Eastern PA Conf. Youth Rally, March 16, to explore life choices

By John W. Coleman

“Easier Said than Done.” That’s what hundreds of youth will learn about “Living as a Christian in a World that is Not Christian,” their theme and subtheme for the 4th Annual Eastern PA Conference Youth Rally on Saturday, March 16, 1 – 5 PM, at Wesley UMC, 2540 Center St., Bethlehem. The event is free, but online registration is requested.

With new leadership, the Conference Council on Youth Ministry is planning a creative, energetic afternoon of candid dialogue, dramatic skits to open hearts and minds, Bible verse challenges, exciting games and other fun activities. And of course, there will be plenty of music by several Christian bands and lots of fellowship—maybe even new friendships formed—in a jam-packed, half-day rally.

Lee Woodall

Former NFL football star Lee Woodall will speak to the youth and their counselors about his life choices and challenges, including tough lessons he has learned in managing success and overcoming failure. Woodall, from Carlisle, Pa., played at West Chester University and competed in a Super Bowl and two Pro Bowls during his eight-year NFL career as a linebacker. Today he chairs the NFL Alumni Association of Philadelphia and is a public speaker and entrepreneur with the Pros 2 Professionals Scouting Association.

Then, moving from sports to entertainment, Barry Bennedetta, a Christian music composer, songwriter and Multi-Platinum Award-winning lead guitarist from Philadelphia, will take the mic to share his testimony of faith with words of wisdom and worship. As a former guitarist for British heavy metal rock band “Waysted,” he opened for Ozzy Osbourne and Motley Crue on their infamous tour in 1984, and then gave his life to Christ the next year. A former guitarist at Emilie UMC in Levittown, he now lives and records in Nashville, Tenn.

‘Do not love the world…’

The day’s ideal Scripture focus will be on 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world.” (NRSV)

A group of actors will perform a series of brief but compelling skits about the bullying, violence, trauma, peer pressure, low self-esteem and other struggles many young people must deal with. Insightful remarks and dialogue will follow each skit.

An altar call will follow, as always, inviting the youth to accept or affirm Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

CCYM will follow that powerful event with another, when it sponsors its second Youth Diversity Weekend Retreat, May 3-5, at Gretna Glen Camp & Retreat Center. The adventure will include talks, games, activities, worship, recreational play, meals and fellowship—all focused on broadening the teenagers’ knowledge and appreciation of racial and cultural diversity. More details and registration will be announced soon.

The new CCYM leaders, who span the conference from Levittown in the East to Lancaster in the West, include: Jose Tirado Jr., president; Lauren Clawges, vice-president; Tyler Santone, secretary; and Isaiah Lynch, treasurer. Also Nate Calderon is treasurer of the Northeastern Jurisdiction Council on Youth Ministry.

“We lost a bunch of experienced leaders who worked well together but graduated last year,” said David Piltz, Conference Coordinator of Young People’s Ministries, citing a problem many church youth groups have. “It’s always a challenge each year to get CCYM back up and running smoothly with new leaders who need to learn about each other and figure out what they can and want to do.”

Tirado, a continuing member, accepted the challenge from previous leaders. “When they left, they told me I had to step up and keep this going,” said the high school junior. “I understand now. When you invest so much in a ministry and then have to leave, you want to make sure others will take the lead and make it better.”

Pen-Del Rally inspires Eastern PA youth

Our Conference Council on Youth Ministry leaders were among 232 youth and 93 adults from 20 Eastern PA churches to attend the Peninsula-Delaware Conference’s Youth Rally Jan. 4-6 in Ocean City, Md. The 32ndannual rally, with the theme “Protector,” taken from Isaiah 43:2, drew altogether over 3,000 young people and adult youth ministry leaders.

Enthusiastic participants filled the vast convention center arena, stage front, exhibit hall and breakout rooms, enjoying interactive worship and witnessing through creative speeches, sermons, skits and songs, along with fun fellowship activities.

The motivational messages by keynoter Tom Coverly, “the Illusionist,” and actress Karen Abercrombie from the popular film “The War Room,” combined with upbeat rhythms and lyrics from musician Tauren Wells, the band Stars Go Dim and other performers. Together, they challenged and inspired youth and adults to witness to the joy and freedom of knowing, relying on and sharing in Christ.

Well-attended breakout sessions included “How to Create a Safe Place for Youth Who Are Hurting,” “Using Your Giftedness for God,” “How to Handle Life’s Questions Now and in the Future” and other topics. And there was the annual ““Proclaim the Name” preaching competition.

Eastern PA CCYM leaders wore black t-shirts promoting the theme and date of their own rally, “Easier Said than Done – March 16, 2019.” They later shared their impressions of the Pen-Del Rally in video interviews.

“The speakers were really on fire for God,” said Jose Tirado Jr., CCYM president, whose father is the pastor of Cristo Rey (Christ the King) UMC in West Grove. “My favorite was Karen Abercrombie because she was very real with us. I feel God is calling me to be more of a leader and spread his Word. I want to be on that stage next year preaching for God.”

The worship was CCYM vice-president Lauren Clawges’ favorite part, too. “It opened my eyes to a whole new way of worshiping, with a different aura and perspective,” she said. But like other CCYM members, she also appreciated the prayer room. “I felt I heard the Holy Spirit talk to me in there and help me with a problem I’ve had,” she said.

Janaysia Costello also valued the worship and “felt really connected with God” in the prayer room. But like many, she also enjoyed serious talks, devotions and fun fellowship with other youth back at the hotel, where “we were ready to party for God.

“God has protected me from my past, from letting it get to me and ruin my future,” she said, reflecting on the rally theme. “God has also protected me from mean things people say and do. I’m learning to accept myself and other people.”