Re-posted with permission from Parker Cutler and Saint Luke’s Presbyterian Church. Do you have a great Montreat story to share? Send a message to joshr[at]montreat.org.
It’s hard to put into words everything that Montreat has meant to me over the past four years. Most of my time in high school has involved Montreat in one way or another and I can’t imagine who I’d be without it. Anyone who has been there will tell you that it’s a “thin place:” a place where heaven and earth are just a little bit closer together. That much was obvious to me the instant I first crossed through Montreat’s gate- it’s a beautiful place, all blue sky and green mountains; the inexplicable aura of peace and simple contentedness emanating from the old stone buildings – but that beauty quickly became a backdrop to the amazing things and people all around me.
You see, Montreat Youth Conferences are unlike any other conferences I have ever attended or will ever attend, probably. There’s something about being surrounded by a thousand other people in a beautiful stone building, and that experience is heightened even more knowing that all of you are connected: you’re all teenagers, first of all; you’re all going through the same wonderful, awkward period of your lives together; and second of all, you’re connected by your faith. Some may have a stronger faith than others; some may be tentatively holding on to faith, but God is ultimately what ties us all together, and that’s a powerful thought and an even more powerful feeling. At church we hear a lot about the community of faith, but as a youth, I never really understood that concept until I came to Montreat, nor have I ever felt more connected and a part of that community than when I’m at Montreat. It’s weird – you surround yourself for a week with people who are ridiculously excited about God (no exaggeration – people camp out outside the auditorium a solid hour before keynote and worship to get the best seats), and you can’t help but begin to get a little excited too.
It’s not only the people that I have met at Montreat, as amazing as they are, that made it so special; it was also the time I got to spend with the rest of the St. Luke’s group. Some of the best, funniest, craziest memories I have of being a St. Luke’s youth come from sitting on the front porch of our house at Montreat. It’s such a unique time and a unique atmosphere to hang out with friends from youth group – literally all living together for a week. And it’s not a huge house, either, so we get to know each other pretty well, which is awesome.
I remember my first trip to Montreat very distinctively because of the profound impact it had on me. I felt fairly comfortable in my faith, but the topics covered in that first conference hit every question and insecurity I had – I couldn’t shake the feeling that each keynote and each sermon was aimed directly at me. Combining the aforementioned sense of community with the amazing passion of the leadership results in a “spiritual high” – you’ve heard of those, right? – that is a force to be reckoned with. Each conference is honed so specifically to what teenagers today need to hear that it’s hard not to walk away with a renewed sense of purpose that lasts.
I’m not sure I’ve discovered everything that I have taken away from Montreat yet, but I do know this. My faith is deeper and stronger and I’m more willing to grow and explore it because of what I’ve experienced at Montreat. I know that without those chances to truly examine my faith and the Bible through the probing questions of a keynoter, or the impassioned sermons of a preacher, I would not feel as profound a connection and relationship with God as I do, nor would I be as fiercely proud and excited about Jesus Christ and my faith as I am.
Honestly, there’s so much more I wish I could say about Montreat, but I would start rambling and probably become incoherent because there’s just so much. Just know that I really, really love Montreat, and I have yet to meet someone who has been there and doesn’t feel the same way. It’s been one of the highlights of my high school years, and something I plan to continue in the future.
Parker Cutler is a member of St. Luke’s who grew up in this church. After her freshman in high school year she attended a Montreat youth conference in Montreat, North Carolina. Her life was changed. She even served on the planning team for this conference of over 1100 Presbyterian high school students. She is in her first year at Auburn University and loving every minute of it. She’s even returning for the college conference at Montreat this January. This is her reflection on her experience at Montreat through her high school years. Read and hear why these conferences are so important the lives of these teenagers. Your support of Saint Luke’s and the Tartan Trot make experiences like Parker’s possible.