Resurrection 2020 seemed to continue its life-changing legacy with an attendance of 8,322 youth and leaders representing 435 groups from 10 states. By the end of the Jan. 24-26 weekend at LeConte Center, more than 500 participants had responded to a call to ministry by texting their contact information to Holston Conference’s youth ministry office.
“We love Resurrection and that’s why we keep coming back,” said Faith Breitenbach, 16, who attended with her youth group from Centenary United Methodist Church in Danville, Kentucky.
As they waited in line between sessions to meet worship leader Elias Dummer, participants shared how they had already been changed by the spiritual event.
“I learned more about God, learned what the Bible is really saying to us,” said Jordan Piazza, age 12, also from Danville.
Sharon Miller, an adult leader from Mary’s Chapel United Methodist Church, noted that six of the 10 youth in her group went to the front of the auditorium on Saturday night to dedicate or rededicate their lives to Jesus Christ.
“They really opened up and shared,” said Miller, whose church is located in Bristol, Virginia. “They relate to Reggie.”
Reggie Dabbs was this year’s speaker, returning for the third time after headlining Resurrection in 2012 and 2015. A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Dabbs shared funny stories of his childhood in a Bible-believing foster family as well as his more recent ministry experiences in third-world countries. He played his saxophone, engaged his listeners by having them repeat back his phrases, and didn’t shy away from sharing grisly details of Jesus’ crucifixion or a video of students attempting escape from an active shooter.
“If God could get Jesus through death on the cross and resurrect him three days later, he can get you through your situation,” Dabbs said. “But you’ve got to choose.”
Elias Dummer returned to the LeConte stage this year with a diverse praise band, sharing new music as well as music from his former band, The City Harmonic, which appeared at Resurrection in 2014 and 2015.
“Holy (Wedding Day) is my favorite,” said Breitenbach of Danville. On Sunday morning, Dummer re-shared the song during an emotional worship including Holy Communion.
This is the story of the Son of God
Hanging on a cross for me
But it ends with a bride and groom
And a wedding by a glassy sea
Oh, death, where is your sting?
In addition to Dabbs’ invitation to commit to a lifetime of ministry, Sunday morning also included the Rev. Jerry Russell and the Rev. Susana Lopez on stage, sharing last year’s successful launch of a Resurrection event in Costa Rica and a vision for new events in other nations.
“The church needs you,” said Russell. “It needs your energy, your hope and your faith. The world is before us.”
On Friday night, a team of young adults from Costa Rica also brought news of the first Resurrection in their country in October 2019, and the announcement of the next event, to be held Oct. 9-11, 2020, in La Fortuna.
On Saturday, Resurrection participants gave an offering of $21,043. Half of the offering will support Resurrection International, according to Laura McLean, associate director of connectional ministries. The other half will support Camp in the Community as it recovers from an equipment theft and prepares for summer ministry in Holston Conference’s poorest neighborhoods.
Fat Heads: In recent years, more and more groups have created “fat head” signs to help keep their groups together, by enlarging a photo of the youth leader (or other recognizable face) and posting them on a stick above the crowd. The Resurrection Design Team took advantage of the trend to create obstacle-course races between fat-head bearers on Saturday and Sunday morning. The winning fat-head contestant was a sloth entered by First Presbyterian Church of Greeneville, Tennessee.
Dance Party: A long-time Resurrection favorite are the Saturday-morning warm-up dances led by Camp Lookout Director Don Washburn and his co-dancers, to tunes including “Can’t Stop the Feeling” (Justin Timberlake) and "All Star" (Smash Mouth). New this year was the “Church Clap” line dance (by KB), led by students from Concord United Methodist Church. Now church clap, let me hear the church clap.
Cultural Connections: Colonial Heights United Methodist Church brought two exchange students to Resurrection in their group of 18 youth: Hsiang-Ning “Lynn” Chen from Taiwan and Gabriella Avanti from Brazil. The youth group from Kingsport, Tennessee, wanted to join Lynn in celebrating the Lunar New Year, so they found mochi ice cream, a Taiwanese dessert, and shared it together with sliced oranges, a symbol of prosperity in Asian culture. “It was a new experience for most of us,” said Margaret Frazier, youth director.
Hot-Tub Baptism: After Saturday-night worship, youth groups were encouraged to gather for devotions and discussion. Sixteen-year-old Grace told her pastor, the Rev. Teresa Atkins McClure, that she wanted to be baptized. McClure happily baptized her in the hotel hot tub. On the following Sunday at New Life United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Grace professed her faith and joined the church. Another youth member, 14-year-old Lexie, was inspired and also decided to be baptized and to join the church, McClure said.
Faithful Founders: Celebrating Resurrection’s 35th anniversary, gratitude plaques were awarded to the former youth pastors who created the annual event in 1985: the Rev. Hugh Kilgore and the Rev. Don Thomas.
More Numbers: Out of the total 8,322 in attendance, 264 participants came from outside Holston Conference, according to Amy Gattis, registrar. Of 435 total groups, 41 groups represented other denominations, including Baptist, Lutheran, Christian, Presbyterian, and Church of God. In addition to Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia, other states represented were Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
Resurrection 2021 is scheduled for Jan. 22-24.
Coming soon: Blessings from the Festival of Gifts and Talents
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.
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