Youth Assembly round-up: 27-29 January 2023

Ninety-seven young people and ecumenical guests gathered at Whitemoor Lakes in Staffordshire for Youth Assembly 2023, held  from 27-29 January.

The meeting kicked off Children’s and Youth Work’s year of ‘Love Is…’ and featured a lively weekend of worship, discussion, fellowship, music, exploring how we love God, our neighbour and ourselves in ways that make a difference.

Topics on the agenda included encouraging local churches to offer quiet spaces, signposting people impacted by substance misuse to support and help, developing or supporting local warm spaces, and building relationships and partnerships with other churches to share resources.

Also at the meeting, the process for Youth Assembly to nominate candidates for General Assembly Moderator was approved, a new role of Champion for Younger United Reformed Church (URC) Youth was established, and a Gender and Sexual Identity Discrimination Task Force was set up.

A deeply concerned discussion was held about the increasing threats and worsening conditions for Palestinians living under Israel occupation, however Youth Assembly concluded that members did not believe they had sufficient knowledge and understanding of the situation to decide the motion under discussion. This will be followed up with opportunities to learn more across the year so the discussion can resume at Youth Assembly 2024.

A highlight for many on Saturday night was a set from double MOBO award-winning rapper, author, and broadcaster Guvna B. This flowed beautifully into a reflective late night Communion Service lead by the Revd Fiona Bennett, General Assembly Moderator.

Heather Moore, of the Southern Synod was elected Moderator-Elect 2023-2024, and Philippa Osei, of the Thames North Synod, was inducted as URC Youth Assembly Moderator 2023-2024, becoming the first Youth Assembly Moderator from a BAME background. A new Youth Executive was also elected.

Jo Harris, National Synod of Wales, concluded her outgoing speech with the following encouragement to everyone attending:

“You’ve got to dance like there’s nobody watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like there’s nobody listening, and live like it’s heaven on earth. Go now and live today being unapologetically you.”

The URC Youth Leaders’ Gathering ran alongside Youth Assembly for the second year, with 22 youth leaders attending. They joined in worship, Guvna B’s set and a business session, as well as having their own programme which included sessions lead by the Revd Paul Nash, Senior Chaplain at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

The youth leaders commented on how valuable this was and asked for it become a regular event going forwards.