Category

Youth

July 19, 2018

Welcome the ongoing blog for the Montreat Youth Conference. Watch this video and keep your eyes on this space for updates, photos and videos July 22 through 28.

 

FPC Youth lifted their voices through music during Backhome Group Monday night!

 

An update from the youth from Tuesday and, below that, from Wednesday.

 

 

No video from Thursday, which was another awesome day in Montreat! The theme for Thursday was “silent voices,”, and we all enjoyed both keynote and worship that forced us to think critically. We were challenged and learned ways to stand up for the silenced voices.  Some of us enjoyed a great hike on Lookout Mountain and we were all entertained by the variety show and magic Matt! We are excited for the last day in Montreat as we wrap up this wonderful week!

June 29, 2018

 

Recently, our high school youth were in Guatemala, helping out in schools, bringing musical instruments to students and more. Here are a few photos from their week away.

“The Guatemala mission trip was such an eye opening experience for us as youth, showing that happiness does not come from substance. We saw people living in a beautiful country surrounded by features that aren’t commonly seen in the US (i.e. volcanoes), and children growing up with things that we would consider worn down or cheap. It was amazing to see how we learned that we could benefit the lives of the people by our presence and assistance instead of our money.” – Riley Williamson

 

“My experience in Guatemala was life changing. I loved traveling throughout the beautiful mountain ranges, meeting the amazing Spanish and Mayan speaking natives.” – Charlie Riddick

You can view all the photos from the trip here.

October 16, 2017

Pen read this letter to FPC Youth during the service on Sunday, Ocober 15, 2017.

Dear FPC Youth –

I’ve met many of you, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you better. I’ve taught you in Confirmation. I’ve been with you a few times on Sunday nights at youth group. When some of you were in fourth grade, you got to put me on the hot-seat and asked me questions as a part of your catechism class. I thought that was awesome. We shake hands sometimes after church. I’ve loved sitting in the pew on Youth Sunday when you lead worship (everybody at church loves Youth Sunday, by the way).

In a few cases, I’ve gotten to know you through difficult events—like when your grandparents were sick, or your parents. Sometimes, even, when you were sick.

What I want you to know is that you are amazing.

And I am so, so grateful that you are a part of this church and this family in faith. And that I get to be your pastor.

I am writing because sometimes—in the midst of everything else that is going on—we forget to talk about the most important things.

Adults are pretty bad about that. We get distracted by feeling like we need to be in charge; feeling like we need to have an opinion. You know, because that’s what adults do—take charge and have opinions. We spend a lot of time—whether it is at church, or home, or the office—talking about things that matter to us…but they aren’t the most important things.

You know—I hope—that God loves you. But that’s just part of it. What is most important is that you know that God doesn’t just love you—but that God likes you—God delights in you. And not because of what you do—but because of who you are.

Maybe that’s obvious, and maybe you’ve heard me or someone else say that to you before, but it’s so important that I can’t say it enough.

I know that you live under a lot of pressure. School, social media, figuring out relationships—with friends, family, girlfriends/boyfriends, where you fit into the world, what you want to do. There’s a lot more for you to manage in your teenage years than there was 25 years ago when I was your age.

And I know what pressure does to people—because I know what it does to me. It can make us feel anxious; that pit you carry in your stomach when it feels like whatever you do, it’s not quite enough; where you feel like who you are as a person—what you are worth, whether you will be successful, whether you will live up to your parents’ expectations, whether or not you will be liked or loved—depends on you getting the things that are stressing you out right.

When I was your age, I remember that about the most unhelpful pieces of advice anyone ever gave me was “don’t stress out.” Like it is that easy. So I’m not going to give you that advice.

But I do want to apologize. Because part of what I think is causing you stress is something that your parents and I helped to create. And to be fair to us, our parents (and your grandparents) helped create it, too. And, to be fair to them, it’s really something that has been in the works for a long time.

