Hi, I’m Kathleen Iacobelli and I go to St Catherine ’s in Marietta and I am a member of the Diocesan Youth Commission.
God and my church have given me the opportunity to attend New Beginnings, PYE, Happening, Steps to Lead and EYE as well as my own youth group events and our pilgrimage to Scotland. Each experience has taught me so much about my faith. And through faith, I have learned that to love like Jesus you must first trust that God is already at work in every situation, even when its not readily apparent.
I’d like to share my experience at EYE17. For those of you that don’t know, EYE stands for the Episcopal Youth Event, and it happens every 3 years. Over 1,000 youth gather from across the country to discuss topics in the Episcopal Church. The theme that year was “path to peace” and for freshman me, that sounded like a huge topic to take on in 5 days but I was so excited to go. Upon arriving, I met so many people from all over the country, but there was one thing we all had in common - the Episcopal Church and its mission to spread peace and kindness throughout the world.
This event and the idea of being a peacemaker made me want to participate in more youth events and I found myself checking the diocesan website which, in case you don’t know is EYCDIOATL - one more time for Easton - EYCDIOATL. I was looking for other ways to learn about faith and how I could help others in the church. I signed up for so many events that my mom and dad couldn’t keep them all straight.
One of them was the Province 4 Youth Event. At PYE, I learned how important it is to find my voice and use it as a way to help others. For those who know me, I use my voice a lot. I never seem to stop talking, unless its after a youth event and then, when I talk, it sounds very scratchy. This is because I’ve used all of the voice God has given me to get everyone as excited as I am to be at these wonderful events. But at PYE, my normally loud voice was at a loss for words. After visiting the Center for Civil and Human Rights, I had learned so much that it was taking a while to sink in. I felt like I had found a new way to use my voice. I could use it not only to tell others what I knew, but I could use it to connect others on topics they had in common and help them see that they weren’t alone.
I learned all of this through a wonderful activity we did called Posts for Peace. You saw the video earlier from Easton. We spent the first few hours deciding the themes for the 6 posts. After choosing our themes, everyone split into groups to work on a post they felt God called them to. We collaborated on ideas of how to use our voices through art on these giant fence posts that will travel the world to tell our stories. You might see them around Atlanta at a Historical site or on the Beltline. Keep a lookout for them. I had never thought of using my voice through art before. This may be because my artistic ability is about as good as a second grader but it got me thinking if I can use my voice through art, how else can I use my voice?
After thinking for a while, I felt like I could use my voice to advocate for others.
Now, after hearing about all of my church experiences, it may surprise you to hear that seeing God is something that has always been very hard for me. I never knew where to look. While I was growing up, everyone always told me about how they saw God in nature, in the clouds, in music, or in art but I could never see God in that way. It wasn’t until I was in Scotland with my youth group that I began to see God. I had spent the first couple days there looking and looking for God but I felt like He was nowhere to be found. That was until the last day, when I finally figured out how I could see God. Instead of worrying about why I couldn't, I just relaxed and knew God would help me see. Once I did, I began to see the world in an entirely new way. When I go to church I see God. When I go to Happening, I see God, and the best part is, I don’t just see God in the clouds or the mountains of Camp Mikell, I see God in the people all around me. These people truly inspire me to help others and push myself to love like Jesus and spread his love throughout the world.
Now that I have talked about learning how to share peace, love like Jesus, and look for God in the world, I feel it’s time to share where I feel called to serve our church. It started at Steps to Lead - a Youth Leadership Retreat in our diocese led by Bishop Wright. This past summer I was selected to attend, and I spent a weekend learning about the leadership of Jesus and what it means to be a leader in our world. During the retreat, Bishop Wright made all of us stop and think about what God was calling us to work on in our world. Every time we came up with an idea he would push us and ask why we wanted to work on that issue. After he asked me “why” about 100 times and the conversation got deeper and deeper, it finally got down deep enough for me to realize where I felt called. I realized I want to work with children and the parents of children with special needs and make them feel at home in the church. I felt the need to do this because I have a reading disability and I know what it feels like to be outside of the mold. Did you know that most parents with children that have special needs won’t bring them to church because they fear that their child will cause a distraction and interrupt others during the service?
When I got home from Steps to Lead, I went to my Girl Scout troop leader and told her that I had finally found what I wanted to do for my Girl Scout Gold Award. I told her I wanted to teach others how to include children with special needs in the church so they could know that Jesus loves them for who they are. My troop leader agreed, and this is where my work began. My goal is to teach people in the Episcopal Church how important God is in every child's life. I believe this will be the easy part. The hard part is going to be getting others to take action and make their parishes more welcoming and accessible to children and other people with special needs. In order to make this goal achievable, I must start with the parents of these children and young adults.
I have learned from Jesus and my church that to teach people about those who are “different”, you must be comfortable with surrounding yourself with people who are different from you. We all want to be accepted and included. I don’t need research to back it up because our God loves everyone - no exceptions.
God loves us all and so we should extend the invitation that God has sent to us, inviting all people to Him. These people can be seen as adults, children, teens, and anyone else that you feel could use some time to connect to God and His love. This could mean inviting a friend whose child has special needs, it could mean showing compassion for those whose journey may be different from yours, it could be making your church more welcoming to those that don’t see, hear, learn or walk in the same way. I hope you choose to love like Jesus and spread the word of His love so that all people may know the grace of God’s love. Thank you.
By Autumn Toms, St. Patrick's Dunwoody
Hello! My name is Autumn Toms, I am a rising senior at St. Patrick’s, and I will be Rector of Happening 71. I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Happening National Leadership Conference in Philadelphia, and I had a blast! Not only did I make amazing new friends, but I also learned so much about Happenings all over the country. I attended workshops discussing caritas, marketing, and nine ways to lead like Jesus. At all these workshops, and even when just having conversations with other youth, I found that even though all Happenings are based on the same principles, everyone interprets and executes those principles differently. Some of these ideas we loved, and some made us value our choices more.
All of the youth I met, and even the youth and adults on HNC, had such a strong love for Happening even though they all had different levels of involvement. I met rectors, ORs (which the Diocese of West Missouri calls Dings), and youth who had only served on team once. Everyone had such strong faith; I am really glad I was able to be in community with them. I hope to stay in touch with the people I met by serving on team at other Happenings in Dioceses such as West Missouri and West Texas.
By Ellie Minette, Christ Church Macon
We as the Diocese of Atlanta are part of Province IV. In my opinion, PIV is the best province, especially for young people. My opinion was confirmed this past weekend at the PIV Networking meeting.
At this meeting, youth leaders from most dioceses in PIV came together to discuss the future of our province and our church. It was amazing to listen to everyone’s ideas and see how passionate everyone is about their faith and their beliefs. I learned so much from everyone there. We shared ideas for retreats that I can’t wait to share back home at Camp Mikell. We played new games that were super fun. We talked about social injustice and how we wanted to see a change in the world around us. We want to be the start of that change. We also want our voice to be heard in the Episcopal church, and people recognized that and listened to us.
As a youth, this was an incredible opportunity and experience. If you have the chance to attend a Province wide gathering (hint hint you do at PYE18), I pray that you will take your chance, experience the love and the faith, and be inspired by the youth of Province IV.
By Perry Gresham, Grace Calvary
I am Perry Gresham, I am a member of Grace Calvary Episcopal Church, I am a member of the Convocation of the North Georgia Mountains, and I am a part of the this Diocese. Diocese of Atlanta, let me hear ya!
So, what do I have for you today? Before I get into the heart of it, lemme just say that things are happening in the Diocese of Atlanta, both at our churches and at our diocesan youth events, and I am grateful to be a part of both.
