Kara Miller, our Communications Coordinator, is spending the week in Montreat, NC with MPPC Youth as they attend the 2018 Montreat Youth Conference. Youth Conferences gather young Presbyterians from all over the country for a week of study, worship, and recreation. Activities include morning energizers, music, keynote, small group meetings, afternoon recreation activities, and evening worship. Follow their week on Instagram @MPPCYouth.

The theme for Montreat Youth Conference this year is Lift Every Voice. As we move through the week, we’ll be discussing voices – God’s voice, difficult voices, quieted voices, unified voices – and finding our individual voice on the way. This is a theme that can’t help but make us feel uncomfortable.

Every year that I chaperone the Montreat trip, I’m suddenly taken back to high school. Back to the hormones, the pressures, the anxieties. Back to the feeling of being somewhere very near adulthood, and also somewhere very far away. Back to the feeling that there are so many sticks I have to measure up against – from parents to teachers to friends. The feeling of trying so hard, and still not hitting the mark. It happens so quickly and so seamlessly that part of me believes we never really leave high school. Even though we grow and move forward, there may be a part of us that still forgets we are enough.

So, when our youth hear – when we hear – “Lift every voice,” it’s not unnatural to think, “Oh, they definitely mean so-and-so. They have a great voice and are so eloquent, and really have a handle on the current state of affairs. Let so-and-so talk. Lift up so-and-so’s voice. Not mine. Why would we lift up mine?”

This week, we’ll be disrupting these thoughts. On the first day, our keynote speaker, Aram Bae, asked us to hear the second part of the second Great Commandment: “love your neighbor as yourself,” that before we can truly love each other, we first have to love ourselves. And this, by its nature, is uncomfortable. Frequently, it’s easier to step back and let others take the lead; to say we’re not worthy and pass the torch. But Montreat – especially this week – is a place where no person is left behind. We’re here to lift every voice because everyone is worthy and enough. Every single person is a beautiful, brilliant child of God. Regardless of opinion, gender, height, race, temperament or age, we are united under that knowledge.

At Montreat, we’ll struggle this week, but we struggle together. We’ll struggle as we learn to lift up and love our own voices as we lift up and love the voices of those around us. We’ll struggle as we remind ourselves that God’s unwavering and indiscriminate love isn’t a suggestion; it’s a definitive truth.