Resurrection attended by 4,000: 'One faith, one hope, one Lord'

Resurrection attended by 4,000: 'One faith, one hope, one Lord'

Rev. Stephanie Hand leads a "Holy Ghost party" cheer on the LeConte Center stage at Resurrection on Saturday night. Screengrab courtesy of The Adams Group/ Streamline Productions.

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. – A few days after preaching to 4,000 youth and their leaders at Resurrection, the Rev. Stephanie Hand was still in awe of seeing so many young people joyfully worshiping God and responding to his call on their lives.

“It filled me up,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I experienced something in a grandiose way."

On Jan. 20-22, 195 groups from Holston Conference and beyond poured into LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge for the 38th annual winter spiritual weekend for youth known as Resurrection.

The Friday-night-through-Sunday-morning gathering included four worship sessions spread out through the weekend, with time gaps for youth to discuss the messages and take in tourist attractions with their own small groups. The theme was “One Faith, One Hope, One Lord,” based on Ephesians 4:4-6.

Hand, a United Methodist clergy member of the Western North Carolina Conference, shared her life story while preaching Bible stories with applications to teenagers’ lives, including the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6: 1-15), and Israel’s rebellion against God’s promise (Numbers 14: 1-9). She carried a basketball on stage, preached while pacing through the audience, and led youth in “Ain’t no party like a Holy Ghost party” cheers.
Youth crowd the stage during music
by Frvr Free. Photo by Annette Spence

“The energy in the room is transformative,” Hand said after a “Holy Ghost” cheer that had students dancing and rushing to the stage. “Does anybody feel God is in the building today?”

Participants were invited to dedicate or re-dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ, resulting in hundreds coming forward. Another invitation to pursue a lifetime call to ministry resulted in about 75 responses, Hand said. (Respondents are encouraged to fill out this form for follow-up support.)

“The data says the church is shrinking, but today I declare and decree that the church might be purging, but God’s church is going to be stronger because of these young people,” Hand said from the stage Saturday night.

Several youth leaders praised the weekend’s message, saying it had reached their youth members.
Meadowview/ Shady Grove pose for a
shot. Photo courtesy of Dalton Richardson

"I think the spiritual highlight for the group was the Saturday session,” said the Rev. Dalton Richardson, who led 17 participants from Meadowview United Methodist Church (Meadowview, Va.) and Shady Grove United Methodist Church (Abingdon, Va.) “I think the message especially resonated with some of my kids, and a few of us had very fruitful discussions afterward.”

At Keith Memorial United Methodist Church this Sunday, seven people have asked to be baptized and at least four are preparing to become new members in response to last weekend’s Resurrection experience, said the Rev. Melissa Smith, senior pastor at the Athens, Tennessee, church. “I think we’ll have more.”

Sawyer Jaszewski, age 11, said the messages had “deep meaning” for him. “It speaks out a lot about God and how he’s good and how he can turn bad things into good,” said Jaszewki, who attended with Auburn United Methodist Church in Riner, Virginia.
Youth line up to get photos with a singer
from Frvr Free. Photo by Annette Spence

The seven-member band Frvr Free from Athens, Georgia, led worship for the first time at Resurrection, with songs including “Beautiful Day (House of the Lord)” and “If You Say So.” The musicians danced, rapped and prayed with students who were allowed to crowd around the stage again after three years of COVID restrictions.

“My group loved it all: The band, speaker and especially being able to go to the stage and worship,” Donna Calhoun posted on Holston’s Facebook page, representing Benton United Methodist Church in Benton, Tennessee.
Bishop Wallace-Padgett (right) puts her 
hand to the saw. Screengrab from The
Adams Group/ Streamline Productions

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett participated not only by talking with students and celebrating Holy Communion during Sunday’s closing worship. She also took the handle of a giant saw, along with the Rev. Hugh Kilgore, to slice a log during an on-stage activity led by a Resurrection sponsor, Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud attraction.

An offering of $7,331 was collected to support the ministry of missionary Militsa De Gyves in translating the Bible for the KaKataibo tribe in Peru’s Amazon jungle. (To give, send check to Holston Conference, P.O. Box 850, Alcoa, TN 37701, with “Resurrection 23 Offering” on the memo line.)

Talent groups representing each of Holston’s nine districts offered their gifts. Presenters included McFerrin United Methodist Church (Appalachian District) with a black-light hand mime presentation to “Crazy People,” and keyboardist A.J. Cantrell of Floyd United Methodist Church (New River District), singing “Tin Roof.”
Ehlii Castillo of the Conference Council 
on Youth Ministries shares info on
the KaKataibo tribe for the offering.
Photo by Annette Spence

In addition to purchasing Resurrection T-shirts, participants were invited to visit exhibitors before and after sessions, including Holston Conference camps, Emory & Henry Spiritual Life, Holston Wesley Foundations, and Jubilee Project in Sneedville, Tennessee.

Resurrection organizers provided accessibility to people with hearing disabilities through a sign-language interpreter and to Spanish-speakers through translation shared through headphones.

The majority of the 195 youth groups attended from United Methodist churches in Holston, although 23 groups traveled from annual conferences in other states, including Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, and West Virginia, according to Amy Gattis, registrar. Some groups represented Presbyterian, Baptist, Church of God and Church of Christ churches.

A few youth groups attended from Holston churches that have recently voted to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. His own church's decision didn't change the experience, said Eli Bray, a young-adult leader of a group from Elm Springs, Old Union, and Lebanon United Methodist Churches in Church Hill, Tennessee.

“There was absolutely no feeling of division when I was there. It wasn’t even mentioned. We were worshiping God, which is all that mattered,” he said.

Bray, whose home church Elm Springs has announced an intent to separate from the denomination, said he answered the call-to-ministry invitation at Resurrection. He plans to pursue his calling in The United Methodist Church.
Rev. Hand and Bishop Wallace-Padgett
celebrate Holy Communion at closing
worship. Photo by Annette Spence

In a phone interview after the weekend, Hand said the participation of disaffiliating churches was “beautiful and speaks volumes.” She said the disagreements over human sexuality in The United Methodist Church are part of an “adult fight."

“This is an adult fight, and right in the middle of this adult fight about who is in and who is out and why, Resurrection became a safe space where young people could say, ‘I can be myself and be the fullest of myself in this safe space.’ … There is a groundswell of young people saying we want to know Jesus Christ, and we don’t know how to make disciples for the transformation of the world, but we’re ready to lay down our lives for it.”

Resurrection 2023 livestream recordings are available on Vimeo.

Sign up for a free weekly email subscription to The CallHolston Conference includes 842 United Methodist congregations in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia. Holston Conference's main offices are located in Alcoa, Tennessee.



Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.

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