So, what is is being a youth in our Diocese? It’s busy. Very busy. Whether we are acolyting at our church, playing four square at Camp Mikell, washing our feet in the Atlantic ocean, or running around in Oklahoma City, we are eager to explore all that God has for us. In the Gospel, the bridesmaids seemed ready; yet, the lamps of five of them went out. They were expecting Jesus to arrive on their schedule so when His coming was delayed, they found themselves unprepared. Being a youth in the church can be like this. We are so busy with SAT’s, ACT’s, sports, clubs, community service hours, ya know, building that college resume, that church can get lost. And if church is lost, our faith will not run deep and our fires will burn out. Talk to any Youth Minister in our Diocese and they will tell you how much youth have on their plate in today’s world. It’s an issue, and I won’t pretend to have the answers for it, but we have to talk about it no matter how uncomfortable it is. Even with all of this going on I believe so many of the youth in our Diocese are ready and prepared with a deep faith. It’s a part of our anglican heritage - we get what it means to love without conditions, to welcome both the churched and unchurched, and to not give up on this world.
This summer, I was a part of the inaugural Steps to Lead Retreat, which happened to have Bishop Wright with us, a beast on the basketball court and a loving mentor. As a participant, I took steps, metaphorically and literally, toward becoming a better leader in my church, school, and community. Inspired by the words of Bishop Wright, “Leadership is the capacity to mobilize people to address tough problems especially problems they would rather avoid,” we were sent out to begin a new journey in leading as Jesus calls us to lead. We were ready. Easton, Mary Hooper, and Bishop Wright sent us to heed Jesus’ best and shortest sermon: Go!
Later that summer, I went to Oklahoma where the largest function in the “Capital C” Church was waiting. Imagine this, you are on the front row for the Episcopal Youth Event’s opening eucharist, you are surrounded by 1300 of your closest friends, shouting, singing, and swaying to the sounds of God’s love. This was my reality in July. EYE was an amazing experience. I met other youth from Alaska to Hawaii to France to Israel. From multiple points on the globe, we gathered in order to share a common experience and that experience was life changing. The theme for the week, Path to Peace, challenged us to love like Jesus. Because of the immense diversity at Central Oklahoma University, my heart expanded to include everyone regardless of society’s boundaries. I conquered the challenge to grow spiritually. Bishop Curry repeatedly invited us to join the Jesus Movement and by the end of the week, I can tell you, we were all in. All 1300 of us were ready.
After journeying across the country, I returned to my spiritual home, my thin place, a second home for many of our youth, Camp Mikell. I am from the mountains and it's where my roots run the deepest. This place is one where everyone is welcome and I was blessed to spend five weeks at this haven. Two weeks as a camper, three weeks as a counselor, including a sweet week with the Emmaus House scholars, completed my summer. Because I invested in leadership stemming from Steps to Lead and EYE, I felt more comfortable in my leadership role. Inspired by a courageous and sweet Agallia, just five years old, I learned to take leaps of faith in order to experience a deeper love of God. I can hear her voice right now telling me, “just be happy Perry!” She was ready to love, serve, worship, and grow no matter the situation. Because of those simple words and Agallia’s pure spirit, I deepened my own faith.
So, to bring it all back around, my deep faith has been formed by my loving congregation at Grace Calvary, by the love I receive at Camp Mikell, and by all all the diocesan youth events I am a part of. I know I am not speaking to the 1000’s of youth across our Diocese, but I am speaking to those that know each one of them. What I ask you today, is to make youth a priority. Let them be the church. Youth Sunday is awesome, but what about the other 51 Sunday’s a year? What about vestry? What about investing in a Youth Director? I know, it’s a tall order, but as the Gospel says, we need to be ready, and being ready requires a commitment from every church and person in our Diocese.
In every experience I shared today, I am not alone. Because of your commitment to our spiritual journey, the youth of the Diocese are ready. We personally challenge ourselves every day to worship joyfully and peacefully with our peers from across the Church and world, serve compassionately by walking in another’s footsteps, and grow spiritually alongside the most vulnerable among us like the sweet Agallia. Today is our day. Watch and follow us as we Go!
By Kathleen Ioacabelli, St. Catherine's
EYE17 was a life changing trip for me. I learned many new things about my faith and about others in my faith. But most importantly, I learned how faith helps you through your highs and lows.
Our trip started before others at EYE. The Diocese of Atlanta had a meeting to discuss what our week at EYE would be like. We also learned facts about Oklahoma and got to know the other people that would be on the trip. After that, we had many weeks to prepare for our journey.
On Sunday, at St. Catherine’s, my home parish, we said a blessing before our trip early Monday morning. As Mother Sarah said, we were very privileged to be able to go on such a trip and have the opportunity to learn about others in our faith. And that we did.
I could not wait to go on my trip and I am sure all of you have experienced the times when something very exciting is going to happen the next day so you wake up many times during the night to see if it is time. Well, that happened to me. I woke up many times that night waiting for this super exciting trip to begin. When it was time to wakeup that morning, I was ready to go. I had packed all of the things I was sure to need and got in the car to head to the airport. On the way there, we stopped and picked up Owen, one of the boys from my church who was going on this trip.
Finally, after what seemed to be the longest car ride ever, we were at the airport. We parked the car and my dad took us into the airport where we met Sally and all of our other friends that were going. We checked our bags, went through security and were ready to go. Shortly after that, we boarded the airplane and headed for Dallas. When we got there, we all got off the plane, bought lunch and sat at the gate. A group of us were sitting on the floor playing a game of Uno. And from that moment on, I knew we would be great friends. A short while later, we got on the airplane and headed to our final destination, Oklahoma City.
When we got there, we were welcomed by the EYE17 Staff and headed off to the University of Oklahoma City. On the bus ride there, we met a few people from other dioceses. They were just a few of the people we would meet. When we got there, Sally checked us in while we stood outside. And thanks to Happening and New Beginnings, we all knew many of the same songs. So, being the loud group we are, we began to sing. We sang and sang all of the words we knew. Then, Sally returned and we had our first pep talk about all the rules and how to work the EYE app. We got assigned rooms and we all went to find them. Then, we went to play on some of the bouncy houses and play on the soccer fields. This is where we met new friends, played games and shared stories. We taught people how to play Duck Duck Animal and many other of our favorite games. Then, it was dinner time.
We were waiting in line for dinner when two feet in front of me, a kid fell down and began to have a seizure. I called for Sally while others called 911 and got him help. I held the doors with one other person to help the EMTs. While the rest of our group grabbed others and began to pray. When he needed more room, we went to the other side of the dining hall and got food. During this time, we continued to pray for him.
The next day came and we went down for breakfast. After eating a good meal, we met many new friends while we played soccer, volleyball and basketball. We got in line to get seats at the opening Eucharist. This is where we watched Perry carry the cross and Alexis carry our Atlanta banner. This is when the Bishop came to talk to us. He gave a great sermon about going out and helping those who need it, not just the ones that everyone else is helping. He also told us to help others not because others will thank us or acknowledge us but to do it because they need to be helped and because those are the people God would want us to help. After Eucharist, we played more games and tried to learn new names.
On Wednesday, we wore our EYE shirts and toured many places like the art museum and the Oklahoma City bombing museum. This was a very sad place because you were really there right as the tragedy was happening. It showed you the faces of the lives lost and showed news clips. I even cried which, if you haven’t met me is a big deal because I rarely cry. The end of the museum tour was the saddest part. You walk up to huge glass windows and look in to the base of what used to be the building. Then, you see the most powerful part, two signs as tall as houses. The sign on the left wall is marked 9:01 and the sign on the right is marked 9:02 and in the middle are huge metal chairs that are marked with the names of those that died and they were glowing with lights that pointed up from the base. They weren’t just chairs but they were a memorial for the men, women and children that died. They had names on them and they were different sizes. The big chairs were for adults and the little chairs are for the kids. When I walked up to the windows and saw this, all I could do was stand there, cry and wonder why anyone would do this. I was then comforted by others in my group who gave me hugs. As we walked out, everyone slowly began to talk. Everyone started to look to the left and point. They were pointing at a fence, a metal chain linked fence where loved ones left flowers, art, stuffed animals, notes and so much more. It was so powerful to experience something like this but in my heart, I knew God did it for a reason.
