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Why Youth Cons Matter
Ward Ramsdell, a third-generation UU, grew up in the New Hampshire/Vermont District where he attended youth conferences throughout high school. He has been an active sponsor in the PNWD for the last 11 years. Ward is a member of our congregation in Hillsboro, Oregon, the UU Community Church of Washington County. 
Archived 2/3/2012
When I left the 2011 fall district youth conference, ContinUUity, I didn’t go straight home. Washington Route 12, the road to Camp Cispus, traverses an amazing part of the wilderness north of Mount Saint Helens, with beautiful views over Riffe Lake and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It was at one of these vistas that I chose to pull over and collect my thoughts. I took off my staff shirt, read through my sheet from the closing activity, and went for a short walk in the woods.

The fact of the matter is: I am an introvert. Although I enjoy social interaction, and my faith and values often compel me to work in close cooperation with many wonderful and talented people, being in constant contact with others for 40 hours straight is ultimately exhausting. I needed the time alone not just to process my con experience or prepare for reimmersion into my daily life, but to find my own center and bearings once again.

Integral to that experience was the notion, which I carried throughout the weekend, that the reason I stay active in the youth movement is because it was youth conferences that taught me ways in which to balance my introversion with my desire to effect change. It was cons that helped me find my voice, and it is now my calling to create environments that help others find theirs. Twice a year I am fortunate enough to participate in the process of creating a community in which all are welcome and received without judgment. It is an honor and an inspiration.

ContinUUity was an examination of the journey we’ve traveled together, and an invitation to discuss the future and what we want our conferences to be. It was timely; the conference covenant was formed three years ago, and the last of the youth present at its conception will be graduating in the spring. It’s important that their work be continued, and that while we strive to keep conferences relevant to the new youth it’s done with an understanding of the rich tradition that runs through their culture. It’s my hope that the culture will continue to be communicated as it has been in the past, through our words and deeds, the work of the Spirit Corps in particular, and of everyone who cares about cons. I also hope that we will continue to provide these more structured opportunities to review and discuss the covenant that we share.

I look forward, as I always do, to the next conference; the next opportunity to come together and form a community that reflects our values and which strives to include and give a voice to all who come. That community, as with all con communities, will exist for too brief a period of time before it dissipates. But the message will remain with us: we have done this, we can do this, we WILL do this again. First in our own small way, then in the world at large, we will continue to live our values, share our stories, and lift up others.

I encourage you to read ConText, the full report on PNWD’s October 21-23 Fall Youth Con.

PNWD archives front page articles and pastoral messages. To view these archives, click here.
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