Resurrection marks 20th year

By Annette Bender

Today's youth are more technologically sophisticated than they were in 1986, and they dress differently. But their response at Holston's annual winter retreat in Gatlinburg for the past 20 years has been the same, according to one of the event's founders.

"Kids have a 'wow' experience at Resurrection," says the Rev. Don Thomas. "They're still hungry for meaning and direction, and so they respond to Jesus Christ and the Lord's leading when it is offered."

Thomas and his two co-founders, the Rev. Steve Blakemore and the Rev. Hugh Kilgore, were honored for their roles in creating the popular youth retreat at the 20th gathering held Jan. 14-17 and Jan. 21-23 at Gatlinburg Convention Center. Although Resurrection's second weekend had not concluded before press time, organizers were expecting attendance totals of more than 11,500.

Most participants came from Holston congregations. However, a record-breaking 35 groups from outside the conference joined the crowd in the first weekend of Resurrection 2005. Out-of-conference groups include United Methodists from outside Holston or others outside the denomination. Ten states were represented, including Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Making his first appearance at Resurrection as Holston's new episcopal leader, Bishop James Swanson welcomed the crowd before leading a rally cry for Jesus. He then introduced Thomas, Blakemore, and Kilgore, thanking them for their contribution.

A video tribute showed the three founders with darker hair and footage of speakers, talent offerings, and teens from 20 years past.

This year, participants heard messages from the Rev. Andy Lambert, a General Evangelist from Western North Carolina Conference, and participated in praise and worship led by Chris Tomlin (first weekend) and Steve Fee (second weekend).

Using wigs, sunglasses, caps and other props to impersonate a variety of characters, Lambert reached teens with a mix of humor and Bible stories.

He told of the child who became ill on an amusement park ride and was "covered in puke" by the time the ride stopped. "The Red Sea parted," Lambert said, explaining how the crowds retreated from the sick little boy. But his mother rushed to scoop him up, comforting him and cleaning him.

"We worship a God who comes to us with open arms, who wants to clean you up," Lambert said.

Lambert also told of the adulterous woman who faced stoning for her sin. "Jesus tells us there's a different ending to that story ... You are children of the King. I want you to believe it. I want you to know it.

"Dare to believe that God has forgiven, loves, and has a purpose for you."

Participants praised Lambert's presentation, as well as the praise music and Resurrection's rowdy arena-like atmosphere. The Chris Tomlin Band returned this year for the third year, while the Steve Fee Band returned for the second year.

"Resurrection changes you more than church - it touches you deep inside," said Sarah Greene, 14, of Bethel (Seymour) UMC, Maryville District. "You feel like [Lambert] knows where you're coming from."

"Everyone is so happy here. You can feel all the love," said Mark Morse, 14, also of Bethel UMC. "At church, it's like, 'Ya'll get out of here. You're making too much noise.'"

Leah Crafton, 16, said she has been attending Resurrection since she was 10. Crafton is a member of Keith Memorial UMC, Cleveland District.

"I like Chris Tomlin a lot, and the speaker really keeps your attention," she said. "In some of those early-morning sessions, it's hard to stay awake."

Henry Bowden, a member at Reynolds Memorial UMC in Abingdon District, has chaperoned youth through 19 of 20 Resurrections. He commented on how the annual event seems to allow young people to be individuals without judgment from others.

"There's no peer pressure to be like everyone else," he said, referring to participants who had dyed their hair unusual colors or who wore odd hats. "They're individuals, but all of them love Jesus."

In addition to participating in worship sessions, youth also visited display booths, gave money for tsunami relief and Youth Service Fund, and indulged in the tourist attractions of Gatlinburg.

Laura Tugwell, age 17, helped staff one of the most popular display booths, where the Resurrection T-shirt she designed sold like hotcakes.

Church Street UMC won this year's Resurrection T-shirt contest after Tugwell came up with the "Show Us Your Glory" design. Her youth director, Marc Gamble, said the Knoxville District group will use the profits, an estimated $30,000, for a Mexico mission trip in March. Ten percent of the profits are designated for Youth Service Fund, he added.
v Total amounts collected for special offerings were not available at press time, but in the first weekend alone, participants gave $4,551 to tsunami victims through United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

Some groups came up with unusual ways to help raise the money. Youth at Lenoir City Central UMC, Oak Ridge District, gave $100 to tsunami relief after challenging their pastor, the Rev. Mark Gooden, to ride a mechanical bull. (He accepted the challenge.)

Youth at Piney Flats UMC, Johnson City District, raised $300 for tsunami relief with a scavenger hunt. The youth gave up money they would normally spend on laser tag or Ripley's Haunted House to search for items such as "the signature of a youth from Tazewell District" or "a picture of a bear."

"It made us feel good," said Tyler Scott, age 12, referring to the scavenger hunt-fundraiser. "It made us feel like we were caring for someone besides just ourselves."


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20 years of Resurrection


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