We toured other exhibits like the house show and history museum. Late that night, we headed back to the campus where we talked about how we felt and the impact it had on us. Time flew by and it was time to wake up again. We ate breakfast and then got seats in the gym to listen to a group from Kids 4 Peace. They told us about how hard it was to live where they did because everyone was always in wars and bombing each other. After I listened, I took a moment to thank God that I live in America and even when we have bad times and bombings, we still have people to help us. I prayed that one day the world will be peaceful so we could really love one another - no matter what someone looks like or where they come from.
We then headed to Praxis sessions which are like small group learning times. During these, I learned about how to work with others, how to use my voice, how to pray and how to join the Jesus Movement. In case you don’t know, that the Jesus Movement is, it is a movement led by the Bishop where he explains that you show love others and help those who need it, not because you will get recognized but because it is the right thing to do. This is was my first time hearing the Bishop talk and it was very impressive. He explained the Bible and the movement in a way a teen would understand but also like he had just met with God at Starbucks to discuss what he should tell us.
After that, we met new people and got ready for dinner knowing that tomorrow we had to leave. That night, we had a closing Eucharist where we learned more songs and prayed for those who would be leaving the next day. During Communion, we got coins with the EYE logo and the Episcopal symbol on them. We were told to keep one to remind us of the trip and to take the other to someone who impacted us. The next day, we were exhausted. We got on the bus which got us to the airport after saying many sad good-byes. On the way home, I thought about how good our trip was and how thankful I was to be a part of such a cool trip. When we got home, I told my parents about how much fun I had and how I was so excited to tell everyone at St. Cat’s about my trip.
By Owen Snape, St. Catherine's
EYE was one of the best weeks of my life. I had just gone to my first Happening a couple months prior, so I knew many of the youth attending. When we first arrived, I met others from Guam, Haiti, and many other states. It amazed me how far some people had come to this event, and it made me realize how special EYE really is.
As the week progressed, it became obvious that everyone I met was so different and had their own stories to tell. The most meomrable part of the week was during Oklahoma City day. We had traveled to different museums and the Oklahoma City Bombing memorial, enjoyed the Red Dirt Carnival, and had all gathered back at the memorial for Compline. The whole service was so deep and full of love, and the place we were worshipping made the service ever more special. I remember as the sermon started, I began to look around past the memorial. I saw the beautiful painted sunset behind a building, the lights on top of the skyscrapers, and then I looked up at the sky. I laid down on my back and gazed at the stars while listening to the incredible sermon. For some reason, that sky made me feel so small and insignificant, and it was humbling. Never before had I felt this sensation, and all along the ride back to campus I thought about how I wanted to just lay there forever. I could feel God that night enveloping all of us with a starry, pitch black silhouette. I will forever remember how much love saturated the air during that special, special service.
By Ellie Minette, Christ Church Macon
Imagine the best day, hour, minute, even movement of Camp Mikell. Now imagine that feeling lasting a whole week. This is what EYE is like. The love and acceptance displayed was incredible. I’ve never been in a crowd so ready and so hyped to make the world a better place. Everyone was loving God, loving their neighbor, and loving themselves. The energy and magnitude of the EYE worship services are what churches should strive for. There was nothing there to divide us; we were all siblings in Christ and children of God. Politics, backgrounds, skin color, even language barriers didn’t stop us from loving each other and loving God.
I will always remember this week as one of the most glorious weeks of my life. I wish I could do it again to experience the thinness of it all. From singing to eating to exploring to chanting, everything we did was to praise God. Alabanza!
By MacKenzie Teal, St. Paul's Newnan
Go. In several situations this summer, I've been reminded that Jesus' shortest sermon was "Go". This week so far has been no exception to the returning theme. Right off the bat we were thrown into moments that sat outside of our comfort zones with the task to serve; to go. The first morning, my group went to offer breakfast pastries to day laborers on the side of the road, waiting for jobs that may or may not come. We had to not just offer them food, but strike up a conversation. We had to take a breath, put on our big kid pants, and Go. In doing so, we learned not just about the basic information of these day laborers, but also about where they came from; their aspirations if they weren't working day to day; their families. We learned about their hobbies when they were our age, and they offered advice on things they would have changed in their lives at that age that would have maybe offered them a more stable lifestyle. And we learned about the unwavering love of Christ. While not all the workers were openly faith driven, many of them had some base in faith, and they very plainly told us that regardless of their situation, God was there and His love was there, and our number one job as children of God is to offer that same unwavering love.
Later that night we went on a Prayer Tour of the city. We stopped at different spots throughout the city, mostly at spots with a dense homeless population. Seeing the mass numbers of men, women, and children that have no form of a home or bed was heartbreaking, and thinking back on the sights breaks my heart all over again. But there was a part of that tour that offered a ray of hope. Among all of the poverty and despair, we were able to see all the efforts being made in hopes of ending homelessness for everyone that wants to be in a home. There were services all over the place offering temporary housing, meals, clothes, basic hygiene necessities, and just a sense of security. These services were offered by all kinds of people from church organization, to private owned assistance, to State programs working in hopes of helping these people who have fallen on hard times get back on their feet. All over the city efforts are being made to minimize the issue of homelessness, and it was a constant reminder that you can make a difference a little at a time. It reminded me of the prayer attributed to St.Francis in the Book of Common Prayer, but with some revisions(approved by Bishop Wright). Rather than asking God to make us instruments of His peace, we should declare that We ARE instruments of His peace. Where there is hatred, we WILL sow love; where there is injury, we WILL sow pardon; where there is discord, we WILL sow union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we WILL not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born into eternal life. Amen.
Dylan Walker, Grace Calvary
This past weekend Tommy and myself had gone to Happening 73 in the Diocese of East Tennessee. It was a truly incredible experience and we both got a lot out of it. Within the Happening community we often talk about how big it is even beyond our Diocese and how much love is in the program. I was really able to see that this weekend when I was immediately accepted into a new environment and treated just like I was one of their friends that they'd grown up with.
The Happening Community really is huge and we only went another state away but this movement is going on around the world. Getting to know all the awesome people who put on the program up there was a blessing. I feel like I learned a lot from the things that they did differently and was excited as ever to take part in all the usual Happening traditions that I love. But no matter how many warm fuzzies are being passed around or how many songs we sang while doing silly dances it's still the people that make the weekend a special time.
Driving the three and half hours it takes to get there is no cost for the relationships that I was able to form. I extremely encourage the youth in our Diocese to branch and make the opportunities to cherish in Christ's fellowship outside of our Diocese. The friends and relationships are priceless and it's so valuable to serve in Christ's love alongside new people.
Tommy Coutu, St. Columba's
This past weekend, I was blessed with an amazing opportunity to serve on Happening #73 team for the Diocese of East Tennessee with one of my best friends, Dylan Walker. Dylan was the Rector of Happening #66 in our diocese and I aspire to be Rector in the future. So we both have a strong love for the Happening movement. We had been discussing opportunities to visit Happening in another diocese for the better part of 2016 and seeing that Dylan graduates high school this Spring we decided to do so when we could serve together. We looked at our options and finally arrived at the Diocese of East Tennessee because of the drive and also our interest in Grace Point because neither of us had been there before. So we submitted our applications the day before the deadline, talked with their Diocesan Youth Missioner, Alex, and we were able to come onto their Happening on team with me being a Family Group Leader and Dylan being a Deacon (their version of a Gopher). This all led to a life changing experience for the both of us.
