4 'Youth Annual Gathering'


2017 YOUTH ANNUAL GATHERING --- Top row: car wash; Middle row: group photo; Bottom row from left: CYC and youth picture with Bishop Bill McAlilly and his wife, Lynn (Submitted photos)

By Hope Cody, Memphis Conference Youth Council
It is often said that the youth are the future of the church. As a young person, I have always resented this statement. We are not waiting for our time, we are acting now; therefore, we are not the future of the church, but the present. Youth are a vital part of congregations all across the Memphis Conference of The United Methodist Church, and though many of you heard about the 2017 Memphis Annual Conference in June in Collierville, Tennessee, there was also an amazing event beforehand, for the youth of our churches, known as Youth Annual Gathering (YAG).
Okay so here’s a bit of backstory: Conference-wide youth events fell away years ago, but in recent years, dedicated clergy have felt called to build back these events. The Conference Youth Council (CYC) started back for the first time about four years ago. This group goes to different events together, plans retreats and other events, and serves as leaders in the conference that includes West Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
Ever so slowly, this group has built up, and is now at the point where there are so many youth wanting to serve on CYC, there have to be applications! When CYC started back, an older event came back with it: Youth Annual Conference. I personally attended this event in Jackson, Tennessee, a few years ago. The event was a really fun, great way to get youth involved with one another and also part of that year’s annual conference. After this, we experienced a change in leadership in the 2016-2017 year.

Conference youth involvement is currently booming, and I personally am so excited to see what is coming for the youth of the Memphis Conference.
The 2017 YAG was held June 3-4 at CrossRoads United Methodist Church in Collierville, Tennessee. The CYC weekend kicked off Friday night with some end-of-the-year thoughts, a devotion, and preparation for YAG the next day. It was a fun way to end the CYC year. We had four seniors who have graduated off of CYC this year: Thomas Burns, Hope Cody, Caleb Gresham, and Brianna Spencer.
Saturday morning, youth groups checked in and immediately got to work! We had planned a car wash to raise money for Congo Women Arise and the Mama Lynn Center. Rev. Neelley Hicks from the Tennessee Conference came and spoke to us about the program and project. Then, we had the amazing opportunity to "Skype" with Pierre, who works in the East Congo Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church in Africa! We got to ask him questions; it truly was an awesome experience. Then we washed cars and raised $350.
After dinner, we broke into small groups to talk about the conditions in the Congo, and what struck us the most. There were some amazing thoughts. Next, we broke into small groups again, one group for youth interested in joining CYC, and another for seniors who had just graduated from high school. We came back together to plan worship for the next day, had a worship of our own, and hit the hay.
Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, we woke up bright and early to lead worship at Crossroads United Methodist Church. Youth who just met each other leading worship for people they had never met? That was intimidating. What was even more nerve-racking? Bishop Bill McAlilly, resident bishop for the Nashville Episcopal Area that includes the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, was there!
Though we were all a little nervous, worship was amazing. It was a great leadership experience for all the youth involved. After that, we all had lunch together and said our goodbyes.
YAG was so much fun, and I pray it becomes a Memphis Conference youth tradition in the years to come. I would like to especially thank the CYC leaders who are so very dedicated to this ministry: Rev. Amanda Crice, conference coordinator for youth ministries, and Josh Shaw, Memphis Conference youth volunteer and new youth director at Paris First United Methodist Church in Paris, Tennessee.
As I stated before, the youth are not the future of the church, but the now! Our conference youth are doing big things. This ministry is constantly expanding and serving God and neighbor in new and exciting ways, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store.