Of the 11 Southern Synod representatives who attended this year’s URC Youth Assembly, about half had attended previous Assemblies, and the other half had heard their tales of how fantastic they had been, so it was an excited and happy bunch who arrived at Whitemoor Lakes, Staffordshire, for the weekend. Affectionately dubbed ‘the purples’ (have you seen our SSYE hoodies?), Southern were a visible presence at the weekend, both in business and in mixing to have fun with other young people from around the country. The weekend was a great opportunity for us to meet friends old and new, to worship together as the youth of the church, and to have silly fun and meaningful conversation with a variety of people – and as a group we set out to make the most of it.
Of course, the primary focus of Assembly is discussion of resolutions that young people bring. This year, five were brought for discussion – by consensus or agreement (with much excited waving of our orange and blue voting cards) we as FURY resolved: to promote charities such as Young Minds educating about and helping those with mental health problems; to create a new position of Welfare Rep on FURY Advisory Board (FAB); to support a resolution being brought to General Assembly exploring support for those turning 26 and leaving FURY; to implement a new Code of Conduct for FAB. We also discussed the possibility of a Commitment for Life or Charity Advocate on Synod Youth Executives, which will be further developed and brought again to next year’s Youth Assembly.
For the first time, Youth Assembly adopted the ‘cafe style’ setting, inviting participants to discuss issues surrounding a motion with others around a table. This led to a lot of very interesting and passionate discussions, which we found beneficial in allowing everyone to participate and have a voice. More publically, Southern Synod were frequent visitors to the microphone during debates, even those who quite surprised themselves in doing so, and were willing to stand up and voice their opinions on a number of issues, from pedantic terminology-amending to arguing for a more Jesus-like approach. Even, at one point, four (geographically) Southern representatives followed each other to the mic! We were also very proud to have Assembly elect one of our Synod Youth Exec, Conor O’Connor, to the national position of BYC delegate.
When we weren’t hard at work discussing resolutions, there was plenty of time for fun, relaxation, and socialising – we had each a mug to decorate (rather than wasting dozens of paper cups), there was a graffiti wall to draw on and various games to play, and, of course, plenty of time for sardines. Each participant had the chance to attend two workshops, and these ranged from sport ministry to felt making to discussion of human sexuality to worship leading to gospel choir singing. Everyone came back with high praises, and more than one of us went home with some beautiful creations, felted or otherwise. Christian Aid’s creative presentation on Saturday night left many of us burning with a passion for justice to take on with us, and the inspiring worship in which we took part gave us all plenty to think about in how we embody our mission ‘to discover God, to help each other grow in the Christian faith, and, through our lives, to reflect God’s love to all’. Many of us also enjoyed the opportunity to use the Prayer Room, a quiet, cosy space with stations for creative reflection and space to collect oneself away from the business of Assembly.
The weekend was unanimously voted ‘fantastic’, ‘amazing’, ‘absolutely brilliant’, and all manner of synonyms, and more than one person was heard saying ‘I loved every minute of it!’. We enjoyed the opportunity to meet new friends from unfamiliar places and to learn about how things work in their synods and churches. We came away impassioned to make a difference, and full of ideas to bring back to our synod and our lives. We were grateful for the chance to speak up and surprise ourselves, to talk to each other, learn about ourselves, and to meet with God and refresh our faith. We’ve come home ready to take on new challenges, new roles, and itching for the next FURY event.