We attended their overnight team training in Knoxville last month and immediately started making friends in such a loving community just like at home. That night I really felt as if we had made an awesome and rewarding decision to further serve the Happening community. Their Rector, Lala, is an extremely passionate girl from Knoxville and she was the first one to greet us when we walked into the Diocesan House. She ran an amazing Happening, is a great leader, and has such a great love for Happening and I'm glad we could work under her. We also had about a two hour conversation with Isaac, the youth leader for Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Tennessee. Being a graduate of Sewanee, University of the South, we had plenty to talk about and he turned out to be my prayer partner for the weekend. Isaac has a passion for youth ministry and I'm glad I had the honor of getting to know him. Lastly, we met the Diocesan Youth Minister, Alex, for the first time in person. Alex is an extremely compassionate man with a heart for ministry. He handled all the music for the weekend and although I love playing, I let him handle it because he's an insanely good guitar player, much better than me. I very much appreciate how he worships through music considering it's just thoroughly beautiful how he plays. When we left Knoxville the next day, Dylan and I were both very excited about their Happening the next month. We met some amazing people and we both were super pumped to get to know them better and to serve God with them.
Fast forward to last weekend. We arrived at Grace Point Thursday night with the rest of team to set up for the weekend. I was really getting excited for the weekend to start and we immediately got even closer to the Happening family we were now apart of. The next night, their 16 or so candidates arrived and everyone was very hype for that, despite us all being exhausted from the day’s work. When we were blindfolded with our family groups, I was really anxious to finally meet who I had been praying for and preparing to meet for the past month. We finally got to go into our family group rooms and get to know our groups. My group consisted of me, three Happeners, and my other family group leader, Ellon (Lala’s little sister). The Diocese of East Tennessee’s Happening is different from ours in a few ways so I was somewhat just as confused as the candidates in some ways, but one thing they do very differently is that their Family Group Leaders aren’t a secret. So, I was able to talk about our Happening and share my experiences as the candidates were having theirs which was pretty cool to discuss the differences. At first, my family group was kind of quiet, but that’s quite normal on the first night. By the end of the weekend, however, we were very close and I’ll never forget the experiences we shared. In family groups and outside of them I met awesome people all around that I enjoyed talking to and we still all talk in their Happening #73 Groupme daily. Their Happening was probably about a third of the size of ours which was pretty different, but I enjoyed it so much because you could develop friendships with so many more people over the course of just a weekend. Not to say I don’t feel blessed by our large Happening, I love how much youth involvement we have, but the smaller group was a cool experience.
Saturday went pretty similar to our Happening. The candidates were so happy about caritas and so surprised and that just made my heart happy. Getting caritas from this Happening just like I did at my Happening two years ago brought back great memories and even made me pull out my brother’s caritas to me from my Happening (I admit that made me tear up. It’s been in my wallet ever since then and it means the world to me). Just seeing the surprise on these high schoolers faces from notes written to them by team, family, and friends was amazing. Finally, we got to their nighttime schedule. They do most of their activities as centers that you do just with your family group and your Deacon. Some highlights of that were definitely a center where you could watch your hands of your sins such as lust, anger, and envy. There was another center at their outdoor fireplace. Earlier that day, we had written notes to ourselves that we thought would be mailed to us. The notes consisted of what we feel is separating us from God. When we got to the fireplace, however, one of their spiritual directors, Deacon Chris, and also Isaac, had our notes. They told us that nothing, nothing at all could separate us from God’s love and handed us our notes. Then, when we were ready, we could let go of those things and throw them in the fire. It was a very powerful and liberating experience. The last center I’ll mention is one where we could speak to the priest of the weekend and ask him questions. The awesome part of this is that their spiritual director for the weekend was actually the Bishop of The Diocese of East Tennessee, George Young. He happened in the Diocese of Florida and I got plenty of time to talk to him all weekend which I very much enjoyed.
The final event of the night was the most powerful in my opinion. After completing all the centers, everyone at camp met in the chapel (which I might add is on the lake and is super cool complete with a cross hanging above the altar made completely out of origami paper cranes). We sat in the pews while Alex played music and then we began their healing service. When the time for healing came, there was 4 chairs at the front of the chapel. They had two stations where you could heal at so two chairs faced each other at both stations. Bishop George sat in one at one station and Lala sat at the other station. When you’re being healed you sit at the chair facing the one healing and like we do, everyone lays hands on you while you’re being healed. However, unlike our Happening, where you heal with just your small groups and prayer team, the entire community lays hands on you. It was an amazing healing service. At that moment, in that chapel, we all became one family. Alex was still playing music and it was definitely how we say, a “thin place.” I chose to be healed by the Bishop over my recent struggles balancing a very busy schedule, trying to get into Vanderbilt University and spend my college career there, and still maintaining a strong relationship with God that I had. In that moment, all the friendships I had made and the deep conversations I had over the course of the weekend came together. Although there was only so much room for hands to be laid on me, I felt the entire congregation with me. I felt spiritually renewed and it was a very graceful experience. By the end everyone was filled with tears and love for one another. I don’t think a single person in the church could hold back tears. Even I managed to shed some and it takes a lot for me to cry. Not because I’m not emotional, I just don’t cry all that much. However, that night those tears were over not only sorrow, but joy. I felt so close to a community, a family, that I had just met that weekend. That service brought everyone together in such an amazing way. I felt blessed to have made the decision to come up there and I was glad God’s plan for me had this Happening in it.
The next day consisted of things much similar to our Happening. At closing Eucharist, all the candidates and family group leaders entered blindfolded like on Friday night to singing and their parents there all to celebrate their Happening which was really cool. I even had people there who I was surprised to see. Jody Davis, a Grace Point staffer who was in my cabin at Work Camp this past summer at Camp Mikell, and Parker Jones, the son of Brad Jones the Camp Director of Grace Point, who I’m pretty close to were both there and I was really happy to see them. At their closing Eucharist, the family group leaders give their Happeners their crosses before they say their favorite part of the weekend which I enjoyed getting to do. After all the Happeners all got their crosses however, even Dylan and I were surprised. Lala called us up and gave us crosses, thanked us for coming and we got to talk about our experience. We just mentioned our love for Happening and how it called us to come up. After that, because East Tennessee doesn’t have an Observing Rector, Lala called up the Rector for the next Happening and passed on the Rector’s cross to her which was pretty cool. Haley, who will be rector, chosen by Lala, Alex, Deacon Chris, Bishop George, and the other adults, came up and accepted the position. I think her Happening in the fall will be a great one and I’m very proud of her. I might even have to come back for that because I loved this Happening so much. I’m also very proud of Lala for running such an amazing Happening that I, along with all the Happeners, got so much out of. I admire her leadership skills and I also admire the entire team up there. They all love each other and the movement so much and worked really hard for it to go as well as it did. If any of you East Tennessee folk are reading this, I love all y’all and I hope to be back. I’m truly blessed to be apart of not one, but two Happening families now.
