Winter Con is just around the corner. It’s February 7th-9th at Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, Colorado. The theme is Standing on the Side of Love.

For many youth, this is their first chance to attend cons. For some, new experiences are exhilarating, for others it can be scary. But cons don’t have to go into the “fear of the unknown” category. You can help a new buddy at your church get excited about cons by telling them what your experience is like.

I, Jennica Davis-Hockett, challenge you to write or record the story of your first con to share with your church and youth group. If you send it to me at, I’ll post it on the website to inspire others!

After you’ve got your friends all hopped up cons, make sure to give them the link to registration! The deadline is January 29!

Here’s some inspiration for you. It’s the first con experience of Eric Bliss – esteemed DRE, Chaplain and Camp Director.

The Mountain

It was a beginning like no other. I was sixteen. It was my first UU youth con. Traveling winding valley roads and cliff side crags, we arrived at the Mountain, an hour or so after dark—an actual mountain, owned and operated by Unitarian Universalists in the lush green canopies, and smoky peaks of western North Carolina.

I stepped out of the cramped minivan, stretching my limbs, with the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel still reverberating in my psyche—on the tip of my tongue, like a snowflake.

Dear God, the stars. I’ve never seen so many. It was a crisp, clear February night, and they were so close, you could almost touch them. I tried, straining vainly in wonder, as a child might grasp for a toy just out of reach.

Breathing in deeply, an immense and overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility filled my being. I spun slowly, like a salt water taffy machine, the twinkling lights above me a blur.

Sounds of celebration broke my reverie, as laughter erupted from the meeting hall before me, glowing with light, broadcasting sounds of mirth and merriment.

As I entered, a group of 3 shaggy haired young folk approached me. “Ever been foofed?” one of them asked.

“Foofed?”, I responded, incredulously.

“Virgin foof!” They exclaimed, wrestling me to the ground and blowing on my belly in unison.

Now, that’s how you say hello. [Editor’s note: well, that’s how you said hello in the “olden days.” 😉 Today we’ve traded in foofing for “consent is cool” and make sure we’re greeting people in a way they want to be greeted.]

Young Eric Bliss - Priceless

That night I couldn’t sleep. My head was swimming. Full of smiles, and new faces… A door had opened. A part of me, yet undiscovered, had opened.

I’m not sure the hour, but it was very late – or rather, very early. I crept down to the kitchen as my throat was parched. Finding some hot cocoa, I bundled up with a blanket and shuffled quietly out, cupping my cocoa, onto the wooden porch of the lodge where we were staying, which quite literally extended out from the mountain top, overlooking a darkened valley below.

I paused, sipping my beverage.

And the sun began to rise. It felt like trumpets were playing in my soul. I was dumbfounded. Exhilirated. Humbled. Grateful. A spec. A universe. Alive.

The Mountain after Dawn

People began to shuffle bleary eyed into the hall for breakfast.

“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” an adult voice said from behind me.

“Beyond description,” I uttered, breathless.

We stood silently amidst the morning bustle for long moments drinking in the sight, savoring it like sweet nectar from fresh honey suckle.

And when I turned around, my mystery companion had rejoined the crowd.

Smiling, I returned to bed for a few ephemeral winks, eventually, woken to the sounds of a discordant, untuned guitar attempting to play Aerosmith’s Dream on. Life can be funny.

Looking back, I left a little piece of me on that mountain top that brisk winter in Carolina. But I also, was reborn. Like the soap white rhododendron blossoms which return each year, peppering that selfsame mountain in warmer months, and glistening with the perspiration of summer.