Summer Camps Making a Difference

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A wonderful part about summer in the Southern province is our summer camps at Laurel Ridge, our Moravian Camp and Conference Center. During the summer months we have a variety of camps whichCampers worshiping include our Mission Camps, an Arts Camp, an Eco Camp, and our Summer Camp. Our Summer Camps are available for those who are Pre-Junior (grades 1-2), Junior (grades 3-5), Middle High (grades 6-8), and Senior High (grades 9-12), and the other camps are for older youth. Besides youth being involved in our camps, we also have several adults in our province who serve as deans and counselors for in the camps. We also have a great group of college students who serve on  the M-Staff, the summer staff who maintain the camp grounds and lead various activities.

Our camps are wonderful opportunities for all who attend to make connections. There is the connection with nature as you spend time in beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. There is the connection with other people as you live and share in a community setting. There is the connection with God as you have opportunities to focus on God’s presence, to experience God’s love, and to let God make a difference in your life not only in your time at camp but also as you go from camp to your daily living. One of the great things I saw at one of our recent summer camps was a Campers in small groupyoung person who began the week saying he had never felt God’s love and did not believe in God. By the end of the week I saw how he experienced God’s love through others, and he shared that he was a believer!

I will admit that one of the drawbacks of our summer camping program at Laurel Ridge is the distance between our camp in the North Carolina mountains and our churches in Florida. In talking with some of the youth leaders in Florida, we hope that one day we will have more of our Florida youth be able to come and experience God’s blessings at Laurel Ridge.Campers at a meal

Even so, our camps are going strong, and they do make a difference!

If you have questions or need additional information, email (drightsATmcsp.org) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Doug Rights is the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 

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Is Your Life a Maze or a Labyrinth?

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Is your life more like a maze or a labyrinth?

Life as a maze finds you off the path feeling that success is not assured or that it comes only with luck and struggle. You see many decisions and events as dead ends, time wasted, money lost, opportunities missed.13445375_10153729745910875_3685864417383558769_n

To live life as a labyrinth, you reevaluate your identity and apply a new context to your life. All paths are part of God’s path where despite your appearances and differences, you all will meet.  A maze contains multiple paths and directions; a labyrinth finds us on a single path leading to the center.

A labyrinth is an ancient design used for hundreds of years within the Christian tradition. The church began to create places, like the labyrinth, to represent a spiritual journey. The labyrinth is a walking tool for prayer. It is a way of seeking the presence of God, connecting, opening up to what God will bring to you during the journey. Many cathedrals in Europe designed labyrinths grooved into walls as finger paths or into floor tiles. In the Middle ages, crusades and pilgrimage to the Holy Land added spiritual energy to the church for the wealthy. The farmers, women, and poor also wanted to make pilgrimage. The labyrinth provides a spiritual discipline for us to contemplate our journey.

As you approach the labyrinth walk, consciously slow your breathing and clear your mind. You are beginning an inner walk of the heart. Perhaps you are hoping for a definite experience of God amid the hustle and bustle of life. Perhaps you bring a 13428650_10153729745900875_5088153784633668800_nburden, a hurt, a joy, or seek clarity. The journey may be tearful or joyful. Bring to the center either a gift to God or a surrendering to Him. Stay in the center as long as you wish. You will find God’s peace, love and blessings in your journey in and then back out. Draw close to God, touch him. He will touch you, trusting in the unspoken. Take time at the end to remain in reflection and stillness at the fringes of the Labyrinth. Are you different after the walk? How can I be different in the world with God walking beside me?

I have had the privilege of walking many labyrinths at events and personally in my spiritual journey. Each time I am amazed at what God says to me through the experience. I have dreamed that one day Laurel Ridge Camp would have a labyrinth, which would have been so beneficial to me, particularly during my Gemeinschaft days. Now this dream is fast becoming a reality. Thanks to the staff at Laurel Ridge, Matt Pace from Christ Moravian (who has a heart for this wonderful camp), and the EcoMission 2016 staff and campers, the site has been cleared labryinth blog photo3right out the back door of the old entrance to Higgins Lodge. It is back in the woods in a beautiful serene setting. The labyrinth is now sketched out and in the next months will be completely finished for groups, congregations, individuals, campers, youth groups, and many more to experience. You’ll find books about labyrinth walking, bookmarks, prayers, ideas for reflecting, as well as some very simple directions in Higgins Lodge.

