Whether they grooved to the music, learned from the message or enjoyed the fellowship and fun, more than 900 youth and their leaders spent a full weekend at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina on Jan. 5-6.
“We’re all United Methodists, and we’re all worshipping together,” said the Rev. Nicole Conard, young adults and campus ministry coordinator for the Great Plains Conference. “Seeing 900 people together and worshipping as United Methodists is a pretty new and pretty inspiring thing for many of our churches.”
The sixth-annual OneEvent, with the theme of “WORD,” brought sixth- through 12th-graders from Kansas and Nebraska together for worship that featured the Rev. Michelle Manuel, associate pastor of The Loft at The Woodland United Methodist Church, north of Houston; BonRay, a praise band of siblings from Philadelphia; Joe Castillo, a sand artist who created biblical images that changed within seconds; DJ-rapper Big Al Cherry; and Christian comedian Daren Streblow.
Breakout sessions included discussion about relationships, a Zumba class and a session with pastoral counselor the Rev. Dr. Gary Nelson, as well as a roundtable discussion for youth leaders.
Free time was taken by painting stations, inflatable bungee races and an inflatable, oversized version of Hungry Hungry Hippos, as well as Gaga ball and nine-square in the air, as well as numerous booths from the Great Plains colleges and camps.
Many first-time attendees were impressed with what they saw.
“It’s very open and very welcoming,” said Elle Dreiling, an eighth-grader from Hays who “really enjoyed the music” of BonRay and Big Al.
Big Al was also a hit with Trent Neville, a sixth-grader from McCool Junction, Nebraska. “He’s a good rapper.”
“He’s lit,” agreed Nadieu Nadieu, another sixth-grader from McCool Junction.
Taylor Vermillion, a freshman from Plains, Kansas, at her first OneEvent, said she enjoyed the worship, but the session with Nelson – who talked about mental health and teenage suicide – really hit home.
“That really opened my eyes and helped me through some struggles I’ve had in the past,” she said.
It also left Vermillion wanting more.
“I really want to come back next year,” she said.
Conard said a decision on a OneEvent for 2020 would be made in time for the Great Plains Annual Conference session in late May. She praised the work of the Conference Council on Youth Ministries and
her fellow staff members on the Congregational Excellence team for their work to prepare for OneEvent.
“Both of them have been planning for six months for this event, figuring out how to resource churches and make this an event where people can experience Christ in a new way and live out Scripture,” Conard said.
Conard was impressed with the sermons provided by Manuel, who used the text of Jesus’ healing at the pool of Bethesda in John 5: 1-6 as an invitation to name their problems and give Jesus a way to solve them.
Conard also was grateful for the fellowship that took place between youth from the churches in large and small communities throughout the two states.
“It was a chance for our churches to know that we’re part of a greater church,” Conard said.