First CERG Regional Con!
The first ever regional con happened this year in CERG! On Presidents' Day Weekend, sandwiched between two snowstorms, 64 high school youth and 23 adults, from 39 CERG congregations, gathered at Mainline Unitarian Church in Devon, PA. St. Lawrence and Ohio Meadville--already practiced at crossing district borders--had the highest attendances! (SLD sent 26 folks and OMD 25).
We chose a three day weekend to make room for special programming (it being a special con) in addition to lots of social time for youth and adults to get to know each other. On Sunday afternoon Betty Jeanne Reuters-Ward, who teaches a class called Dynamic Youth Ministry as adjunct faculty at Starr King School for the Ministry, led a keynote program on the history of Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist youth movements. It was inspiring to remember that at many points in our history, the youth have led the way. Not only merging Unitarian and Universalist groups almost a decade before the UUA merger, but forming joint programming before 1900.
We had a packed room for the workshop planning next year's CERG con and it's clear that the youth want this to continue. It gave youth leaders a chance to experience a con when they often run them, a chance to learn from each other, a chance to make friends with youth in leadership positions like theirs, and a chance to see Unitarian Universalism on a wider scale.
As always, there were challenges. The weather was one. Another is that the different districts, while similar, do have different cultures and different assumptions. Assumptions like the appropriate order of evening worship, coffee house, and if there should be dance and different ways of structuring things like meals and workshops. Being together meant we had to explain why each district does things one way and that meant reflecting and understanding ourselves better. It also meant we got a chance to form a new culture together. Try things differently. Experiment. And, we were testing out the new CERG Youth Events policy and rules that we'd hammered out between the districts.
Maybe all of that sounds scary, but the thing is, with a church full of youth leaders and experienced adults, things that would usually have been bumpy were smooth sailing. To me, that's one of the best parts of events like this: letting our leaders be among leaders. We're already working on scheduling the next CERG Con. Look for it on next year's calendar!
And, I'd like to give special thanks to OMD youth leader Dalin Franz and SLD youth leader Lilly Kaharis who each served as one of the three youth co-chairs for the planning committee and co-deans for the conference. They did a marvelous job!
Evin Carvill-Ziemer, Program Consultant
Ohio Meadville and St. Lawrence Districts