There is a possibility of an experience to put the finishing touches on this project. JOY camp is scheduled as an adult summer camp opportunity for August 1-4, 2016. We will spend the mornings working on landscaping the site to make it more beautiful. In the afternoon, there will be plenty of free time for short day trips around Laurel Ridge area. We will come back together after dinner for some intentional experiences using the labyrinth and close with vespers. If you are interested in giving back to Laurel Ridge, join us for this camp. Register before July 10. We have to have a certain number of people interested for this camp to actually take place.

Take time to enjoy this experience. Use it for your congregational retreats. Ask the BCM staff to coordinate some retreat plans for you to use the labyrinth. Bring your campers and youth groups there. Remember to give thanks for where your walk has brought you.Beth Hayes portrait

If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) 

Photos: Laurel Ridge, Beth Hayes

Youth Matter!

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June 14, 2016

I work with many special groups in my role as Director of Youth, College and Young Adult Ministries.  Two of them are our Regional Youth Councils (RYC).  Due to distance, one Regional Youth Council is composed of representatives and adult advisors from our Moravian churches in North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. The other Regional Youth Council is composed of representatives and adult advisors from our Moravian churches in Florida. While I work throughout the year with the RYC for North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, I also visit our Florida churches at least two times a year for their youth events, and when there, will often meet with the Florida RYC.

Regional Youth Council

Each Regional Youth Council works to:

  • Glorify God through service and mission to/for youth groups in the province with an attitude of selfless love an acceptance for each other and those we serve.
  • Be a representative council serving the province by providing the communications link between churches.
  • Develop unity and friendship within the province among youth, thereby striving to unify the youth ministries program of the Southern Province.
  • Assist with the planning and coordinating of provincial youth activities.

(from the Regional Youth Council Constitution)

Our NC/VA/GA Regional Youth Council has monthly meetings during the school months and an annual Winter Retreat at Laurel Ridge. They carry out mission projects, plan provincial youth events, and help plan the Senior High Camp at Laurel Ridge. Our FL Regional Youth Council meets two to three times a year. They also plan youth events for the Florida District, including their Winter Youth Retreat, a Beach Bash & service project, and Christian music events such as Night of Joy at Disney or Rock the Universe at Universal Studios.

Florida Regional Youth Council

Both Regional Youth Councils are active and important groups in our province. Both provide great opportunities to keep our youth connected, to give them opportunities to serve, to help develop leadership among our youth, and to let them make a difference in our province and for the Lord! They also provide a lot of excitement, a lot of fun, and a lot of joy to the ministry of our province!

If you have questions or need additional information, email (drightsATmcsp.org) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Doug Rights is the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 

Let’s Remember Our Moravian College Students

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MAY 11, 2016

As our province’s Director of Youth, College and Young Adult Ministries, it’s my pleasure to spend a lot of time with our college-age Moravians, those eighteen-years-old to their early twenties. Many of our college-age Moravians are in college, while some work, and some do both.

And even though the school year is winding down, let me tell you about our Moravians who are in college. As best we can determine, we have around 300 Moravians from the Southern Province in college. Some attend schools in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania, but most of them attend North Carolina colleges and universities.

College picture for blog 5-10-16

Since our college students are often away at school, they can sometimes be forgotten. It is part of my job to always remember them, and I urge you to remember them as well. Stop by the office and check out my collection of college mugs (as seen in the picture with this article) which represent the schools where our Moravians attend. My job also includes doing all I can to help our students feel connected to the Lord and to the Moravian Church. Some of the ways I keep connections are through correspondences (Facebook messages, emails, texts), visits, offering spring break mission trips, and hosting cookouts during Christmas and summer breaks.

