Sunday, July 20, 2008

Synod Youth Workshop Recap

The following is a recap of my week at Synod Youth Workshop. It's mostly the day by day postings of before but this time in order.

It's Tuesday night and I'm so tired that I want to post this before I crash completely. However the GREAT news is that I think I've figured out the video feature. I'm posting one video and if you get this and can see it (somebody e-me and let me know) then the sky is the limit. You might know I could come to a youth event and figure out the latest video tech. However, to toot my own horn a little, I really didn't have a kid help me. I just figured it out on my own.

But it was a kid who inspired me. Before we even had breakfast Tuesday morning somebody here at Synod had posted a video on You Tube of one of the skits last night.

We sent 25 groups to 20 service projects today. The staff managed to visit five of them and it was an amazing opportunity. The one I wish I had video of was the kids working at the food bank because they worked so fast it was heart-warming. This conference has just ordinary teenagers, no more and no less. They move slowly at times and with lightening speed at other times. But in their service project it was the lightening speed category.

If I have the time and get more moving pictures I'll post them as the week moves along. This is a big moment for me. Now, for the first time I feel like I can bring just a taste of the week for people who have never been to Synod Youth Workshop and have long wondered what the big deal is. I can't show you the deep discussions they get into or a lot of the silliness. All I can tape is a taste. But it will be more than you've seen before.

Also, small animals continue to follow me. We have a mouse infestation in our dorm. The first one was documented by the camp tech support guy who turned on his video camera then left a few sunflower seeds on the floor and left the room. Within two minutes he had a mouse come into view and eat the seeds. The second was one of the small group leaders who woke up to find one sitting on top of her while she slept. Then I heard a noise in my trash and saw a little tiny mouse trying to climb out. I tied up the plastic liner and took him to the trash. And since it was a clear plastic liner I can say for a fact that it was a field mouse. Yes, indeedy. I saw him.

That's about all the news. Our keynote speaker who is also my pastor has been doing a great job and all the kids love her.

More videos to follow I hope. Actually I'd love to pack you all up and let you see it for yourself.



Wednesday evening - Town Night

OK, so this is just WAY cool. This video feature will be able to bring you the sights and sounds of the Synod Youth Workshop experience in a way I've never been able to explain anything to you in the past. My mind is ablaze with all the ways I can use it for other postings. To start with, anyone who's been around youth much knows that they are a people who like to move around some. So I took about 42 seconds worth of what is known as an "Energizer". It's basically moving around to the music of a song. But the movements are just silly and since they're supposed to be silly anyway you don't feel stupid if you do it wrong. My kind of dance, in other words.

My biggest enemy in taking these pictures is light. The stage is lit but the huge auditorium is dark so it's hard to get a good picture of what's happening on the stage. Let me show you a short snippet of this morning's keynote. It won't really mean much but to tell you what the stage looks like.



There are still a lot of things I can't show you. The heart of the conference is the small group time. That's where this retreat is different from most youth retreats. There are two reasons: They go to enormous effort to make sure no one is placed in a small group with anyone they know. This gives the youth a place they can speak freely and without fear of anyone telling their business back home. Then there is also a tradition of ironclad confidentiality. The people in your small group will never repeat what you say in your small group. And in 17 years of doing this event I've never known anyone to break the confidentiality covenant. So, I won't be recording any of the nine small group sessions. They're not all group therapy sessions--in fact, they spend a lot of time on games and discussion of ordinary things from advice like "never feed a gerbil Dr.Pepper because it makes them explode" or the funniest thing you've ever seen happen in church. The only trouble is you never know when they're talking about the silly stuff or when they're talking about their parent's divorce. Most small group leaders tape paper over the windows into the room for privacy and the small group times are just kind of private.

The other thing I hesitated before filming is the Labyrinth Walks. I compromised by doing this at the beginning of our first walk. After this shot, we dimmed the lights and a blanket of privacy closed over the room. We have three labyrinths in one gigantic room. And even though each group shared this experience with two other groups and, even more surprisingly, there was construction going on in the hall, their concentration blocked out the rest of the world when they're on the canvas. I tell the kids this is their time to listen to God. Their whole countenance changes on the labyrinth. They will spend about a hour, sometimes more, on a prayer walk where the only sound in the room is the music playing in the background. They walk slow and solemnly, thoughtfully and pensive.



By the next morning, Friday, things were back to normal for 400 high school people. You can see we're a laid-back crowd.


Our final worship on Friday night was back to solemn. But it also provided the best laugh of the week. Our keynote speaker, Anne Clifton, had started the week with a story of a popular fund raiser in London. They sell red noses for a pound and donate the money to agencies who help the homeless. The way Anne talked it sounded like everybody in London was running around with a red clown nose to show they cared about homeless people.

Well, that got a few folks on the staff to thinking. We knew the major theme of Anne's planned remarks for the week would be a book called "Same Kind of Different as Me," which is about three people here in the US who did a lot to help the homeless. We knew that by the end of the week the whole conference would have that subject deep in our hearts. So, they sent off for 400 red clown noses. The instructions were to overnight them and they had to be here by Friday. The whole week was cloaked in a conspiratoral silence and tension of wondering if the noses would come in on time. It was a long shot but the reward would be worth it. Finally, Friday at lunch, just under the wire, the noses came in. The marvel of the thing was that we managed to keep this quiet among 400 teenagers.

Tonight when Anne went up to start her keynote, there was an elaborate scheme to distract her and cue the congregation. When she turned back to the crowd they were all, every one of them, wearing a red nose. My video doesn't do it justice--to see 400 red noses telling Anne she had made her point.



Here is a quick shot of the choir singing the anthem that I took mostly because one of the kids in my church was right in the center of the choir and I knew his mom would want to see him. So, this one is for you Melodi.



Finally, our worship ended with communion and I took this shot for Anne because her son is an ordained deacon and, as such, was helping with the service. You'll notice she had to get him back on task when it was his time to speak. This is probably one of those moments I'm sure Austen is grateful to have me record.



The next thing was the dance, the pizza and by 2am I was still up waiting for everything to calm down. The best entertainment in Tulsa was channel 7 of the walkie-talkie radios the staff uses to communicate when they're out and about making sure the kids are where they're supposed to be. The last thing I heard they had spotted a group across the campus at the gym when they're supposed to be in their rooms. Every single room had been checked for the proper people in the right places. Only one girl went awol and I'm sure they found her around 2 because I didn't hear any more.

This has been my best trip to Synod in the 17 years I've been going and I can't wait for next year. Tune in next Wednesday for a few more insights on this subject or another. I can't imagine life back in Pickton, Texas being as exciting as this week. Maybe the pasture will catch fire or something.

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