Back in the early 2000’s as I was studying to be a minister and ministering to the Youth at First Christian UCC in Burlington, I had my first experiences with retreating at Blowing Rock Conference Center. I took a group of our confirmands to the Confirmation Retreat that the Southern Conference sponsored. It was a wonderful experience and the youth, some who had never been to the mountains before, had a super experience.
Fast forward to 2007, when I became Director of Christian Education at Elon Community Church, there had been changes and the Winter Youth Retreat was born with the leadership of Kristin Gerner Vaughn and a team she assembled and spent many years directing and organizing the retreat. My first youth group was a little skeptical about going to this event. A couple of them had been to some previous events, but once I got them there, they were ready to return. The first three years had programs directed by Rev DaVita McAllister or Reverend “Dai” as we called her. She was engaging and fun and interactive and really was a great person to lead our programming. Not only was the programming great, there were friendship made and bonds formed between the youth. One year we even picked up three youth from a church in Greensboro who did not have anyone to take them from their church.
The Winter Youth Retreat or WYR has transformed over the years to a place where youth from Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and this year Mississippi have gathered to learn, to worship, to sing and dance, to play and relax on top of the mountain at BRCC. It is always an amazing sight to see these youth gather together, to make friends, to play in the snow, and to gather to help to grow in their faith. We have heard speakers who have challenged us, who have taught us what it means to love our neighbor, take care of the earth, love ourselves for who God made us to be, and to help us see that we are all a “Beloved” child of God.
Our last WYR was held in 2020 until we got hold this one in 2023. Covid did not stop the planning committee from trying. Each year, we laid out our plan , and in 2021 and 2022, as we came closer to January, the Covid cases were just too high to make it work. Our group we had booked, Alathea, who we had enjoyed at pasts retreat, each year kept us on their book for MLK weekend. Well, Covid hit, not so we could not have the retreat, but it hit one of the members of the group pretty hard, and they could not make it this year. We are on their schedule for 2024! Wes Berry and Ted Wilson quickly went to work and found folks to bring it all together and it was a super successful weekend!
Thanks so much to the staff at BRCC for their work in making this wonderful event happen each year. Special thanks going out to Ted Wilson, Martha Shore Jared Greer, Linda Smith, Wes Berry and all the other staff that work to bring joy to all the youth and chaperones who come! We are blessed to have this wonder mountaintop experience each year and my hope and prayers that it continues for many years to come.
1818 Goforth Road
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
P.O. Box 2350
Blowing Rock, NC 28605