I’m afraid we’ve helped create an environment where you are defined by the very things that stress you out: what you look like, how well you do at school, how you compare to other people your age, what career you will choose, how you manage your public image, your reputation.

And I’ll tell you a little secret. All that stuff is what stresses out your parents and me, too. You probably know that—you’re smart and perceptive. You probably watch us comparing you to other people your age. You watch us take our careers too seriously—trying to get ahead. You watch us worry about how we are perceived by others. Sometimes, maybe a lot of times, your parents and I take the things that make us anxious, that stress us out, and we push that stuff right along to you. You know why? It’s because we are trying to stay in control of our own lives…and yours. And that adds pressure that you don’t really need.

Some of you—many of you—are really good…exceptionally good…at managing all of this stress and pressure. And I have no doubt that most of you will sail through this next chapter of your life when you will graduate and go to college and launch a career and be successful and continue making a positive impact on the world.

I know about that. I’ve been there. It feels good to achieve your dreams.

But I also know that even if you have the absolute, most smashing success you could ever hope or dream for—even if you live up to every expectation that somebody else has for you (or you have for yourself)—even then, there will still be a part of you that wonders if you are enough. Because we spend so much of our lives judging and being judged by our successes and against our failures.

So here is what I want to say: God doesn’t just love you. God likes you. God delights in you. And not because of what you do. But because of who you are.

Oh—it’s a hard thing to remember.

And I hope you never doubt it.

But if you do, I want you to come back to the church and I want you to walk into the sanctuary and look into the baptismal font (where you have been baptized). And I want you ask yourself what you did to deserve being called a child of God and someone who is worthy of being saved by Jesus Christ?

The answer is nothing. And that is what makes grace so amazing.

You are all special people.

And I know it can be tough to navigate all you have going on in your lives.

Just remember that I love you—and your church family loves you—just the way you are…and no matter what.

-Pen

July 28, 2017

Day 1

Today was our first full day in Baltimore and we started our day with worship at Faith Presbyterian Church. Experiencing a different type of service showed us that people live in different environments then we do. After the service we went on a justice tour of Baltimore. This tour showed us the various sides of Baltimore and how drastic they can change from block to block. We also saw glimpses of Baltimore that are not always shown on the news.

We still have a full week ahead of us and much more to look forward too. We are extremely excited for this upcoming week of VBS.

-Reid Bond and Brad Hull

 

Day 2

Today the group worked at the camp for the first time. We played with kids in the park from the neighborhood and started to form relationships along the way. Everywhere you looked you could see Charlotte boys giving piggyback rides to children and girls holding kids in their laps.

The love that we saw in the neighborhood inspired energy in us that helped get us through a long, hot day. Grateful for the love and hospitality this neighborhood is sharing with us.

-Ansley Nurkin and Kimberly Morgan

 

Day 3

As the week progresses, our days are going by faster and we are getting to the know the kids better and better. Our relationships with them are strengthening but our bodies are definitely worn out by the many piggy back rides and pushing kids on swings.

Our theme this week has been crossing boundaries and making ourselves aware of the boundaries in both Baltimore and in our hometown. We have not only crossed physical boundaries this week but also boundaries of fear and acceptance. It has been a growing week for all of us and look forward to seeing where God is at work.

-Will Hull and Cam Peterson

Day 4

We have seen God in the children of the community and the many people that are helping them.

God is at work through a lady named Phyllis who is the ambassador of the neighborhood. Her love and care for the McCabe-Woodbourne community is astounding. There is too much to say about her in this post but let’s just say every neighborhood needs a Phyllis.

God is also at work in the methadone clinic that provides services to the neighbors and other homeless addicts in need. As they heal, they nurture the neighborhood garden with one another.

Lastly, no doubt that God is smiling as he observes strangers becoming friends, hearts softening and boundaries dissolving.

-Twyshanti Elmore, Natalie Raygor and Mary Scott Peterson

Day 5

As we reflect on this past week, each of us have been transformed by the children and adults of the McCabe-Woodbourne neighborhood. Each of us left a piece of our heart in the neighborhood where boundaries were crossed, memories were made to never be forgotten and the love of Christ was shared by all.

