Twelve youths and seven adults from the Southwest Conference traveled to Washington D.C. on Friday to participate in Saturday's March For Our Lives.
Desert Palm UCC (Tempe)
youth: Logan Hansen, Danielle Hansen, Samantha Frank, Stori Jurgens
adults: Holly Hansen, Dale Frank
First Congregational UCC (Albuquerque)
youth: Leah Benderman, Maya Bode
adults: Beth Benderman, Anne Marie Strangio
The Good Shepherd UCC (Sahuarita)
youth: Vicki Bosma, Dominique Hill, William Palacious, Christopher Petrequin
adults: Nathan Watts, Erika Hill
Black Mountain UCC (Scottsdale)
youth: Trevor Lee
Church of the Beatitudes UCC (Phoenix)
youth: Cameron Denn
They chronicled their experience with photos and videos, and reflection.
The Albuquerque youth are helping to lead a multiple week gun violence workshop.
Stori Jurgens, of Desert Palm UCC, said, “ As ‘kids’ we’re used to being pushed away from ‘adult’ issues; now as young adults, we’re being pushed into them. It’s all so overwhelming. Kids have gone from being told what to do to having this incredible voice.”
As the group debriefed Emma Gonzalez’s speech, Conference Minister Rev. Bill Lyons told the youth, “The next time someone in your church tells you that you’re the church of the future, you call bullshit. If anyone gives you trouble about that invite them to call me. You are the church of today. If your church bylaws don’t let teens serve in leadership, let me know. I’ll talk with your pastors and moderators and work with you to get that changed. You are the church of today. If your voice isn’t being listened to, I want you to tell me about it. Don’t let anyone treat you like your just part a future church. Your voice matters now! And I’ve got your back.”
Trevor Lee, of Black Mountain UCC, had this to say: "'Overwhelming' is what I have to say about this experience but in the greatest way possible. Meeting all of the other youth of the SWC from New Mexico, Tucson [Sahuarita], and Phoenix was amazing. Getting to know everybody, we all felt really well connected to come and make a change. The overwhelming experience that I’m talking about is that by having over 800,000 students/teens coming together to make change is gonna be history. By coming together our voices can be heard and usually teens are silent but now we are the new influencers. I feel that as a teen myself the effluence and energy during the March for our lives will stop gun violence."
"I would like to start organizing rallys, and getting other kids from my school, and from around the city, involved in this problem." - Cameron Denn, Church of the Beatitudes
From Maya Bode, First Congregational UCC Albuquerque: Present about gun laws and how to make owning them safer for everyone. We did a forum in church a couple of weeks ago on gun violence, led by an adult. In a couple of weeks, the kids will talk and share what we learned at the march.
On Friday, we have an Urban Way of the Cross through downtown Albuquerque. One of the stops will be about the youth response to gun violence, especially in schools, and I will be talking and sharing my thoughts.
I also really want to keep talking to people about the role of race and the way we talk about people of color and violence. I do that a lot at school, and I’ll keep using social media.
I don’t know what else I’ll do yet, but I’m not done!
Below are further reflections, written on the plane ride home, by youth from Desert Palm and Black Mountain.