It’s time again for one of my absolute favorite weekends - the Spring Youth Retreat at La Foret.
This time, our theme is “We Built This City,” inspired by the Starship song and the idea of building beloved community. Logan Bennett, the Director of Transformational Programs, often tells the students that their time at La Foret is their chance to imaginatively create a space that reflects the world they want to see. Our hope is that this weekend, we will lean in to this kind of dreaming with special intention.
Of course, we will spend the weekend doing the typical camp activities - scavenger hunts, crafts, games, hiking, Frisbee golf, and my personal favorite, chill time. But we also have some really strong theme-related activities planned for the weekend.
First, we will give the students space for collaboration and imagination as they craft a city together. Then, we will spend time thinking about the ways we as individuals are gifted and important for contributing to our beloved communities. I rewrote a spiritual gifts workshop specifically for this weekend. Finally, students will be challenged to encourage each other by naming the ways they see each other’s gifts. In other words, they will be filling each other’s cups in beloved community so they can be sent out into being agents of wholeness in their contexts.
I want the students to feel valued and inspired. We have such a unique opportunity to empower a generation of brilliant, empathetic dreamers and doers. I hope their home churches will continue partnering in this work after the weekend is over. This will be my third youth retreat with our UCC Rocky Mountain Conference camp, and we’re bringing the largest bunch of students so far!
We’ll be driving down Friday afternoon and back up Sunday midday, so please pray for our travels, our health, and for our time together.
We’re so excited!
This weekend, Mike and I are taking a handful of Plymouth students to the Fall Youth Retreat at La Foret. Our theme for the weekend will be Folklore and Wisdom, where we will explore big truths within all different kinds of stories. I was tasked with developing a discussion workshop, specifically around our faith stories. The Bible contains several different kinds of stories, and I wonder how some of these may be compared to “folklore.” I wonder how some of these stories have changed over time and been misinterpreted, misunderstood, or misused. I want to look at one story in particular, Jacob Wrestles God (from Genesis 32, CEB):
22 Jacob got up during the night, took his two wives, his two women servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed the Jabbok River’s shallow water. 23 He took them and everything that belonged to him, and he helped them cross the river. 24 But Jacob stayed apart by himself, and a man wrestled with him until dawn broke. 25 When the man saw that he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and tore a muscle in Jacob’s thigh as he wrestled with him. 26 The man said, “Let me go because the dawn is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.” 27 He said to Jacob, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.” 29 Jacob also asked and said, “Tell me your name.” But he said, “Why do you ask for my name?” and he blessed Jacob there. 30 Jacob named the place Peniel, “because I’ve seen God face-to-face, and my life has been saved.” 31 The sun rose as Jacob passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh.
In Godly Play, we are encouraged to approach the stories of our faith with wondering questions. This story stirs up several wondering questions for me. I wonder if these events literally happened exactly as written here? I wonder if that matters? I wonder why it mattered that Jacob’s thigh was injured and that he limps now? I wonder what this story means? I wonder what this story means for you? What wondering questions do you have?
For the last few weeks, we have been talking about what we mean when we say, “We are Plymouth.” I believe Plymouth is a place where people can wrestle with God. I believe Plymouth is a place where transformation can happen. We spent some time in youth group this weekend talking about our Plymouth community. The students agreed that our Plymouth community is deeply valuable, but they also expressed that its value is in the intangible. We may not always be able to articulate who we are or why that matters. But within loving community – like Plymouth, or La Foret – we have a great place to be working that out.
Brooklyn McBride is Plymouth's Director of Christian Formation for Children & Youth. Brooklyn has served in local church and student ministries for the past several years. A native of northern Colorado, Brooklyn has professional experience leading in worship, youth, and children’s programs. Read her full bio here.
The theme of this year’s Spring Youth Retreat was “Stories.” While retreating in the gorgeous Black Forest, we spent our time focused on learning what it means to co-create our own stories with God, mostly by learning from each other. I had a great time building new and old relationships with other leaders and students across the UCC Rocky Mountain Conference. But on the first night, the camp staff reminded the adult leaders that the weekend was all about the campers first. So with that spirit in mind, I interviewed one of our students for this week’s reflection. I hope you enjoy this perspective as much as I did.
Q: What do you want the church to know about the retreat?
A: The retreat was so fun and super inclusive. The community and environment was so accepting, and it just felt like one big family. I made new connections right away! I honestly would love to go back.
Q: What did you learn?
A: The stories shared really gave a different perspective as well. it helped me learn that everyone comes from a different background, but they grow and change.
Q: At Plymouth, we call some spiritual or Divine experiences “God sightings.” Did you have any “God sightings” this weekend?
A: There was a moment in the chapel when stories were being shared where I genuinely felt the Divine’s/God’s presence. It was very powerful. It was almost like God was being shown through the stories, which made me feel like He was watching and giving people the courage to share their story.
Q: Traditionally at La Foret, the older students lead all the younger students in a processional towards the chapel for worship. It’s a deeply reverent walk around the whole campground. Students were carrying flashlights and singing old hymns. What was it like for you to help lead the processional?
A: It felt like one big family/community just genuinely connecting with God as well as each other. God’s presence was shown through the songs and connections. It’s hard to explain, but in a way it felt like everyone was at peace, and everyone was thankful to be able to connect with God through each other.
Q: What is one big idea you’re taking away from the retreat?
A: It is really easy to assume someone’s background story just by looking at them. And even though this is a very human thing to do, that doesn’t make it right. Everyone comes from a different background, but in the end we can always find support through each other and God. Community is very important. If you find one that’s accepting and inclusive, it’s the easiest to find God through it because it opens your eyes and makes you feel like you can have these connections without feeling judged. Instead of assuming, ask questions. It’s important to ask questions within someone’s comfort zone because it can help you really understand them better without assuming where they come from.
Brooklyn is Plymouth's Director of Christian Formation for Children & Youth. Brooklyn has served in local church and student ministries for the past several years. A native of northern Colorado, Brooklyn has professional experience leading in worship, youth, and children’s programs. Read her full bio here.