Contact: Mimi McDowell, Director of Church Relations, 318-869-5108 or
Lynn Stewart, Director of Public Relations, 318-869-5120


Centenary to Host United Methodist Youth Leadership Conference April 20-22; Free Public Concert April 21 to Feature Vocalist Celia Whitler in Amphitheatre

Celia and Ron Whitler

SHREVEPORT, LA -- United Methodist youth from throughout Louisiana will travel to Centenary College for the college's inaugural United Methodist Youth Leadership Conference (UMYLC) April 20-22.

Participants were selected by district superintendents and youth coordinators after churches from the nine districts in the Louisiana Annual Conference nominated high school sophomores and juniors with outstanding leadership potential.

The UMYLC will include workshops with conference leaders Celia and Ron Whitler, Centenary alumni of the Nashville, Tenn. area. Sessions will cover such topics as conflict resolution, understanding personality types, motivation and servanthood.

In addition, participants will perform a service project at the Johnson Chapel United Methodist Church in Shreveport. They will also plan and lead a Sunday morning worship service.

Mrs. Whitler, a vocalist and songwriter, will perform a free public concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 21 in Centenary's Hargrove Amphitheatre. A 1986 Centenary graduate, she holds degrees in Christian education and elementary education. She taught school for five years before leaving the classroom to sing. "I want people to know that our faith is an exciting and dynamic adventure -- to share Christ's message of unconditional love and to encourage others in their faith journeys," she says.

Her entry into songwriting came in 1990, when she released her first album, Make Me Worthy, which blended traditional and contemporary Christian music. Her second album, Steadfast Heart, released in 1992, blends contemporary and inspirational music. Her third release, Walk Chalantly, has a broad base of songs about life. Faces of Our Friends, her latest release, continues with a mixture of songs and has an acoustic base similar to her live concerts.

Ron Whitler, a 1985 Centenary graduate, left youth ministry in the local church after 13 years of full-time work. He joined his wife to facilitate concerts with youth and adults in a variety of church settings. They have participated in over 550 concerts and events in 39 states and the District of Columbia during the past several years.

The Whitlers will be assisted by Centenary students, who will lead workshops and participate in the service project -- the scraping and cleaning of the Johnson Chapel walls in preparation for painting. Centenary students will also act as residence hall hosts for the participants.

The UMYLC is designed to complement leadership activities already being offered through local churches. "We hope the participants will take away leadership skills that they can use in their home churches, schools and communities," said Mimi McDowell, Centenary's director of church relations. "In addition," she said, "they will also gain insight into a United Methodist college experience, including the uniqueness of Centenary."

The leadership conference is sponsored in part by a grant from the United Methodist Youth Service Fund.

For further information, contact Ms. McDowell at 318-869-5108 or email her at

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