We truly lived our church’s motto in this city: For Christ in the heart of…Baltimore.

– Natalie Raygor and Mary Scott Peterson

March 30, 2017

Paxton Williamson, a junior at South Mecklenburg High School, has been named the recipient of the Will Appleby Award for Spirit, Dedication, and Leadership.

This lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church is the son of David and Tracy Williamson. Paxton has served on the Youth Council throughout his middle and high school years and has participated in mission trips to Baltimore and Mexico. He is currently in his fourth year as an Ivey Handbell Ringer and has been on three tours with the group to the northeastern US, Canada and Chicago. He is looking forward to their tour of the Pacific Northwest/Canada this summer. Paxton also plays the bass with the youth band on Youth Sunday and serves as an instrumentalist for the Children’s Musical in the spring. Paxton attended the Montreat Youth Conference last summer, where he enjoyed meeting and getting to know youth from across the nation. In middle school, Paxton was asked to speak to the rising sixth graders about his experience in youth group and what it has meant to him. He has also participated in the 30-hour famine with other youth in the Charlotte area. Paxton currently serves as an Impact Group leader for the middle school youth and enjoys participating in PYC service projects.

Paxton follows the tradition Will Appleby set by being an outstanding member of the youth program at First Presbyterian Church. Please join us in congratulating Paxton Williamson!

August 2, 2016

Have you ever gotten together a group of youth who feel passionate about how we can Kingdom-build on earth?

That’s what I did one week this summer—gathered with 5000 Presbyterian high school youth to explore, listen, and share at a national convention called Triennium…so they could then be sent back out into the world to be Christ’s hands and feet.

jen youth on the hill

Being invited to be part of stage leadership for Triennium was a huge gift to me—but it terrified me. I was so nervous about whether God could find a way to use good-ole-average-person Jen, but every time I was on stage, it really was like the Spirit carried me. When I stepped on stage, I knew that God was with me, with them, and creating a space where stage leaders were in conversation with the congregation.

jen rocks

We were in a huge auditorium with two levels of balconies up top. Imagine, for a moment, 5,000 high school youth running to get a great spot in worship, jumping, dancing, singing…shaking the balconies with energy to join together and worship God. It was like Montreat on steroids!jen triennium auditorium

 

I asked God to use me but instead God used them to teach me. Instead, I was intently listening to young people, being fully present with them, laughing, dancing and crying together. They made more than 350 pairs of shoes for children in Uganda, using old jeans, as part of a project called Sole Hope, then taped shoe messages all over the campus.shoes

 

They made a giant light board and filled sidewalks with messages of love and hope!jen sidewalk

 

These youth are the church. We had great conversations around politics, inequality, foreign policy, injustice, and much more—they have a voice and they want to be heard. And, it should be heard.jen lights2

They have some really awesome ideas about how to provide good education for everyone regardless of their street address. How to squash gender inequality. How to move forward on gun ownership & violence. Even how to openly and honestly talk about mental health and identity struggles.jen love wins

 

Sure, youth still have a lot of life lessons to learn. But they also have a perspective that is fresh, different, and valuable. If everyone sees things from the airplane view, we’ll never see the beautiful flowers and watch birds migrate. The view that young people have is just as important as everyone else’s view…not to mention essential if we want to truly be the church.

How can we hear their ideas?  Invite them to be part of every discussion, actively listen to their thoughts, and have the courage to admit when they are right.jen forgive me

Imagine what it would be like to be church if every person had a voice that was heard, young people were part of the everyday life of the church and in the community. I am convinced that before the church or community makes any major decisions, they should have some discussions with a group of youth first.

Here’s what I know: I was changed by this experience.   I saw God. I saw God in their faces, in their ideas, in the ways in which they weren’t afraid to talk about hard topics.

Can you tell my cup runneth over?

