05 November 2009

New Youth Assembly comes to Durham

This year more young Methodists than ever will be making their voices heard through an interactive-styled assembly that replaces Youth Conference.

The new process has been designed to maximise the impact of young people's influence on the Methodist Church in Britain and enable a greater number of 11 to 23-year-olds to have their say. For the first time in 14 years, the event is oversubscribed with around 200 young people set to take part.

The Youth Assembly will also elect its Youth President; a full time, salaried role open to 18 to 23-year-olds.

Youth Conference was modelled on the style of the annual Methodist Conference, but the new Youth Assembly will involve sessions facilitated by young Methodists who have been trained with the skills to help groups run their own debates. Youth violence, vocation, climate change and self-esteem are among the issues expected to be discussed during the weekend conference from November 13 to 15 at Ushaw College Conference Centre in Durham. Conversations will be streamed via webcams around the venue and outcomes from the debates will be displayed on plasma screens and graffiti boards as they happen.

Fiona Holmes, 20, from Newcastle, has been part of the planning team right from the start. "The Youth Assembly is ground-breaking, something totally new to the Church, something that will let young people feel they are a part of the Church," said Fiona, a British Gas engineer. "This will show the Church who young people are and what we can do. We are not the Church of the future; we are the Church of today."

There will be a "drop-in zone" on Saturday 14 November where a team of consultants from the Connexion will be on hand to help answer any questions which come out of the young people's discussions. Consultants in areas of work from Faith and Order through to Equalities and Diversity will be asked to share their knowledge in the style of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire's Phone-A-Friend. Revd David Gamble, President of Methodist Conference, and Vice-President Dr Richard Vautrey will be among the team members who have all been given guidelines by the young people about how to carry out their consultative roles on the day.

Jude Levermore, Participation Development Officer, said: "I am really excited at the way young people have been involved in the planning of this event, so that the format has completely changed. I am confident it will have more of an impact on the wider Church because of their input. I am very proud of every thing that the planning group has achieved.

"The Youth Assembly will enable young people from all different backgrounds and abilities to engage - not just those who are articulate and confident about speaking to a roomful of people."

Newcastle Upon Tyne District is hosting the event and not-for-profit organisation - Dynamix - has helped enable the young people's democratic vision to come to life.

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