New Youth Assembly comes to Durham

This year more young Methodists than ever will be making theirvoices heard through an interactive-styled assembly that replacesYouth Conference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The Youth Assembly will enable young people from all differentbackgrounds and abilities to engage - not just those who arearticulate and confident about speaking to a roomful ofpeople."

Newcastle Upon Tyne District is hosting the event andnot-for-profit organisation - Dynamix - has helped enable the youngpeople's democratic vision to come to life.