By: Sami Tierney
More than 175 sixth- through 12th-grade youth and their leaders from all over Minnesota—from Detroit Lakes to Fairmont, and about 17 other communities in between—gathered for The Event online Wednesday, Jan. 26. Youth groups and Confirmation classes gathered in-person and held watch parties or participated individually from their own homes for an hour and a half. During that time, they heard a message from conference Youth Ministry Co-Chair Catie Levenick, worked through a reflection activity led by conference Youth Ministry Co-Chair Sami Tierney, enjoyed a music video from hip-hop artist Kaboose, and played an interactive adaptation of Clue led by Christian youth speaker Tony Ducklow—all while working through the theme of “aha” moments, or epiphanies.
“It was so fun getting to see all these youth groups come together,” said adult leader Jennifer from The Well in Rosemount.
The Event was originally scheduled for Jan. 15, designed to be “one event in three locations,” taking place in Park Rapids, Sartell, and Mankato. Given the Omicron surge, event coordinators Levenick and Tierney opted to move online and offer an adapted version of The Event two weeks later. The rescheduled event took the place of regular Wednesday night youth programming for many churches. “We went from ‘how can we play the same game in three different locations on the same day?’ to ‘how can we play the same game in 20 locations at the same time?’” Tierney said of the pivot.
Since the theme and goals remained the same, all the elements planned for the gathering were still usable—just in a different form. Levenick gave a great talk about her call to ministry, and shared scripture stories about Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus and the disciples’ walk to Emmaus with Jesus, after his death and resurrection. Levenick invited listeners to consider where God has been walking with them before they even knew it, much like the disciples, and when they have had “aha” moments of realizing the power and presence of Jesus—like a flash of light—similar to Paul.
Kaboose was unable to join the group live on Wednesday, but Tierney stepped in to lead the group in a reflection about their own faith journeys, drawing out an analogy to a GPS—there to offer a guide and a map, and able to meet them where they’re at and get them to where they’re going. Participants were able to enjoy a music video of Kaboose’s song Sunshine, which fit the message perfectly.
Ducklow, who was the featured speaker at The Event in 2019, brought a brand-new game experience to The Event online with an all-play adaptation of Clue. Participants were sent to breakout rooms with others from their own churches to complete tasks, text videos and pictures to Ducklow, and receive hints to help them figure out whodunit: a murder mystery with an “aha!” ending! Pine Island UMC was victorious in solving the mystery first.
Following the game of Clue, Marin from Holy Trinity UMC in Prior Lake said, “That was fun! I want to do that again!”
When asked to reflect on The Event, Sebastian from Messiah UMC in Plymouth said, “I thought The Event went really well. The message was great and I enjoyed getting to see the amount of people who showed up. It was fun to work within church groups to solve the puzzle (shame we didn’t win) but I had a great time regardless.”
Pastor Tony Fink, who serves Pine Island UMC, shared that his youth would be revisiting the life and faith journey chart used at The Event next week at Confirmation and asked for Catie’s talk to watch again. “Thanks for a great night with youth across Minnesota!” he said.
Minnesota Conference Youth Ministry Co-coordinators Catie Levenick and Sami Tierney would like to extend special thanks to Event Coordinator Gail Johnson and Technology and Ministry Specialist Cullen Tanner for their technical assistance and making sure the Zoom call, videos, and registration ran smoothly. Thanks, also, to Camp Minnesota, Serve MSP, STORM Camp, Youthworks, Summer Festival, Northern Pines Camp, and The ELI Project for sharing promotional videos and opportunities for groups this summer. And finally, thanks to Kaboose and Tony Ducklow of Youth Ministry Land and Summer Festival Camp for helping make The Event awesome.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church