Overall, this weekend really showed me how amazing Happening really is. I’ve always loved it, but after this, I have a whole new appreciation for the program. We have one of the largest Happenings worldwide in our diocese that we should feel blessed for, however, every Happening, no matter how big or small makes an impact on young Christian lives. We’re able to make such a big difference in people's’ lives through this amazing program. What this Happening did for me is not only feel spiritually renewed, but it gave me an even bigger burning desire to serve. I saw a community a third of the size of ours do amazing things. This proves it’s not about size. It’s about the program and the people. I cannot stress enough how blessed I feel by this new community and now all I want is to do more. East Tennessee, all y’all will always be in my heart and I love all y’all in so many different ways. I already miss it. Dio Atl, y’all are the foundation of my faith and I hope I can be apart of this movement forever. I love our Happening and our diocese and I hope we can continue to change lives. We all have special qualities that allow us to do so and let’s continue to serve the Lord and bring Him and His word to others. Thank you all for what you’ve done for my faith. I’m tearing up writing this honestly. I may be involved in two dioceses, but what matters is one Happening. One movement that changes lives. I love y’all and God bless all of you!
By Sophie Alexander, Church of the Resurrection
Two weekends ago I was privileged enough to attend Happening 67. The experience I had there completely changed the way I view my faith and the way I see others. I don't want to spoil Happening for anyone who hasn't attended yet so I'm going to keep it a bit vague.
When I arrived at Camp Mikell Friday afternoon I was having serious doubts. The past couple of weeks had a bit rough for me and I was actually considering just telling my dad to turn around and drive home because I was nervous about putting myself out there and trying something new.The only thing I knew about Happening at that point was that it was a "weekend for youth run by youth." The thought of not knowing what the weekend was all about scared me, but fortunately at the last minute I decided that it was too late to back out and that I needed to go.
Thank goodness I ended up going because the weekend changed my life. The moment I arrived my doubts were swept away by the enthusiastic greetings given by team members and the invitation of a game of four square. The weekend only got better from that moment I stepped out of my car.
Happening lived up to my biggest expectations and surpassed them completely. The amount of love that was so freely given by everyone there was overwhelming. The assurance that God has Abounding Grace for everyone was unbelievable. The amount of special preparation for the candidates was amazing. Every member of the Episcopal Youth Community that worked Happening 67 impacted me in some way. It was awesome to know that the whole weekend was built to be special for me and the other candidates and that people we hadn't even met before the weekend had this type of unconditional love for us.
If you are thinking about going to Happening, but have doubts about signing up for something you know nothing about, I encourage you to take the leap of faith. The Episcopal Youth Community will be there to catch you with open arms and to love you unconditionally
By Ted Shipley, St. Columba's
“We challenge ourselves and the world to love like Jesus as we worship joyfully, serve compassionately, and grow spiritually.” This is the Diocese of Atlanta purpose statement. In today’s Gospel, Jesus informs his disciples the importance of putting him as their top priority. He promises them eternal life if they discard everything they have to follow him. He challenges them to love like him, and to love with him. Standing in front of everyone here today really puts how large our Diocese is into perspective.
The youth of our Diocese is no different. We are big. We have come together and done remarkable things. Whether it's in January when 10 youth and 5 young adults came together to record 8 songs for youth groups to use for worship or just a “pick me up” kind of day. In this way worship joyfully, spreading our favorite songs around the Diocese. Or in the month of March when over 200 participants from 25 parishes came together for the Hunger Walk. This is an example of one of the ways we serve compassionately in raising over $5,000 that we eventually split between the ministries of Emmaus House and Holy Comforter. In May we had 29 graduates from 20 different churches come together and celebrate the beginning of the next chapter in their life. Yet another way this amazing community worships joyfully. In June we had the diocesan tubing trip where 180 youth from 26 parishes showed out and had Eucharist later that day at Church of the Resurrection. Again, we worshipped joyfully. In July we send over 90 youth and adults out for week of mission work. Middle schoolers made an impact going in our own backyards of Atlanta. The high schoolers traveled to Birmingham and shined God’s light in a community in real need. Mission trips are such an amazing experience beyond explanation. Not only for those that we serve, but the way that they serve us. We learn how we can find got in anyone and anything. Mission trips are a clear explanation of how our Diocese goes out into the world to love like Jesus while “guess what” - Worshiping joyfully, serving compassionately, and growing spiritually. Seeing a trend here?
I have attended diocesan mission trips in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Nashville. I highly recommend every youth group go on their own or join in on the Diocesan Mission Week. In the month of August, over 150 youth from 19 different parishes came together on the Youth Service Day Retreat to serve compassionately by doing the following work: building over 100 hygiene packs for Church of the Common Ground, collecting 600 articles of clothing for Threads of All Saints’ Atlanta, collecting close to 400 books for Emmaus House Freedom School, collecting over 1,000 canned goods for Appleton Episcopal Ministries, and making 1,000 sandwiches for Crossroads Ministries of St. Luke’s Atlanta. We also learned about each ministries we work with that day. We served compassionately. To think that just a number of youth can change that many lives amazes me. Every single youth’s donations or hands helped us reach our goals and benefit the lives of others. If you have not seen it already, a few of my friends within the Diocese and I came together to record a Suicide Prevention Video released the month of September, Suicide Awareness Month. We felt called into action after two of our own took their own life just months apart in early 2016. The video has received over 30,000 views on Facebook alone, and it has been used in 2 high schools. All because we wanted to let everyone know we we will try to love you like Jesus did.
Last month was New Beginnings where 18 churches and 100 youth and adults came up to Camp Mikell to retreat from their lives and connect with God. I have been to New Beginnings and served as a part of their team numerous times. Which leads me to Happening. Happening comes around the corner every November and February and it gets me through my year. Last weekend was Happening 66, where Dylan Walker, a senior and our rector, which means he ran the show, and led us through the weekend. It was one of the best weekends of my life. Camp Mikell is my personal thin place, as Fr. Ken Struble would say. It is where the distance between God and I feels the most thin. Everyone has one, but mine happens to be there, my second home, where I grew up going to Summer camps since I was 8. Going to Happening only made Camp and I’s relationship so much stronger and it introduced God to me in a life-changing way. I can explain it all I want, but it will not do the spiritual fulfillment justice. I highly recommend every youth in our Diocese to come experience Happening - a weekend where youth lead youth, serving compassionately, and we grow so much spiritually. We also work on that unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
I have spent a lot of time talking about diocesan youth programs, but I want to shift to the parish. My church is St. Columba’s Episcopal Church, and Sunday worship and youth group are part of my weekly routine. You can’t just have youth group. You can’t just have diocesan youth programs. You really need Sunday morning worship, youth group, and diocesan youth programs. They all 3 feed you in very different ways. Just trust me on this. I grew up with Fr. Tripp as my guy, still is. Back in the day I did not really appreciate his sermons because I was too busy thinking about some Spongebob episode I just watched. But now I am a Lector at my church and do my best to stay as involved as possible, because Sundays at St. Columba’s are what raised me. Not only Fr. Tripp’s great chants in the mornings, but EYC at night.
Easton Davis, who if you don’t know who that is you are living under a rock, was my youth leader from 7th through 10th grade. It was always just kind of normal to go to church on Sunday mornings and Sunday School every now and then, but my EYC nights became routine because of this man. I always felt like I could relate to him; maybe it was because he sometimes acts my age. On a serious note, it is because of Easton that I am here right now. He kept us engaged in diocesan youth programs year round which led me here today. I’ve always put off all other plans on Sunday nights because I just could not miss EYC. Having a youth leader in my life has played such a role in my walk with God and I know I can go to them with anything. So to recap, I guess you could say Fr. Tripp’s mornings was my introduction to God, and EYC was like wrapping God and I’s relationship in a lot of layers of duct tape. This leads me to being involved in diocesan youth programs. The diocesan events that go on unite these parishes’ relationships together with others outside of their church. This is as part of what Bishop Wright means when he says “drawing the circle wider.” Without going tubing or to Camp Mikell, or anything else, I would not have the relationships with friends and God that I do now.
