In 2016, Connectional Ministries staff initiated a program for the Young Adult Members of Annual Conference and re-established a program for the Youth Members of Annual Conference as a way to help them be involved and better understand the proceedings of the 2016 North Alabama Annual Conference.
The Young Adult Caucus was created for Young Adult Members of Annual Conference. This group was comprised of the 18-30 year old lay members from each district, Wesley Foundation / Wesley Fellowship students from each North Alabama campus ministry serving as Annual Conference members, and a young adult clergy member. The group was guided by Conference staff members Emily Chastain and John Fleischauer and by volunteers Rev. Clay Farrington and Rev. Arthur Harrison. The caucus met twice before Annual Conference and convened on Saturday prior to the opening of Annual Conference. In these gathering the group discussed the 2016 General Conference and business coming before the North Alabama Conference.
Below two Young Adult Caucus members share their experiences.
From Marian Royston, Young Adult Member (Southeast District):
This year’s Annual Conference in Huntsville was only the second time that I’d attended the conference. The experience, however, was radically different than last year’s. Of course, the venue was different, but the primary difference for me was the fact that I was given the opportunity to participate in the Young Adult Caucus (YAC). The YAC came along with a sweet fellowship that made the entire conference experience better.
I spent the 2015 Annual Conference surrounded by other ladies from my district who served as wonderful mentors and guides through the process of Annual Conference (AC). From registration to navigating the area to understanding what was happening during sessions. But, the question playing in the back of my mind was—where are all of the people my age?
This year, my silent question was answered with the YAC. Before AC, we met a few times to learn about the ins and outs of North Alabama Methodism. Those meetings proved to be incredibly helpful; they answered questions that I didn’t even know I needed to ask!
Overall, I would describe AC as inspiring. Our guests were uplifting and dynamic, and the celebrations for all of our North Alabama ministries were absolutely beautiful. There are two aspects of AC that stick out in my mind the most. The first is floor discussions during voting. It was clear that our church has much diversity in perspective, philosophy, and ideology. The debates were robust but respectful. I found our ability to respectfully disagree with one another to be my favorite Conference experience. It showed that we understand that we are greater than our weaknesses and our strength is in our unity. Surely, the Holy Spirit was in our midst.
The second highlight for me was when Rev. R.G. Lyons accepted the Louise Branscomb Barrier Breaker Award. His speech brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. I’m proud to be a member of a church that supports individuals like and allows for them to undertake such important and innovative work. Moreover, I love the fact that the North Alabama Conference takes our call to justice and mercy seriously.
Being able to go through AC with the YAC made the experience even more special. Not only was I able to be inspired and encouraged, but I was able to do so alongside new friends. I don’t know if I’d have ever met other members of the YAC if I hadn’t been asked to participate. My district is rural and my home church is very small, so there have been few opportunities for me to meet and fellowship with others my age within the North Alabama Conference. I truly cherish the friendships that I was able to make and am overwhelming thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the YAC. Because of that fellowship and my overall conference experience, I believe that the future for North Alabama is very bright, and I am proud to be a part.
From Jessi Hobson, Wesley Fellowship Member (Athens State University):
Honestly, annual conference was nothing like I expected it to be. I felt very involved, included, and important. The experience of being a representative for the Wesley Fellowship of Athens State was very rewarding. I am glad it was held at the Von Braun Civic Center. My drive there was very convenient and I did not have to stay in a hotel. The accommodations made for the young adults was also amazing, all of our meals were paid for in advance.
Allowing the young adults to vote on business matters and allowing us to sit in on the discussions during the voting process was the neatest experience for me. I felt like I had a voice, and I felt like my voice mattered to the conference. The part that was the most frustrating was hearing all of the reports about things we did not know about, that did not make sense, and seems like they were never going to end.
All in all I would love to go back to annual conference next year to represent Athens State. It was a very enjoyable opportunity and an opportunity to help me grow in my call to serve The Lord. Since annual conference I have decided to start the ordination process and go down the deacon route. I am very excited to start this journey and also excited to be able to go to many annual conferences for years to come.
The Youth Caucus was reorganized and led by Rev. Wade Langer and Laura Sisson. Youth members, aged 12-18, represent each district of the Annual Conference. Youth members met throughout the 2016 Annual Conference to discuss Conference business, its ramifications, as well as, to discover possible outcomes within their local churches.
Below one of this year’s Youth Caucus members shares her experience.
From Emily Kate Hayes, Youth Member (Northwest District):
The youth members, at first glance, seemed to be nothing more than a motley of teenagers dressed in their Sunday best sitting in the back of Von Braun’s North Hall. We were total strangers from various regions of Alabama: a ragtag bunch of cyclists, aspiring pastors, musicians, and babysitters with, at times, contrasting personalities. In another situation, we may have avoided each other completely. How did we accomplish anything? The answer is found in the reason we agreed to attend Annual Conference: we came together through of our faith and dedication to our home churches.
During Annual Conference, we spent most of our time discussing and debating the issues raised during the meetings. Our conversations also consisted of a few gallons of coffee, personal anecdotes that veered completely off topic, and Q&A sessions with Wesley Foundation leaders (and our chaperones for the conference) Wade Langer and Laura Sisson about Methodism, colleges, and ordination. We brainstormed new ways to better our home churches and youth groups and listened to each others’ stories of programs that succeeded or failed. We learned more about our faith, our denomination, and each other throughout the conference. The main accomplishments the youth members reached was the expansion of our own perceptions and the awareness we brought of youth activities to the conference.
Due to overwhelming response and the excitement of all involved, Youth and Young Adult Caucus experiences will be a part of Annual Conference 2017. If you know of a youth (ages 12-18) or a young adult (ages 18-30) who is interested in being a member of the 2017 Annual Conference and would be interested in participating, please contact your district office or local Wesley Foundation / Wesley Fellowship!