This past week the Christian Regional Youth Festival wrapped up its' 42nd year in the Mid-America Region, with thirty-five youth and adult leaders gathering for four days of fun, love, acceptance, learning, and leadership. The theme this year was 'Be the rEVOLution' based on Proverbs 10:12 "Hate stirs up conflict, but love covers all offenses."
CRY participants were honored to welcome Rev. Ayanna Johnson Watkins as their keynote speaker; Rev. Watkins came to CRY from Memphis, TN where she is currently the Director of the NBA Incubate Initiative with the greater Christian Church DOC. Also joining CRY to lead workshops such as Teen Drama, Sexual Integrity, Reading the Bible Seriously...Not Literally, Worship Planning, Ways to Pray, and Social Justice & Activism were Rev. Brian Kirk, DeShay Jackson, RN Micheal Coats, Rev. Rhonda Aldridge, Rev. Dietra Wise Baker, and Rev. Dr. Paul Koch. A particular highlight was an Intro to Islam workshop led by a practicing Muslim, Ms. Maysa Albarcha. Ms. Albarcha shared her Muslim practices and explained the five pillars of Islam, teaching the youth that our religions are more similar than they are different, and that we all are children of God.
The Christian Regional Youth Festival is an event that focuses progressive spiritual and social justice leadership, as well as youth leadership and development. The youth planning team commits to meeting throughout the year for service, committee work, preparation, prayer, team building and worship. In addition, the youth receive extensive training on leading groups and individuals, creating a safe space where all are welcome and affirmed, conflict resolution, prayer, speaking skills, problem solving, and much more. The youth also manage to fit in a few hours of mission and service work, as well as a presentation at their host church's worship service during these four meeting weekends.
Usually the Festival is held at a local Disciples college but this year the event was in a new location. The Marianist Center is located on 130 acres southwest of St. Louis in Eureka, MO where it is situated on the banks of the Meramec River. Adding to their already fun and spirit-filled week of learning and activities, the youth leadership team was able to offer to participants a Beatitudes walk, a Sculpture Garden, several chapels, miles of hiking trails, a meditation walk, an outdoor labyrinth, and time spent enjoying God's creation.
C.R.Y. Festival participants and leaders would like to thank everyone who joined this year, including adult sponsors, the keynote speaker, and all workshop leaders.
Thanks to CRY Coordinator Kris Milliron for story and photos.