Brilliant Minds, Glowing Faces, Radiant Hearts

11/8/2018
By Debby Kirk

SHARON, CT -- The annual SHINE retreat was one of several retreats held at Silver Lake Conference Center this weekend.  Sponsored by the Connecticut Conference, SHINE seeks to nurture leadership skills in youth who are Thinking About Working For God (TAWFG).  
 
This year there was an assembly from seven CTUCC congregations: Bloomfield, Dixwell Ave UCC, East Woodstock Congregational, First Church of Christ in Hartford, Kensington, Liberty Christian Center, and Trumbull. 
 
On Friday night they were strangers or mere acquaintances, but after a day together the bonds of friendship were evidenced by laughter and song around the flames of a campfire.  A diverse group of youth were quick to create beloved community through team-building games, shared meals, and program time on the topic of racial justice.
 
CTUCC staff facilitators, Isaac Monts and Emily McKenna walked youth through four realms of racism. There was discussion about the school to prison pipeline, generational wealth, and micro-aggressions. 
 
“Our goal is to help youth not only recognize racism in our culture and institutions, but also to give them skills to interrupt racism when they see it or hear it,” said Isaac Monts, Associate for Leadership and Justice.
 
Here is what some of the youth had to say about the weekend:
 
I came more out of my comfort zone by talking in front of more people than I’m used to and showing my emotions more than I normally ever would.  I never expected to make so many new friends in such a short time.  These are all triumphs for me and I have inside jokes with some people here and I feel so accepted in this community. I feel like I can truly be me here.  --Aren, East Woodstock Congregational Church.
Community: I laughed, I cried, I made lots of friends, I learned a ton, I ate a lot of good food, I listened, I opened up, I shared with others, I was myself, I ruined my jeans, I joked, I sang, I played piano, I stayed up too late, I did a jigsaw puzzle, I drew, I played with slinkys-- and all of it was absolutely, fantastically amazing!  --Lucy, Kensington Congregational Church.

This weekend I learned so much more about racism and I got to look at it in a bigger picture.  I hope more people can come to Silver Lake and learn more about racism considering it’s a big problem that has been going on for a long time and it won’t just end in one day.  --Dyshawn, Liberty Christian Center International.
 
 
This was a really cool program.  I have been aware of a lot of this for a while and I try to inform myself, but seeing it all together, and going into depth, and learning terms made me see the magnitude of racism.       --Chloe, Trumbull Congregational Church.
"I want the world to be at peace, but before this retreat I felt I was powerless and that no matter how hard I tried I wouldn't be heard.  This retreat not only taught me a lot, but also showed me that kids younger than me are banding together to stop racism. I wish that it didn't have to be us who would stand up for what's right, but that's the way it is. Let's change that." -- Jaiden, First Congregational in Bloomfield.

CTUCC youth are invited to take advantage of upcoming leadership programs. Scholarship support is always available for retreats and trips.
SLCC Summer Staff- applications are now open
TAWFG Apprenticeships - 20 or 40 hour (Paid) job shadow in a local church.
Environmental Justice For All- Weekend Retreat at Silver Lake on May 17-19
Youth @ Synod on June 21-25 in Milwaukee, WI
 
To schedule a youth racial justice training in your area, contact Isaac Monts at isaacm@ctucc.org