It’s important we do all we can to help our students feel connected to our church families. Here are a few simple ways to remember our college-age Moravians:

  • Know who your college students are and where they attend.
  • Send them church mailings.
  • Send care packages, especially during exam times. This is a great activity for circles and Sunday School classes.
  • Have someone in your church visit them and take them out for a meal.
  • When many of them are home this summer, make the extra effort to let them know you are glad to see them back.
  • Offer opportunities for your college students to get together.
  • When some of them feel called to serve on mission trips, provide prayer support and financial support.

If we do not forget our college students and we are faithful in our service to them, no matter where God’s plan and purpose for their lives take them, they will not forget their church homes! They will not forget our Moravian Church!

If you have questions or need additional information, email (drightsATmcsp.org) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Doug Rights is the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 

Confirmation… An Ever Changing Process

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APRIL 18, 2016

Growing up in the Presbyterian Church and being confirmed as a teenager is not so vastly different from the process that Moravians take in their confirmation practices. Those memories of confirmation for me are everlasting. I developed relationships with adult mentors who cared enough about me to help me in this step in my faith. I truly felt like a worthy member of a congregation when given tasks during confirmation, such as baking communion bread with my family, and preparing the elements for a communion Sunday. Even the small task of making sure there was a glass of water in the pulpit each Sunday for the pastor… it may seem meaningless, but it is far from that. I learned the importance of even the smallest of tasks and made those next steps in my faith journey. It truly made me feel like a member of a congregation that could contribute something.

Book Cover

Click above image to see more about this book at our online Resource Center library!

As I was fortunate enough to spend some time this year reflecting on my faith journey and what each step meant to me, I ran across a new book, 100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation: A Guide for Parents and Youth Leaders. It was written by Rebeccca Kirkpatrick and published by Westminister John Knox Press in 2015. What a read it is! Not only for parents, but Sunday School teachers and youth leaders, as we strive to make confirmation be the most meaningful experience it can be. Drop by the Resource Center and borrow it for an excellent read about planting, feeding, watching growth, and understanding an experience such as confirmation.

In Bill Gramley’s piece for Moravian confirmation, Confirmation: A Graceful Step, he refers to confirmation as an opportunity for young people to make a public profession of their faith in Jesus Christ. It is a time when they confirm the steps that have already been taken for them by their parents or guardians, usually by virtue of infant baptism. It allows them to become more aware of the meaning of Christianity and be more deliberate in their response to God’s purpose for their lives. Confirmation is one of the milestones of faith that congregations can celebrate with a young person. It is truly an important step as it gives the opportunity to learn more about the Bible, theology, and what it means to be a member of a Moravian church.

Rev. Matthew Allen leading confirmation on Palm Sunday this year at Olivet Moravian.

Rev. Matthew Allen leading confirmation on Palm Sunday this year at Olivet Moravian.

Many of your churches may be at the end of this process with confirmation taking place during Holy Week or Pentecost. I challenge you not to stop here. We are offering a wonderful opportunity this summer for you to take this process one step further. At the August 14, 2016 Moravian Children’s Festival and Lovefeast, attendees will have the unique opportunity to visit many of the provincial agencies and learn about the work that they do for the church. This event is open to Moravians of all ages! The street will be closed and groups will be able to walk from the square, up Church Street to God’s Acre, stopping at the Board of Cooperative Ministries offices and Resource Center, Board of World Mission, and more. Make your plans now to bring your confirmation group even if you have ended the process. What a wonderful opportunity to continue those treasured relationships you have developed by showing the workings of the Moravian Church.Beth Hayes portrait

It is truly a graceful step, but just one of the first steps of following Jesus. It is not the end of one’s faith journey, but a gift that is received by our faith and proven through discoveries yet to be revealed. Help your young people continue this journey! Bring them to the Children’s Festival and use the opportunity to enrich their faith journey, as well as see the buildings and people that make up the Moravian Church today.

If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

 

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) 

Yams are a Lot More Than What You Eat!

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APRIL 11, 2016 

As our province’s Director of Youth, College and Young Adult Ministries, part of my ministry is serving the young adults in our congregations.  It is both a great privilege and a great challenge to serve in this way.

