By Roshella Jackson, South Pleasant Grove UMC, Hazel, KY
Many thanks to South Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church for making a fabulous investment in the youth of our church. We had a group of 8 youth and 3 adults attend the TN Conference Young People's Ministry “Warmth in Winter” Youth Conference on January 29–31, 2016 in Murfreesboro, TN.
“Warmth in Winter” began in 1982 as a time for youth and their leaders from the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church to come together for fellowship and worship. In 2016, “Warmth in Winter” celebrated its 35th birthday! Over the years, the conference has grown from less than 100 in attendance to present day where nearly 2,400 youth, young adults, and adults still join together for fellowship, training, and worship.
To my knowledge, this is the first year that South Pleasant Grove has attended this youth conference and it was truly a wonderful experience to be a part of this Christian gathering. Anytime that the youth (and adults for that matter) have an opportunity to be in a gathering with that many youth, excited about experiencing the movement of God, it IS a powerful experience. Many times the youth share about hearing derogatory comments from their peers about being a “Christian” or a “Bible Thumper” and understandably that is a challenge to remaining strong and faithful to their Christian beliefs, church activities, and life choices. Events like “Warmth in Winter”, bring them to together to get to see youth from all over to connect and to celebrate their involvement in the church, their love of God, and their common Christian values.
“Warmth in Winter” is an event that is developed and organized to be an experience very similar to Youth 2015, the national United Methodist youth event that was held in Orlando, Florida this past year. This national youth gathering is a faith-forming event and is a ministry of Young People’s Ministries, a division of Discipleship Ministries. It is an amazing gathering, but it only happens once every four years and it moves all over the country, and can be cost prohibitive to attend. “Warmth in Winter” offers many of the same opportunities: to be in a large worship setting, to hear gifted youth ministry worship speakers, to listen to powerful worship bands, to attend informational and thought provoking workshops, and to participate in on-site service projects. We also attended one of the District pizza parties that were offered on Saturday night that not only provided us a very inexpensive meal, but fun games that encouraged all of the youth to mingle and share about their similarities and differences. We were extra blessed to hear Bishop Bill McAlilly speak and offer communion on Sunday morning. The event was well organized and everything flowed well and made for an enjoyable weekend of Christian fellowship for all!! The event has outgrown the Conference Center in Murfreesboro and will be relocating to Opryland Hotel in 2017.
The theme of the weekend was “Journey”. “We are all on a journey. From the moment we are created, our journey began. Our journey of faith also started at our creation. All of the experiences along the way compile on the other to form our path. God presents us an opportunity to join in on a transformational journey out of the sinful brokenness of the world. What does your journey look like?”