– Jen Evans

jen triennium leaders

August 1, 2016

Montreat Youth Conference 3Our final day at Montreat was bittersweet.

The week concluded with a powerful charge to be the change we wish to see in the world. It began at keynote where we were reminded that when we stand together, as a community, we can overpower evil in the world. The keynote leaders exhibited that ordinary, small actions can have incredible ripple effects on the world. This notion was carried over in to small group discussion, prompting many groups into deep personal conversations.

It was sad to say goodbye to all of our friends made throughout the week in small groups, but we remain excited about newly formed relationships.

During the afternoon the seriousness was put aside for a moment while we played our 2nd Annual First Presbyterian Montreat Tennis Tournament. We enjoyed beautiful weather and friendly competition (Alex Glontz was crowned champion).

Lastly, it was time for the candlelight worship service. The service was characterized by a moving final sermon, calling each of us to action. All 1000 of us then gathered around Lake Susan to light candles and sing songs in remembrance of an unbelievable week. First Presbyterian said an emotional goodbye to seven graduated seniors (George Valaoras, Stuart Ayer, Amelia Keesler, Ann Mariah Burton, Alex Glontz, Jackson Proctor, & Harrison Ferone). It capped off an amazing and powerful week.

Until next time… Montreat blog signing off.

-FPC Montreat Youth Group

July 29, 2016

Montreat Youth Conference Lookout MtnOur beautiful Thursday morning started out with keynote in Anderson auditorium. Erika and Laura reflected upon the story of Peter and Jesus and changing perspective. A fellow Montreat attendee, Gavin, shared a powerful testimony of his faith.

After morning small group and a delicious lunch of homemade grilled cheeses by Rob Grier, we all attended afternoon small groups to discuss further about the story of Jesus and Peter. After small group, our group hiked to the peak of Lookout Mountain and experienced amazing views and bonded over our perspectives atop the mountain.

In worship, Billy addressed the importance of having a variety of types of friends and being a listening ear in times of need. We are all looking forward to another great day tomorrow and to the conclusion of our time here in Montreat.

– Ann Mariah Burton, Kimberly Morgan, Alexanne O’dell,

                                                                       Jack Mallory, Alex Ayer, Anna Catherine Pandos

July 28, 2016

Montreat Youth Conference 2Today’s main topic for keynote this morning was Pentecost. We talked about incorporating language and opening our eyes to our church and its importance. We also discussed how the Holy Spirit brings us together under one tongue. After small group, we had our free afternoon in Asheville.

Worship tonight moved us as it discussed using our voice and action to praise God, despite how small we may seem in our world. One of our favorite points today was when Billy said he talked at a church where women aren’t allowed to speak on the stage like the men.  He didn’t think this was fair and he said that he was going to talk below the stage “with his sisters.” Today we also gained an appreciation of our world lens, as stories from small group showed how important your community from childhood is in building the foundations of faith.

– Caroline Dittner, Jackson Proctor, Alex Glontz, Abigail Justis and Grace Guinan

Youth at Montreat 2016Our second day in Montreat proved to be even better than the first. Throughout keynote, small groups, and worship we discussed the importance of family. The keynote speakers challenged us to think about how we can define ourselves uniquely while still keeping our family close to us. At the end of the service, two First Presbyterian Youth (Elizabeth Pandos & Ann Mariah Burton) performed a contemporary dance to further elucidate this message.

Discussions continued in small group in which we could intimately share our own experiences and struggles. This naturally promoted deeper conversation and by the end of the day everyone reported positive small group experiences. The day concluded with Billy leading an awesome, thought-provoking worship service. He shared stories from his past, including the murder of his father, but assured us that we can still write our own stories. In his typical charismatic fashion he dared us to be the best version of ourselves. In his words, “Nobody can beat you at being you!” To which Anderson Auditorium responded with a resounding “Amen!”  It was an amazing day and we cannot wait for tomorrow.

– Harrison Ferone, Davy Rayner, Margaret Lloyd, Elizabeth Pandos, Caroline Keesler