Retreat confirms local church training


By Pat Centner
Special to the Advocate

OXFORD — Worship, workshops and fun were the main attractions when more than 120 youth and 30 adults attended the first confirmation retreat at Camp Lake Stephens.

Darrell Whitaker, executive director of Lake Stephens, said the retreat was offered to complement and reinforce the confirmation programs taking place in local churches.

“Since confirmation is such an important part of every young Methodist’s life,” said Whitaker, “we believed that a retreat providing meaningful worship sessions and creative workshops would help the kids attending have a deeper appreciation for the confirmation experience.”

The event, aimed at students in grades 6-8, was held Feb. 3-5.

The weekend’s program consisted of five worship sessions and five workshops. Each worship session focused on a different theme pertaining to confirmation.

The speakers included Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, the Rev. Jim Matheny of Grenada First United Methodist Church, the Rev. Claire Dobbs of Oxford-University UMC in Oxford, the Rev. Bill McAlilly of Tupelo First UMC and the Rev. Eddie Spencer of Alta Woods UMC in Jackson. 

Shellie Ross, youth director at Oxford-University UMC, said the 12 kids who attended from her church had a great time. “Not only did they have fun,” she remarked, “but all the information stuck with them. After the retreat, we asked them questions about the different sessions, and they remembered what they had heard. It was all age-appropriate, too, which was especially helpful.” 

In addition to the worship sessions, the five workshops were well-received. They included:

  • The history of the church and John Wesley’s life, taught by the Rev. Rusty Keen of Amory First UMC;
  • The authority of scripture and how to study it, taught by the Rev. Regan Miskelly of Tupelo First UMC;
  • Salvation and the study of Wesley’s “Means of Grace,” taught by the Rev. Cathy Larsen of Mineral Wells UMC in Olive Branch;
  • Sacraments and worship focusing on the role of worship and an in-depth look at the sacraments, taught by the Rev. John Richardson of New Albany First UMC;
  • Missions and outreach and the responsibility Christians have to serve others, taught by the Rev. Stephen Cook of Greenville Revels UMC. 

Emily Meadows, a sixth-grader who attended the retreat with students from Oxford-University UMC, said she enjoyed all the sessions, but was especially impacted by the words of Rev. Eddie Spencer, a former inmate.

“He was my favorite because he turned his life around,” said Meadows. “Even if you think your life is ruined, you can still change if you let God take over.” 

Eddie Willis, director of the Wesley Foundation at Delta State University in Cleveland, was worship leader for the retreat. “I felt that the kids were able to leave there with a good grasp of what it means to grow in the church,” he remarked.