Today’s gospel is a challenge from Jesus. He challenged us to love those we meet, openly worship him, serve those in need, and grow in him. So, as we leave here today, what do you take away with in regards to youth in the church? I think it starts with believing in youth - their ability to lead, the importance of youth group, and the importance of diocesan youth programs. If we can start there - we can all take up a new challenge - which is living into our diocesan purpose statement using the tools we have that are right in front of us.
By Thad Barrington, St. Catherine's
Hey everyone! So, Happening 66 was this past weekend, and I thought I would share my experience with everyone. First off, amazing work done by the rector, Dylan Walker. I was so impressed at all his wonderful work and dedication! And a thank you to Keith Dumke. He has sadly reached the end of his lay director term and he has done an awesome job with Happening in these past years! Happening has always been a wonderful experience for me with God and God's people. It was at Happening 63 (my first Happening) when I saw that God works through the people I meet. I saw God through everyone these last few Happenings. Y'all make the weekend special! If it weren't for the people, there wouldn't be Happening. In 1 Timothy 6:18 it says, "Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share." You all have done good, have been rich in your wonderful work, and we're generous to me and the people around you! Thank you for another great Happening, and I look forward to the next one! \|,,|
eycdioatl, Episcopal Youth Community of Middle and North Ga
During the Diocesan Youth Service Day Retreat, each grade level met in small groups. They were asked to come up with their own definition on what it means to Serve Compassionately. This is what they wrote.
6th grade: Feeling very strongly about something or someone and helping the cause or the person simply because you want to.
7th grade: Being their for someone that needs you. Just being a friend and not serving just to do it.
8th grade: Serving others and living through love like Jesus did - unconditionally and always.
9th/10th grade: Serving with love even if it makes you uncomfortable.
11th grade: Loving no matter what and always helping people.
12th grade: To recognize another person's value regardless of your differences, and welcome them into your church or community through love and charity.
By MacKenzie Teal, Junior at St. Paul's Newnan
Today is Maundy Thursday. It's a day that we remember The Last Supper. We follow in Christ's footsteps and show servanthood, generally in the act of footwashing. In the past I've always focused on being a servant and taking every step I can to help during the service at church. Tonight was different though.
I should first explain that I'm one of those people that experiences and feels God in other people. Ya know, you're always asked where did you see God and more times than not the answer is "in nature". I'm a little different. I see God and His wonders in the faces of the people around me.
Tonight during the footwashing, I was standing to the side waiting to swap out water pitchers and wash buckets and collect dirty towels and the like and as I waited, I watched. I watched the people of my parish participate in this ancient practice. At one point, I look over and the two torch bearers that were acolyting (brother and sister) had both slipped their shoes off and went to go find their parents so that they could participate in the servitude as a family. A few minutes later I look and this man, who walks pretty heavily dependent on a cane, was having his feet washed by two women, one per foot.
They worked together. Now when they were done, I assumed, along with them I think, that this man would go back to his seat, unable to get down on the ground and wash someone's feet in return. But I was wrong. He carefully lays his cane down, bends over to place his hands on the ground, lowers himself onto his knees, and begins, alongside another parishioner, to wash someone's feet, together. And this may have just been a part of the footwashing in someone else's eyes, but it was a beautiful act from God to me.
Sometimes we're not always sure of the best way to be a servant. But if you'll slow down just for a second and look at the work of God's children, he does a pretty bang up job of showing you examples of how it's done.
"Peace is my last gift to you, my own peace I now leave with you; peace which the world cannot give, I give to you."
By Adam Harper, Senior at Ascension Cartersville
Following Shrove Tuesday, I sat down and wrote a short blog post on my experiences and preparations for the forty days of Lent. Now, as we enter the blurred time between Lent and Holy Week, I am again reflective on the forty days of Lent.
This year, as I came to find out, Bp. Wright attempted to revolutionize the way that we think about Lent. It’s less about “giving up” and more about growing spiritually in your relationship with God. Lent is a time to challenge your faith and grow with it. It’s a time to reexamine your life and face your trials and tribulations head on, so that again you might become a better person.
What a Lent it has been. How true is it that I have been forced to face the challenges of this world head on (we all have), and choose whether or not to grow because of these challenges or fall in the face of them. In the past forty days, I have witnessed three of my close friends either fall victim to the terror of suicide or witness his/her friend/family member fall victim. Furthermore, the mother of my close friend from school had a terrible stroke, and though she is rehabilitating, he’ll be living with me for the rest of the year. It’s truly been a time of challenge, change, and heartbreak. On the other hand, liturgically, it’s been a 40 days of reflection and growth, of Litanies and of solemnity. As I set in the pews today — on the Sunday of the Passion — I reflected on how I can synthesize both the message I’ve received from Lent with the message I’ve received from Life.
It’s simple: as Lent teaches us that you are to *grow* with God on your Journey to the cross, I’ve experienced first hand that the best way to do that is by leaning on him through the struggles of your daily life. There is a meaning to everything that happens — good and bad — and it’s important to recognize that there is something always learn from whatever you are going through. I learned these forty days that you must hold on tight to your community and face your problems head on. Though some may choose to ignore their problems — turning to alcohol or drugs, or simply choosing not to recognize their existence — if you can deal with them in the moment and grow because of them, you can learn to deal with whatever life may throw at you.
At the beginning of these forty days, when Lauren Ford lost her battle with depression and took her own life, we bound together as a community in Christ to help ourselves understand the incomprehensible questions of suicide. It was hard, but together we made it. This past week, the Cathedral of St. Philips did the same as they tried to understand why a beloved friend would fall victim to the same illness. Suicide is never easy, but because, with Lauren, we were able to face it together — to grow together — we became stronger. It allowed some of those affected, I believe, to get through the same issue, just weeks later.
So, effectively, we (and I especially) have grown for Lent. When the stone turns and Jesus emerges from the tomb next Sunday, we will again be reminded of the light that Christ brings to this world. However, even after this glorious Sunday, we will not see the problems of Today cease. Friends will still fall victim to suicide and life will still put us through the worst expected.
These forty days have Lent have taught me, and hopefully you, that we can face these challenges together and grow with them. We can grow with them in our faith and in our relationship with each other (the same thing?). At the end of the day, we’ll all rise in glory with God, but until then, we still have tough times to get through. Lent is a time of reflection and growth toward a better us. It’s a time for us to step back and intentionally examine the events of our lives and see how we can be better because of it. A lot happened, but luckily, we aren’t alone. We have both God and each other to rely on, to grow with. It’s about time we realize it.
By Corrine Taylor
My church is great at many things, but participating in Diocesan activities is not one of them. For a while now, I have wanted to be part of the Youth Community. I went to Camp Mikell annually but that magic must be supplemented from something else during the school year. All my friends from camp were active members in this community, so I wanted to join in as well.
When I didn’t participate, I made a lot of excuses;Oh I’m too busy, I can’t afford that, I just forgot. And while some of these were true, the biggest reason was that I was scared. I was scared that the friends I made at camp would not be my friends outside of camp. I was scared of intruding on this close-knit group of people who have grown up together. I was scared that I wasn’t going to be accepted. Now, you may be thinking “how could she have thought that, she goes to camp doesn’t she?” “we would never do that!” . I have been going to camp for eight years now, and still every year, the tiny anxiety monster in me is telling me that maybe my friends will not like me as much as they did they year before. It is unreasonable and untrue, but sometimes you can’t help but think these thoughts.
That is why when I signed up for Happening 65, I was so nervous. All of my friends had already happened, and I thought that I was going to be alone the whole time. As I was driving up to Camp Mikell, I was constantly thinking about just turning around and going home. What was Happening anyway? Just this mysterious gathering in freezing temperatures? I don’t really need to go. I don’t need it. Despite the banter with my conscience, I arrived right on time.
