It happens every July for a week on a Holston college campus: Youth gather for fun and a deeper spiritual experience at an event called Junior High and Senior High Assembly.
This year, Assembly happened July 6-10 at Emory & Henry College. Attendance included 120 senior high youth, 42 junior high youth, 33 staff members. Fifty-one churches were represented.
Knowing that a lot of fascinating information gets passed between youth on Facebook, we located one of our most faithful and asked her to tell us what really goes on at Assembly. Here, 16-year-old Remy from Johnson City District responds in The Call's first-ever interview conducted on Facebook.
THE CALL: You wrote on Facebook that Assembly was "amazing" and you are "sad that it's over." Why? What makes Assembly amazing compared to any other thing you might do in summer?
REMY: Assembly is one of those remarkable experiences that you don't see everyday. The worship there never ends, and it seems to supersede every activity that anyone is doing, whether it is eating, sleeping, actually in worship, taking pictures, or watching the baby ducks.
Even though going to the beach or Gatlinburg might be fun, it doesn't compare to this feeling. Assembly is also like the biggest family reunion I've ever seen. You get to see old friends from years past, as well as build relationships with others. That "family" feeling creates a safe place for everyone.
THE CALL: Describe a moment or activity when you totally felt close to God or in a "worshipful" attitude. What was happening to make that moment a "God moment"?
REMY: To be honest, the whole week really felt that way, no matter what we were doing. The strongest moments, though, happened in the student- led worship.
Student-led worship is a time when the worship arts interest groups have a chance to offer what they worked on all week. It was amazing to see the songwriting groups lead everyone in worship with the songs they wrote, or the videography group display their pictures/videos of various forms of worship, or the drama team offer their amazing skits. Each of those groups, as different as they are, showed examples of the many kinds of worship experiences. No matter what it is, God takes it all.
THE CALL: We have so many youth at Resurrection (more than 10,000), and relatively few at Assembly (165). Why the difference between the two? Would Assembly be better if there were more youth attending?
REMY: Resurrection is a more advertised event, whereas Assembly -- you only know about it if you know someone on CCYM or happen to see the promotional videos at Resurrection.
Also, Assembly is a time to get to know other people in the conference instead of sticking with your youth group. This might scare some people who are more shy. It would be great if more people attended Assembly, but if it became as big as Resurrection, it wouldn't maintain its "family feeling."
THE CALL: Explain the family groups that you have at Assembly.
Family groups are perhaps the best part of Assembly. Family groups consist of a "mother" and "father," who are usually Holston Conference youth leaders. They lead games and sermon discussions after each worship service. They also lead gender-based devotions in the evening.
Each family group includes youth who are either the same age as you or within a year of your age. The reason the family groups are so great -- they connect you with others your age, build friendships, and give you a safe place to talk about your feelings.
THE CALL: OK, here are three questions at once!
* Tell us about the food at Assembly: The best thing you ate, and the worst thing you ate?
* Tell us something that made you LOL!
* If you could change one thing about Assembly, what would it be?
The food was so much better than last year at Hiwassee College. I was disappointed that they only served biscuits one day, though. The best thing we had was grilled cheese sandwiches and seasoned french fries. There really wasn't anything bad.
Meal times were consistently full of laughter! But I also had fun playing pranks on my family group "father," and we had a grass/ice fight during the carnival. Also, the word of the week was "shenanigans," as declared by some of the senior/college freshmen boys. Any time that word was said, the boys would stand up and say, "Ahhhh! She said it!" which led to a lot of laughter.
If I could change one thing about Assembly, it would most definitely be to make it last longer than four days.
THE CALL: Finally, The United Methodist Church is greatly concerned about keeping young people in our churches, but also, reaching more young people. If there is anything you could say about why we might be failing in this area, what would it be?
REMY: For youth who have not grown up in a church or who struggle with faith, things that are too "churchy" can be intimidating for them. A good way to reach out to those youth is through church-sponsored, safe activities that don't require you to be a Bible buff or lifelong Christian. Just simple lock-ins or bowling nights can be the seeds that those youth need. Once the seed is planted, though, those deeper activities -- like Bible study or faith discussions -- need to occur to maintain young people in the church.