Youth group looks forward to singing at General Conference

The entire youth group from Jean United Methodist Church near Newcastle, Texas, will perform at the 2004 General Conference - all four of them.

Gene, J.T., Kathy and Rachel Cox, brothers and sisters, were chosen by the Rev. Barbara Day Miller, music director for General Conference, to be part of a mass youth choir that will sing during one of the worship services.

Their audition tape was just one of more than 120 Miller listened to before narrowing the final selection to 60 groups from across the United Methodist connection.

They will travel to Pittsburgh with their mother, Amy Junek, and the Rev. Marie Helm, pastor of Jean United Methodist Church, near Newcastle. Gene is a senior in high school, J.T. is a sophomore, Kathy is in the eighth grade and Rachel is a sixth-grader.

The four siblings have been singing together for years under their mother's direction. Helm says the church just "loves to hear those kids sing."

"These kids have a beautiful blend; they sing with enthusiasm," says Helm, who also happens to have a degree in music. "We don't need a microphone, and this is very unusual with a youth choir."

Since General Conference does not give groups money to attend the international gathering, the family will be "literally singing for their supper," Helm says, laughing.

To raise money, the choir is giving concerts across the Central Texas Annual (regional) Conference.

"I put the word out that we are representing our conference, and we want to sing for donations," Helm says.

This will be the choir's longest trip away from Texas, Helm says, so the group plans to take in a little sightseeing along the way.

The choir will be part of a large youth choir singing at General Conference, and Helm says they are a little disappointed they won't have a moment to themselves - but they do have a plan. They are contacting the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference to see if a small church in the area would enjoy hearing a song or two from a Texas town choir.

"Part of what these kids see in themselves is they can be an inspiration, and that it doesn't take huge crowds, that you can do this with one or two people," Helm says.

"They are just a neat group of kids," she says. "I am wowed by them."

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.  News media can contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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