I’m not going to go into detail about my experience, for the sake of the people who have not happened yet, but I will say one thing: thank you. Thank you for proving me wrong. Thank you for loving me and for showing me that you don’t have to be cynical all the time. There really can be that much love and clarity in the world. I was wrong. I did need Happening. For those of you who are still debating on whether or not you need Happening, I can already tell you the answer: you do. If you are even questioning the idea of Happening, you need to go through it. I am so glad that I took the leap of faith and tried something that I was terrified about. My heart is so full. Thank you.
God held his hand out to me and I grabbed it with no intention of letting go. Thank you for showing me that I can and should shine my light. \|,,|
By Maggie Light, Senior at St. Patrick's
I do not know if I have the right to say any of what I am going to say.
I found out this morning that Lauren Ford died. I was texting my best friend about how I was upset another friend of mine hasn't called me when my best friend told me that friend was probably struggling because of how close he was to Lauren.
At first, I wasn't even sure who Lauren was. I hurriedly went to the Happening Facebook group and found a picture of her.
I remembered her immediately. Everyone had been hugging at Happening, and I could've gone up and hugged Lauren, but I didn't. I just avoided her and found someone else to hug.
Suddenly, I was overcome with this flood of emotion over what a terrible person I was.
This afternoon, I sat in the YEA Room at St. Pat's with several friends, and I listened to them all describe Lauren, her Rihanna song tattoos, her snapchat stories, her shaving cream rap songs, and so much more. Lauren touched my friends' lives in a way that can never be explained.
I didn't know Lauren, I didn't take the opportunity to know Lauren, but Lauren touched my life and changed my world all the same.
One of the most beautiful things about the Episcopal faith is our belief in the Communion of Saints. Liz Beal Kidd described to us in that room how all those who have come before us stand at the altar with us and wrap their arms around us in our faith. Lauren stands at the altar with us.
I did not know Lauren, I did not take the opportunity to know Lauren, but she touched my life and changed my world nonetheless.
May angels lead you in, Lauren Ford. \|,,|
By Adam Harper, Senior at Ascension Cartersville
Tonight, as many of you did, I spent my time flipping hot cakes and serving my parish breakfast during our annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. Per tradition, on Shrove Tuesday, those youth who are in the "acolyte guild" take a break from flippin' flapjacks and huddle out in the cold with our acolyte trainer to ignite the palms from the former Palm Sunday. As you probably know, the ashes produced from this burn are in turn used in the Ash Wednesday service.
We finally finished up. and as my friends were returning to serve food, I was cleaning up with my acolyte master in the sacristy. Dan Baker is an old man -- and I say that lovingly. He has watched me grow up, and he is responsible for my total and utter love for the church and for my faith. He is one of the most incredible people I know, and with each and every encounter I learn something new from him. I'm sure a lot of us have that one person -- a mentor in our own church.
As we were cleaning up, he said something to me that I will never forget. I've been growing increasingly anxious about graduating and moving 20 hours away from home. I'll be going to a place far away from the community which helped me stay grounded in my faith. Not only that, but as it is with most places of higher learning in America, I will be surrounded by people who wish to challenge and degrade an innocent faith.
With that in context, Dan said this: "When you encounter those people, and when you encounter anyone, always remember that you might just be the only bible they will ever read." Repeat that last part, but slower. "You might just be the only bible they read." It's an incredible point, that in a world that is increasingly secular, you, a spiritual human being, are quite possible the only "bible" that some people will ever read.
You are the example, the living example. I just thought that was a beautiful thought.
With that, I hope that everyone has a reflective and meaningful lent.
By Piper Justice, Junior at St. Patrick's
First, I just want to give a big shoutout to everyone who participated this weekend at DYC, on and off the scenes. It was a big success! I'm just so grateful to be a part of an environment that I can feel I can rely on. I really feel our purpose statement clicks with the youth, and I'm so excited for it! You guys are all beautiful people, and now we should take what we learned this weekend and spread it to others! As Episcopalians, everyone is welcomed no matter what. Especially outside of church! Remember to "Love like Jesus"! I love all of you! Stay safe.
By Adam Harper, Senior at Ascension Cartersville
This blog post is a Day in the LIfe of a Youth Delegate. A week ago, I had the honor of attending the annual Diocesan Council as a youth delegate. For those of you who don't know, Diocesan Council is the annual gathering of clergy and lay people (that's us) for a weekend of church-policy making, discussion, and community in Christ. Each year has a theme, and this year's theme was "A People With A Purpose." Consequently, we, as a diocese, were ready to have a concious discussion on what our purpose is as people of faith in Atlanta.
Council is setup as a legislative session. There are legislative bodies -- house of clergy (priests) and the house of laypeople (us), and there are various committees. Each delegate has a vote (inlcuding those underage) and we vote on various issues and policies presented in the form of a resolution. For me -- a policital junkie at heart -- I enjoyed keeping up with the fast paced politics of the convention. (And please, refrain from taking the word "politics" in a negative way -- I mean it in the greek since -- politics, as in the neccessary workings of a "polity," or community.)
Therein lies what was so AWESOME about the Diocesan Council. It is a COMMUNITY of people who want to make our church a better place. As the bishop loves to say, Church is NOT an institution -- it's not a place. It's the human outworkings of Jesus -- you must BE the church. For 48 hours, we delegates, representing thousands of people in the Atlanta Area, talked about the strides we have been making to BE the church. It was amazing.
About half way through Council, the Council Body (that's everyone) broke up to go to committee meetings. (specialized meetings for different aspects of the Episcopal Church.) Most of the youth delegates broke up into their respective committees, but Hailey Wilson, Jesse Adkins, and I had the honor of representing the Diocesan Youth in the Diocesan Youth Committee. We fielded questions from various youth worker's throughout the diocese, and from people who were just curious about the youth innerworkings of our church. After all, we ARE the church of the today. (Creds to M. Teal for that quote.) For us as youth delegates, a common thread throughout the entire convention was the need to reinvigorate youth in our diocese -- to allow others to take advantage of the incredible opportunities our diocese has for Youth.
After a long day of "transacting business," we took a breath and had a wonderful taco bar. (I'm beginning to think Easton's favorite thing to have us eat is a taco from a taco bar.) THEN, began the next part of our nights.
The idea of a "lock in" came from back in the day when every year our diocese hosted "Episcopalooza!" which was just an overnight lockin held at a church in the diocese. Last year, Easton reinvigorated the lock in by putting it between days at council, allowing the Youth to show up Saturdaymorning at council to help lead morning prayer. We did just that! After a night filled with singing, laughing, and energy-filled middle schoolers, we had breakfast with the rest of council and lead worship in the morning and packaged 10,000 meals with Stop Hunger Now. (So I heard, I left Saturday morning to go to an All State Audition... which I promptly bombed.. :(. )
ALL IN ALL, the weekend was amazing. It was a great blend of community, of love for our church, love for each other, and love for the church's future in us youth.
By Mark Boutilier, Senior at St Catherine's
Hey everyone! I just wanted to take a minute to tell all of you guys how awesome you are, and give a quick shout out to Jesse Adkins, as well as everyone else on team this past weekend! Happening 64 was a huge success! We laughed together, cried together, and prayed together, and I think we collectively showed a tremendous amount of love and compassion for each other even through each of our set backs in life! As we get back into the groove of real life and away from the happening life, it is important that we continue to keep a piece of the amazing love we each received this weekend, and let it shine through to all of those around us! With all the negativity, and tragic events going on around us everyday, it is vital that we reciprocate every ounce of love in our beings, because your love and kindness really can make a huge difference to the world, no matter if you believe it or not! Anyways, I just wanted to make a quick appreciation post for a great weekend! So thank you again to everyone, and one more special shout out to Keith Dumke for being an awesome first time lay director! There's a lot of work involved in making the weekend what it is, and he completely nailed it! Love you guys!
