PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (Jan. 29, 2019) -- “My grace is all you need.”
From Friday through Sunday in a darkened convention center with thousands of teenagers listening, the Rev. Jorge Acevedo unpacked a key Bible verse in United Methodist theology, pouring out grandfatherly stories and pausing to speak directly to those struggling with addiction, pornography or thoughts of suicide.
The 34th session of Resurrection, the annual winter spiritual weekend for youth, was held Jan. 25-27 at LeConte Center with 9,000 total in attendance.
The speaker was Acevedo, lead pastor of Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in Southwest Florida. He took what could be a complex understanding of grace, from the heart of Wesleyan and Methodist theology and practice (2 Corinthians 12:9), and broke it down for youth and leaders over four sessions.
“[God] loves you most and he loves you best,” Acevedo said. “There’s nothing you can do to make him love you more, and there’s nothing you can do to make him love you less.”
Using an umbrella diagram and stories from his family and ministry, Acevedo explained how God’s grace covers his children from cradle to grave, “even then, even now, even more, even when.”
“Everywhere we go, God's grace is trying to draw us into a relationship with him,” Acevedo said.
Social-media posts from groups attending Resurrection showed that Acevedo’s message got through.
“Pastor Acevedo explained to our youth the incredible truth that God’s grace is something freely given to each of us,” according to a post from First United Methodist Church of Rogersville, Tennessee, accompanied with a photo of 14 attendees. “God’s grace surrounds us in an overwhelming way from the cradle to the grave ... We pray that all would come to understand this wondrous reality.”
“I know now that God is always with me even in the highs and lows,” one youth posted on Instagram, as she traveled with a group from First Church of God in Monroe, Ohio. “I accepted God this weekend, and I had a breakthrough in my faith.”
Acevedo spoke of the “family business,” addictions shared by his male relatives, and said he has been sober 38 years. His own son has been sober for two years, he said, after sharing some of his son’s experiences.
Acevedo paused during Saturday night’s second session to say that a “Holy Spirit whisper” had revealed that someone in the audience was contemplating suicide. He asked that person or persons to “please talk to someone” in their groups.
Laura McLean, Holston Conference associate director of connectional ministries, said she heard from two youth leaders who had been approached by students in response to Acevedo’s plea.
Worship music was led by I Am They, a five-member band originally from Carson City, Nevada, returning to Resurrection for the second year. The band’s name was inspired by John 17. “As Jesus prays in this chapter, he consistently refers to them as ‘they,’” the band explains in their promotional materials. “It is important to each band member to be the ‘they’ that Jesus referred to.”
The band played songs by other artists, including “Alive” by Hillsong Young and Free, and “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury, as well as original songs including, “My Feet are on the Rock” and “The Water Meant for Me.”
During one of many peak moments, a video showed the band members testifying of their individual sins or weaknesses, coupled with the live sharing of their song, “Scars.” (“So I'm thankful for the scars, ‘cause without them I wouldn't know your heart.”)
Other weekend highlights included warm-up dances led by Camp Lookout Director Don Washburn, a favorite activity for many years at Resurrection, and top youth talent as chosen by peers in each of Holston’s nine districts. (See related story.)
Bishop Dindy Taylor, resident bishop of the Holston Annual Conference, celebrated Holy Communion on Sunday morning.
In between worship, message and music at LeConte Center, youth groups spent free time enjoying tourist attractions and restaurants in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, while lodging in Sevier County’s numerous hotels and cabins.
Resurrection participants gave $28,797 to a Youth Service Fund offering that will support development of a new event, “Resurrection Costa Rica,” scheduled Oct. 11-13 in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. This year's offering was an increase over the 2018 offering of $17,853. (See related story.)
Among 500 total youth groups attending, the majority were United Methodist. About 50 groups were not United Methodist but Baptist, Presbyterian, Church of God or non-denominational, according to Amy Gattis, registrar. About 25 groups traveled from other United Methodist conferences in Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Resurrection 2020 will be held Jan. 24-26. “Our team will meet in March to start planning for next year’s event,” said McLean.
Contact Annette Spence at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See archived videos of Resurrection 2019.
Resurrection gets new life with Costa Rican event this fall (The Call, 1.30.19)
Student talents showcased at Resurrection (The Call, 1.31.19)
Resurrection 2018: Billups preaches 'work in progress' to 10,000 (The Call, 1.24.18)
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.