On July 20, 14 high school students and three adults returned to Kerrville from a five-day adventure at the world’s largest gathering of Presbyterian youth.
During the week, more than 5,000 young people danced, sang, worshipped, served and explored their faith on the theme, “Here’s My Heart,” a line from the 18th century hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
While some might think that the older, traditional hymns and music of the church no longer speak to the lives of young people, as evidenced by the 2019 Presbyterian Youth Triennium, God still speaks through a language our ancestors found meaningful to faith as well — even in contemporary settings.
Participants were encouraged to find their purpose and passion in the world, affirmed in the unique offerings each person brings as a reflection of the image of God in the world. Diverse groups from around the world were present in worship and small groups, sharing various expressions of faith from liturgical dance to testimonies of God’s work through the church in many places.
The week culminated in an offering collected to aid Campamento El Guacio, a spiritual retreat in Puerto Rico that continues to recover from hurricane damage. This group — mostly under the age of 19 — raised more than $26,000 to help rebuild the camp.
The Kerrville group was sent home with this message from the closing preacher, the Rev. CeCe Armstrong: “We often forget our mission starts at home — your own house or your own church. We’ve experienced things here, but if we don’t take them back, the church doesn’t change, but you have! Hallelujah!”
The lively message concluded with confetti cannons as participants were encouraged to “go and improve the neighborhood. That’s what Jesus said.”
Another speaker encouraged these young people, saying: “you are called the church of the future, but you are the church today.”
As the Kerrville group reflected on their experience, one teen said, “It was beautiful to see so many young Presbyterians together. It gave me so much hope and reaffirmed my faith. We have a great group of young people at FPC! We are ready to make a big difference in the world and in fact already are. And to quote a prayer in worship ‘we pray for those who need to forget the god they do not believe in and come to know the God who believes in them.’”
Those who attended from Kerrville included: Braedon Schlechte, Ariel Umfress, Katy Rye, Suzanna Rye, Vivian Priour, Beth Cunningham, CJ Goodyear, Lyle Goodyear, Colten Cooper, Madison Repka, Emilia Graham, Austin Lane, Robert Jackson and Anais Umfress, as well as adult sponsors Eldon Sheffer, Cristy Jackson and Emily McAllister.
More will be shared about this experience in First Presbyterian Church’s Ryan Hall at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday. To find out more about First Presbyterian Church or get involved with its youth and family ministries, contact Director of Family Ministries Natarsha Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.fpckerrville.org or call 830-257-3310.