My last trip to Montreat was for the 2010 Youth Conference. Once we pulled off the interstate in Black Mountain, I knew exactly where we were. Not much has changed. Some of the stores in town were new and some of the restaurants had changed names but the Conference Center looked almost untouched.
After checking in at Assembly Inn, I had time to wander and decided to visit the bookstore. I immediately noticed the Huck was still closed for renovations, bummer. My mood quickly lifted when I noticed the Taco Tuesday stickers on the counter at the bookstore. Tacos for dinner on Tuesday was a comforting thought and proved some things never change.
This year’s Youth Conference theme was “More Than Enough”. Each day was broken into smaller bite sized themes that culminated in the overall message:
- Monday – Recognize (Without God, we are not enough.)
- Tuesday – Receive (Because of God’s love, we are more than enough.)
- Wednesday – Rely (In God’s hands, we have more than enough.)
- Thursday – Resist (Enough is Enough - By God’s power, we can do more than enough.)
- Friday – Realize (Filled with God’s Spirit, together, we are more than enough.)
Rev. Gail Henderson-Belsito, Associate Minister Caldwell Presbyterian Church Charlotte, NC, led keynote. She is a powerful speaker that led us through a range of emotions. The audience laughed together, we cried together, we got mad together and we were inspired to action together. Rev. Gail’s messages lead our small groups into deep meaningful conversations. We were startled into action on Thursday morning when she flipped a table on stage while discussing Jesus doing the same in the temple in Jerusalem.
“Enough is enough,” she shouted.
Rev Gail offered to pray with the conferees during free time on two separate occasions. Both times, she had a long line of people to pray with and she gave of herself generously to every person present. Many who attended said she touched them with how present and empathetic she was.
Rev. Chris Henry, Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN. led worship. Rev. Chris artfully made us think about complex issues by breaking them down in a way easily received by all. He made us laugh and spurred us to do more by sharing stories of his young son Ben. Ben’s anecdotes were always clear and precise in a straight and to the point way only children seem to be able to share hard truths.
Thursday we spoke about resisting and Rev. Chris shared, “It is time to stop playing church and do church!” He ended his sermon with a call to action and a simple question, “What if?”
Keynote and Worship were knitted together with dynamic points being addressed and readdressed by both Rev. Gail and Rev. Chris. Music played a key role in this and we were blessed with an amazing praise band - Steve Lindsey, Jerry Chapman and Carla Dos Santos-Webb. You might recognize the Praise Band from Triennium 2019. We sang some classic songs and newer praise songs. It is always interesting to hear how familiar songs are song in different places. The trio wrote this year’s conference theme song; see the video below to hear it song by the 800+ conferees in attendance. I also included a link for the lyrics, ♫ charts, an energizers packet and a list of games.
I could not have asked for better small groups. We had a wide range of backgrounds, places we lived and varying opinions. We met twice a day and quickly became a family. Through our covenant and creating a safe place for one another, we shared hard things and had deep meaningful discussions. The groups learned to trust one another and lean into the conference theme. Through games, origami and being present in the moment we were able to trust in each other.
Our small groups would not have been possible without the love and support of our Planning Team (many more people than I can name), Community Life Coordinator, Conference Pastor, the Montreat Leadership Team, Summer Staff and the Montreat Staff. A big thank you to all. The Planning Team laid out an easy to navigate road map of the conference. Our Community Life Coordinator, Sarah Leer, kept busy in the background. Sarah kept us laughing. Don’t forget Sarah we need ghillie suits for Covenant Patrol (one of many inside jokes developed over the week). Rev. Jen Phelps kept our heads in the game, offered daily devotionals to the small group leaders and kept the snacks flowing when we needed an energy boost. Mary Goodnight-Thomas kept us in supplies and was the go to for anything outside the box.
Most of all I want to thank Anne Nance and Caroline Waters (from our own Rockledge Presbyterian Church). Both shepherded us through almost six days of materials, prep and the highs and lows of the week. Their leadership was instrumental in our success as small group leaders.
As I stated before there are too many to list but I am thankful to all. Montreat I appreciate the opportunity to serve but also for walking away with a since of renewal and refocused on the what the church can be.