Written by: Hollie Writtenberry, Director of Youth, Children, & Young Families, Outer Banks Presbyterian Church
When COVID-19 forced Montreat Youth Conference (MYC) to utilize a virtual platform, I looked at our small youth group and thought perhaps this was a unique opportunity for us to strengthen our group while growing in faith and service.
Our group of eight youth includes several sibling pairs, so we essentially functioned as our own “family unit” during this retreat. Using the provided Montreat@Home materials as the foundation for our retreat, we partnered with Asheville Youth Mission (AYM) and Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry (ABCCM) to serve at Manna Food Bank, Black Mountain Children’s Home, and Hominy Valley Crisis Center.
We spent our afternoons enjoying all the wonderful recreational activities offered at Montreat: rock hopping, the pool, the boats, and we even took a pottery class together. We transformed the living room of our rental home into our own “auditorium” where each evening we began with energizers and then transitioned into our own time of worship using the welcome, singalong, message, and Faith Out Loud segments provided in the Montreat@Home materials.
We then followed up in our own “small group” using the student journal activities provided. Each evening we closed with a recreation activity in our home. We also incorporated some of the time-honored and more recent traditions that accompany MYC: Communion (led virtually by Rev. Susan Blanchard of Union Presbyterian Seminary, who happened to be my campus minister 21 years ago), a talent show, sabbath morning activities, senior recognition, and of course candlelight worship at Lake Susan to close out the week.
Our experience this year was not the conventional MYC we have all grown to love, but it impacted each of our youth in new and meaningful ways just the same. We were able to experience the beauty and solitude of Montreat as a place of spiritual retreat. When Friday night came and it was time to say goodbye, the tears that we have grown accustomed to year after year appeared, perhaps even more plentiful this year because during this time of uncertainty and unrest, we were able to draw even closer to God during this retreat.
Learn more about Montreat@Home.