Last dance for Divine Rhythm: New event planned for ages 18-35

After 18 years, Divine Rhythm will dance no more.

Holston Conference’s winter spiritual weekend for young adults has been discontinued and will not be scheduled in 2020, the design team has announced.

However, a new spiritual gathering for young adults is in the works for 2021, a collaboration of six southeastern United Methodist annual conferences, including Holston.

The decision to allow Divine Rhythm 2019 to be the last was based on “decreased attendance, and of course, that affects financing,” said Laura McLean, associate director of connectional ministries for youth and young adults.

Held in Mills Auditorium in Gatlinburg Feb. 1-3, Divine Rhythm was attended by about 300, McLean said.

Attendance at the annual event peaked at about 770 between 2007 and 2009 and has dwindled since.

Thomas Hammontree, chair of the Divine Rhythm design team, said the decision will provide space for envisioning a new creation. Holston leaders of young adult ministry will collaborate with ministry leaders in the North Alabama, North Georgia, South Carolina, Western North Carolina, and Tennessee Conferences.

“Although it feels weird not having an event next year, we know this is the best thing to do,” he said. “[This] gives us more time to strategize and plan an event that meets the increasing spiritual needs of young adults and college students, not just in Holston but throughout the region.”

Adults ages 18 to 35 can be a challenging group to create ministries for, McLean said.

“Young adults tend to be in different stages of life,” she said. “A person who went from high school to college has different experiences than a person who’s moved from high school to the workforce. A 20-year-old with children is different than a 20-year-old living in a dorm.”

As ministry leaders plan a new spiritual event, they will focus less on ages and more on life stages, McLean said. An announcement about the new regional gathering is expected by the end of 2019.

Divine Rhythm started in 2001 as a more mature spin-off of Resurrection, Holston’s winter retreat for youth. The winter weekend for young adults was held in late January or early February in Gatlinburg 2001-2004; in Pigeon Forge 2005-2012; and back in Gatlinburg 2013-2019.

Speakers over the years included Bishop Sally Dyck, Bishop Lindsey Davis, Bishop James Swanson, the Rev. Lisa Yebuah, the Rev. Arnetta Beverly, the Rev. Olu Brown, the Rev. Jasmine Smothers, and the Rev. Rob Fuquay. Worship music leaders have included Wayne Kerr, Casey Darnell, Elias Dummer, and The Digital Age.

Divine Rhythm participants have donated blood; collected peanut butter for local pantries; collected Frisbees, balls, and hackey sacks for Sudanese children; packed meals for hungry nations; cleaned up and repaired local homes; collected health kits for tsunami survivors; and collected health kits for earthquake survivors. They donated hundreds of dollars for scholarships to allow others to attend Divine Rhythm.

“I and so many others have been impacted by Divine Rhythm,” Hammontree said, “but we want to challenge ourselves to make the event a positive and life-changing experience for a new age of college students and young adults.”

 “Divine Rhythm has been fantastic over the years,” McLean said. “We’ve seen people have life transformations and form incredible bonds through it. It’s sad to see the end of that, but with something new on the horizon, it’s also a very exciting time.”