One of the groups I enjoy doing things with is called YAMs which stands for “Young Adult Moravians.” Each month our young adult Moravians and their friends are invited to join us in fellowship. These events include going out to eat, hiking, cookouts, ball games, service projects, and whatever our young adults want to do. Besides enjoying some fun activities, these get-togethers also provide time to build relationships and share good conversations. All Moravian young adults are welcome to come to any of our events. If you’re interested, please let me know.

I love it when young adults come to our events, yet one of the main things I share with them is to be involved in your own church family. Young adults have so much to offer our churches. I am very thankful for the many young adults active in their congregations who use their gifts and talents for the Lord and for their church homes. Sadly, a lot of our young adults are not involved in their churches, for a variety of reasons (feeling disconnected, having other priorities, not seeing the church as a loving and accepting place, etc).

Young Adult Moravians at Foothills brewery

Young Adult Moravians at Foothills Brewery in Winston-Salem 

One of BCM’s goals this year is to focus even more on young adult ministry in our province. Monthly events for our young adult Moravians will continue.  I will be meeting with pastors and church leaders to talk about their young adult ministry. We have formed a new working group in our province that will focus on young adult ministry in our province. If anyone is interested, or you know of people who would like to serve with such a group, please let me know.

Today when I think of yams, I think of more than a vegetable that tastes like a sweet potato. I think of young adults who have so much life, so much opportunity, so much potential, and have so much to offer God and God’s Church. For me, yams are a lot more than what you eat!

If you have questions or need additional information, email (drightsATmcsp.org) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Doug Rights is the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 

What Creates Strong Youth Ministry?

Why does a strong youth ministry benefit the Church and your church? The answer is cliché, but it works if we interpret the cliché properly, that is – “our youth are the future of the church.” Simply put, a strong youth ministry is the best investment option we have to help sustain the church. Also, buying into that cliché; and, making an intentional effort and emphasis to advocate for the youth and your youth ministry goes a long way in strengthening your church now. Here are a few examples:

• Makes church-goers. As many have noted the goal is not to focus on youth because they are literally the human beings that will potentially populate churches after we are dead and gone; but, because our mission as the Church involves passing on the faith inter-generationally. If we wish our churches to be continually stocked with mature Christian adults capable of leading and improving churches, we have to make them. High School graduates and College graduates do not appear out of thin air: they are formed, molded, and educated so that they can enter into society effectively and contribute the betterment of it. No difference in the church. If you want the Church to continue, you need to nurture the kind of people you want in your church into adulthood. Best program for that: Youth Ministry.

• Models church life and function. To follow up on the assumption made in the last sentence –the best program is Youth Ministry, consider that the more active, organized, and often inviting adult Sunday School classes have very similar qualities as a youth ministry. They get together once a year to plan their calendar, decide on social/fellowship gatherings and events, talk about curriculum wants, etc. Is that not what we often define a ‘strong’ youth group – one that has ownership of their program, focusing energy and creative forces to keep their piece of the church sustainable and inviting, longing to give voice to their questions and concerns about life and faith? These ‘strong’ youth groups are ones that know how to function in groups in the real world, and more importantly to us – will know how to participate in and sustain strong adult fellowship or Sunday school classrooms.

• Flow of creativity and new perspective. If you read publications and blogs of “millenials” you may notice a trend. Millenials claim that if you want them to be a part of your church (i.e. attract young families), you are going to have to let them have ownership of the church. Our youth and young adults are not accessories to collect, but powerful resources to tap into. If you are looking for innovation or new ideas, especially those related to new technologies and cultural concepts – then who better to look to than our youth and young adults? If your cell phone is not working right, step one should be to ask a teenager, and if they cannot figure it out then take it to the cell phone store. Same concept goes along with our churches. If you are looking for a way to explore new methods of communication, programming, or organization –you have a deep resource available to you.

All of these things assume that a ‘strong’ youth ministry is one that is engaged, takes ownership of their church, and is one that is advocated for by the adults in the congregation. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to establish and sustain a strong youth ministry – but the results are always worth it, for now and in the future. My hope and prayer is that you will advocate for your youth and your youth ministry.

Kevin Murray is Director of Christian Education at Clemmons Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC.

Kevin Murray is Director of Christian Education at Clemmons Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC.