Last Updated on 13 February 2024 by Ann-Marie Nye
“Story, Story, Story” was the theme of United Reformed Church Youth Assembly 2024, held at Whitemore Lakes in Staffordshire between 26-28 January.
Throughout the weekend, Youth Assembly explored the theme through personal storytelling and engaged in a range of workshops from drama, short-form video, and Bible study.
Two keynotes were delivered by the Revd Rosalind Selby and Tessa Henry-Robinson which helped members of Youth Assembly to ponder their place in God’s story but also God’s place in theirs, as well as what it means to be created in God’s image.
There were opportunities to learn more about Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory with a live link up with Samuel in Jerusalem for a workshop and Bible study.
Hilarious late-night entertainment by poet Harry Baker allowed Youth Assembly to hear other stories. A mix of different late-night activities including Godly Play and Lego Church, sports and games, ensured there was plenty to do in the evening.
At Youth Assembly 2024, Heather Moore was inducted as Youth Assembly Moderator 2024-2025.
Heather said: “I’m thrilled to be taking over the role of Moderator for the next year. Obviously, we have a massive change ahead of us as Youth Assembly moves to a later date and new venue, but this presents us with a fantastic opportunity to try new things with the program and move the event in a new direction.
“In my role I also hope to increase and strengthen our ecumenical relationships, hopefully with the planning of a new event for young people. Overall, though, my hope is that Youth Assembly and other URC Youth spaces are a place where young people can gather in fellowship and grow in their relationship with God as their authentic selves.”
Maya Withall of Wessex Synod was elected Moderator-Elect 2024-2025.
Maya is 17-years-old and is currently at college studying English, product design and geography. May plans to study law at university with the aspiration to becoming an environmental lawyer. She became a Christian through her local Pilots Company and has been part of the URC since she was seven. Maya has been Wessex Synod Rep on the Youth Executive for the past three years and the Green Apostle, engaging with the URC Net Zero task group and other environmental projects. When not at school or college Maya enjoys reading, watching TV and always has at least three crochet projects on the go. Maya cannot wait to begin her work as Moderator-Elect with the new Youth Executive.
Maya said: “Coming from a non-Christian background the URC has been where I found and grew faith. I am passionate about enabling other young people to do this.”
Jadan Turner of North Western Synod was elected Assembly Executive and General Assembly Rep.
Jadan is 18-years-old and currently a business admin apprentice at her local council, where she is developing skills in communication and understanding how larger organisations work. In her spare time, Jadan plays with a first section brass band and enjoys watching motorsports. Jadan has attended General Assembly twice and her confidence has grown from just being present and voting, to contributing to the discussions and asking questions.
Jadan said: “Having been involved with my local church and the wider synod, I have developed a passion for the voice of the youth within the URC being heard, and to make sure that they feel empowered in the same way that I do.”
Items on Youth Assembly 2024’s agenda:
Updates on resolutions and discussions from 2023:
- Disability Awareness task group
Developing conversation starters for churches to use which will be available on the URC Education & Learning Hub later this year
- Quiet Spaces task group
Work was carried out with the Revd Dr Alex Clare Young to create guidance on Family friendly Church pages of URC website.
- Support for those affected by the substance misuse resolution and mental health awareness campaign led into the creation of a poster for churches to download. Download the poster for free here.
- Equalities and Diversity Reps now sit on URC Equalities Committee
- A Gender and Sexual Identity Discrimination task group has established good working relationships with Open Table Network, Inclusive Church, One body One Faith, Switchboard, Stonewall and The Proud Trust to create a resource which will go on the URC website later this year
- URC Youth helped shape the resolution passed at General Assembly 2023 affirming the human dignity of transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people
- URC Youth worked with Mission Committee on the resolution passed at General Assembly 2023 endorsing measures for ecumenical working and resource sharing
- Youth Assembly was reminded that they now have the ability to nominate candidates for the role of General Assembly Moderator
URC Youth Review
Youth Assembly 2022 tasked Youth Executive with forming a task group that would review the running of Youth Executive as well as the wider URC Youth, including a review of the racial diversity of URC Youth Executive. This group comprised of six to eight people, including a chair who was not a member of the URC Youth and would report back to Youth Assembly with their findings and proposed responses.
Thanks were expressed to the Revd Fran Kissack, the Chair, and the review group for all their work. Their findings and recommendations were as follows:
- Consider having more motions submitted in advance
- Suggest having workshops that inform debate, and having ways to explore issues outside of formal debates
- Consider whether other events are needed for URC Youth
- Consider if the role of moderator has become too big
- Suggest developing support for members of Youth Exec
- Suggest having clearer expectations of Synod Youth representatives
- Suggest involving those outside Youth Exec more in working groups
- Recognise that racial diversity in roles is a denomination wide issue rather than specifically URC Youth issue, and note progress made in this regard
The Youth Executive have already taken the following steps:
- Encouraging motions to be submitted in advance
- Provided a greater variety of discussion formats and opportunities eg holding cake and debate late night session for more open debate
- In conversation with other denominations about another youth event
- Have rewritten the guidance for Synod Youth Reps
- Will discuss responsibilities and support options with the new Youth Exec
- Improving communication between the CYDO+ team and Youth Exec
- Will be inviting non-Youth Executive people to join working groups, especially those following up on motions
URC Youth Assembly 2024 Resolutions:
- URC Youth Assembly encourages local churches to engage with Student Christian Movement’s Honest Church campaign.
This motion was passed by consensus.
- Youth Assembly encourages General Assembly to request that the Mission Committee investigates and develops further connections and collaborations with just peace-focused organisations and Churches in Occupied Palestine and Israel.
In addition, Youth Assembly encourages churches to educate congregations
This motion was passed by consensus.
- URC Youth Assembly instructs Youth Executive to work with Children and Youth Work Committee to look at the roles and responsibilities of the URC Youth Assembly Moderator, and the potential for making this a paid role.
- URC Youth Assembly also instructs Youth Executive to work with Children and Youth Work and Committee to look at the roles and responsibilities of the Youth Executive.
- URC Youth Assembly requests feedback from Youth Executive at Youth Assembly 2025 with their findings
This motion was passed by consensus.
Outgoing Youth Moderator, Philippa Osei 2023-2024
In her end-of-term speech, Philippa Osei, who made history by becoming Youth Assembly’s first BAME Moderator, said: “It’s the end! I am both relieved and grateful and also sad to be leaving this pivotal period of my life so far. I came to this role reluctantly, not seeing what others saw in me and how much I had to give. Through the encouragement of my friends here at Youth Assembly, I took it on and do not regret my decision.
“I’ve done so much this year, from organising Youth Assembly to attending Greenbelt and hosting events at the youth tent. I’ve been to Palestine and Switzerland for Ecumenical events, which have brought me closer to my faith and have expanded my mind so much. The skills I have gained over the past two years as Moderator-Elect and then moderator will serve me well going forward.
“I give all the glory to God.”
The weekend came to a close with the induction of the new Youth Executive who will pave the way for a different Youth Assembly with the change of venue next year to Kings Park Conference Centre in Northampton.