Pen-Del Youth Rally renders a vivid ‘Masterpiece’

Like so many artistic masterpieces, there was a lot happening across the sweeping, kinetic canvas of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference’s 2015 Youth Rally that occurred Jan. 9-11, in Ocean City, Md.’s convention center.  The stage, bathed in iridescent lights, pulsated with the loud, lyrical music of several, impassioned Christian rock bands.

Throngs of enraptured teens were jammed in front, many with their hands raised high, some jumping to the music’s infectious beats. Some were texting messages and perhaps photos from their cell phones. After all, this was their Holy Ghost party, an annual youth extravaganza not to be missed. And it was a sonic vision to behold, especially for the adults who watched quietly but supportively from their seats beyond the stage area. “It’s better they’re here,” they must have thought, “than anywhere else.”

Gifted speakers also captivated the young crowd with heartfelt wit and wisdom. Keynoter, the Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil, a professor, author, speaker and consultant in the field of racial, ethnic, and gender reconciliation, challenged them be the missing Master-pieces in the puzzle of churches and communities that yearn for survival but need transformation.  Wry comedian Michael Jr. spun his offbeat, teasing humor and demonstrated what makes comedy funny. And young artists illustrated the Masterpiece theme in large, vivid paintings that evolved while events were happening on-stage.

Illusionist Brock Gill performed surprising stunts and unbelievable feats, adding further variety to spice up the agenda. Gill also delivered a patient, compelling, evangelical altar call Saturday night that drew hundreds of brave, commitment-ready youth toward the stage and to waiting pastors and youth leaders ready to pray with them.

There were more happenings, onstage and off, during two, full days of worship and workshops, performances and presentations, devotions and debriefings. Plus, there were plenty of informal times for young participants to make new friends and form closer relationships while enjoying fellowship, music and laughter together.

Nearly 500 youth and adults–about a tenth of the total attendance–made the trek from the Eastern PA Conference. Their participation is welcomed annually by our sister conference. But this time they also had their own workshop, titled “From Muck to Masterpiece,” planned and hosted by Conference Youth Ministries Coordinator David Piltz.

The highlight of the session was a revealing talk by Joseph Hill Coles and Samayia MacMillan, two former clients of Covenant House in Philadelphia, a Catholic-run transitional living and outreach services program for homeless and runaway youth. They testified and answered questions about their struggles and their deliverance from poverty and wrong choices, thanks to their faith and reliance on God.

Piltz encouraged young attendees to appreciate that although unformed and unfinished in their spiritual development, they still have potential and purpose in God, as expressed in the Youth Rally’s theme scripture, Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

In the new winter issue of NEWSpirit, you can read more revealing, personal reflections on the 2015 Youth Rally by David Piltz, Christine Siewert, other youth and one parent who attended this tremendously energetic and enlightening event.

By John W. Coleman

Featured photo: Joseph Hill-Coles, tells his story as Samayia MacMillian (right) listens. Both are former residents of Covenant House in Philadelphia, which serves homeless and runaway youth. They shared their inspiring stories Jan. 10 at a gathering of E. PA Conference youth attending the Pen-Del Conference’s annual Youth Rally. Also listening are (from left) Victor Gimenez, pastor of Union Memorial UMC in Darby, and the Rev. Karen Owens. Both provide pastoral services at Covenant House, and Gimenez is a member of the E. PA Conference Council on Young Adult Ministries.    John Coleman photo.