In July 2022, three Latino youth from White Plains UMC met with their youth pastor, Rev. Jason Darden, and with Rev. Ernesto Barriguete (NCC Director of Race Equity and Justice Ministries) to talk about an idea they had. Having experienced the joy of Christian conferencing at the weeklong NCC youth event Breakaway, they had a vision for creating a space for ethnic minority youth to meet and connect with each other before coming to Breakaway, doing so as a way to understand and impact the culture of NCC youth events to which many of them were new.
Over the next few months, they would meet with other leaders to try to make this dream a reality. The vision was first embraced by the Conference Youth Committee (CYC) and, eventually, the Duke Endowment, which provided a three-year grant for the event. After meeting weekly for several months, the Más Diversity design team gave birth to this event, which was June 23-25, directly before Breakaway.
On opening night, Rev. Gloria Winston-Harris preached an empowering message for the youth to be themselves. They would be led in worship more throughout the weekend, as they were encouraged to embody their worship: dancing, offering words of reflection and testimony, and finding ways to live in solidarity with each other. Each day they learned “liberating habits,” skills to heal and cleanse their nervous systems and become mindful of the presence of God and others nearby them.
They heard about the ways in which the Christian church in the United States has been complicit with the spiritual forces of wickedness through the idea of white supremacy and Jesus presented as a white man, and they were encouraged to see the presence of God at work, as Howard Thurman would say, “with those whose backs are up against the wall.”
They were also empowered to connect with the broader youth ministry setting of the NCCUMC and to grow as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ alongside the mosaic of people who make up our Church. With funding for two more years, the NCC youth leadership hopes that Más Diversity can not only be a brave space for ethnic minority youth, but that it can also be an encounter with the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, which will help these youth to grow as representative leadership in the NCCUMC, to better connect with all of their peers, and to impact the world around them where the Holy Spirit is already at work.