By MacKenzie Teal, Junior at St. Paul's Newnan
Good Morning. My name is MacKenzie Teal, and I am from St. Paul's in Newnan. I am honored to give the youth address at the 109th Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta.
200: the number of youth from the Diocese of Atlanta that participated in the Hunger Walk last March. 70: the number of youth that loaded up on a bus to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania last June. 8:the number of youth representing the Diocese of Atlanta at the 50th anniversary of Jonathan Daniel in Hayneville, Alabama. 220: the number of youth that came together from 29 different parishes for the first Youth Day Retreat last August. 65: the number of youth here in this building as part of the youth lock-in. Our diocesan youth program has grown into something remarkable this past year. The trips and retreats and community gatherings that I mentioned are just some of the opportunities we've had to grow as young Episcopalians. These events wouldn't be possible without the financial and spiritual support of the Diocese of Atlanta.
At the 2015 Hunger Walk, thousands of people gathered at Turner field to raise money for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Like I mentioned, there were 200 youth from our diocese there, not including the people that weren’t registered with our EYC team. Before the walk, we met at Emmaus House for worship and Eucharist with a cookout afterward. The room was filled to the point that we had to open the windows so that the people standing outside could listen in. There were people from across the diocese sitting/standing/crouching in a sacred space praising God and offering thanksgivings as one.
In June, 70 youth from 9 parishes loaded up and took a bus to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I was unable to go, but I asked fellow youth commission member Trey Walker about his experience on that trip. As I talked with Trey, he said he had been on mission trips before and expected a similar experience. The first day they split up into groups and he was assigned the group working with the CAC, standing for Community Action Coalition. They had to survey the quality of the houses and buildings in the Allison Hill neighborhood. When they got back that day, Fr. Tripp asked the simple question “where have you seen God today?” They couldn’t give him an honest answer. The next day they found out that they were being sent to survey the worst part of town. They walked among the brokenness and devastation of the streets, and at one point had to stop and turn around after being warned by the fire chief that they would be shot if they turned the corner. It wasn’t 15 minutes later they walked upon an abandoned community garden that was overgrown, but had a message in spanish that read “We are a community of love”. It wasn’t soon after the group began to notice how God was working in this community and filling these people with hope, even though it appeared to be a hopeless place. Experiences like this aren't possible for everyone. It’s a blessing to know that we are youth in a diocese that supports mission work where our purpose is to make a stand with our fellow brothers and sisters and learn about how we can draw the circle wider.
The next adventure was to Hayneville, Alabama for the 50th anniversary of the death of Jonathan Daniel, who was a charter of the civil rights movement. 8 of us loaded up and headed down to Alabama at 7am on a Saturday (which thanks to Easton and his lack of consideration for the time change, was an hour too early.) When we got there to this little wide spot in the road of a town, there were dozens of charter buses parked, tents set up all of the court square, and more purple shirts with collars in one place than I'd ever seen. We took a walk through Hayneville, stopping at different places to listen to readings from Jonathan Daniel's personal journal. We witnessed the unveiling of a historical marker on the front steps of the convenience store where he was shot. We were fortunate enough to hear our now brand new presiding bishop preach and to get a picture with him. During the picture taking process I heard Presiding Bishop Michael Curry say “alright guys, sorority squat.” it was a good day.
In late August, we had our first ever diocesan youth day retreat. 220 youth from 29 parishes met at All Saints’ in Atlanta. Our day included singing, dancing, small group discussions, games (including one intense game of 9-square), a glorious taco buffet, and a Q&A with Bishop Wright. We ended the day by packing 2,000 sandwiches that we took to Crossroads Community Ministries of St. Luke's. Later today, we will continue our efforts of addressing hunger by packaging 10,000 meals that will be sent all over the world. We started the Lock-In with a canned food drive that Episcopal Appleton Minisitries will deliver to The Place in Forsyth. So we went local and global in less than 24 hours.
In 2015, we had at least 7 more parishes involved in every diocesan youth event compared to year to date last year. Looking at the last 20 years, the 29 parishes participating in the Diocesan Youth Day Retreat is the most parishes we have had at any Diocesan Youth Event. Of those events, some have been here in the diocese, but we've also taken our energy, enthusiasm and talents to other parts of the country.
So my question is, if we do such an outstanding job of spreading our community to places like Alabama and Pennsylvania, why do we find it so difficult to bring that same community home into our parishes? Let's go back to numbers for a minute. During our Q&A with Bishop Wright, he told us that 20% of the average attendance should be youth. So if average Sunday attendance is 200 people, 40 of those should be youth. Think about last Sunday. And the Sunday before that, were there that many youth in attendance? If not, why? That is where EYC's biggest challenge is right now. At a diocesan level, we have amazing things going on with some highly dedicated youth and youth leaders on board, but we must take that enthusiasm from the diocesan level and apply it to our individual parishes.
I've noticed in some places that the youth are looked at as the future of the church. But that's wrong. The youth are not the future of the church. They are the now of the church. I'll say it again. We are not the Future of the church. We are the now of the church. We have voices now. We have energy and ideas now. We have gifts to offer now. We are important now. In Matthew ch 9 verse 38, we are told that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. God has work for us to do, but few people are available to do it. Utilize your youth as laborers. Get and keep us involved. Help us to be servants of God. We've been placed here as members of the Episcopal Church for a reason. Christ has given us the love to leave this building and change the world; let us show you.
By Tommy Coutu, Sophomore at St. Columba's
This weekend I attended the Diocesan Youth Day Retreat at All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta with over 200 people from around the diocese. In the week before I was coming off easily the worst week of my life which included a bad breakup and a hospital visit. Then you add school to that mix and it just broke me down to my lowest point ever.
The morning of the day retreat I was driving my new pride and joy of a truck down to Atlanta. All I was thinking was that I hope this can pick me up. I shouldn't have just had some hope because I should've known some of my favorite people in the world would do what they can to pick me up. Within an hour of being there I had already talked to at least half the people there just to catch up because I get the feelings of missing camp at least once a week. And already I had forgotten about all the pain I had felt. I just loved all the community of people there.
I loved getting to play my guitar and look out and see that many people at the event. It just filled me with so much joy. And then in the end getting to do service by making sandwiches still made me happy because I love service.
In the end I realized how much community can help you as a person and also just to make you feel better. Having a loving community in my life is something I hold close to my heart because I know I'll always have family in the Episcopal and Happening communities. I know that no matter what I go through there will always be someone to pick me up and they know that I would do the same for any of them. Serving the community together as a whole brings us all closer together and that's something I want to do for the rest of my life.
By James Davis, Senior at Grace Calvary
For me, running is a prayer. The repetitive motions require little thinking and strip away all the external barriers preventing me from connecting to God. When I’m running there isn’t space in me to worry about external things because I am so focused on breathing, and being in the moment. I connect to God when I am in the moment, not worried about school, relationships, or responsibilities. I run because those things are stripped away leaving me with only myself and God.
Today Father Sam talked about nurturing our relationship with the Divine. He called us to do so outside of coming to church or youth by finding things that connect us. He called us to do anything that made us feel as though we could be close to God and caused us to bring that spirit out into the world. This could be gardening, running, singing, dancing, or even something as simple as going outside and looking at what the world has to offer.
For me finding God outside of church is almost as important as going on Sunday mornings. To be honest some mornings I’m just not feeling up to going to church, but I am feeling like a good run. I use the run to fill myself up just like I would the service. And then throughout the week if I am running it is another opportunity to stay filled until I can get back to church. I encourage you to find ways to stay filled and to stay connected. Find things that fill you up so you can be poured out again into the world.
Eric Liddell said “Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me." If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.” This quote has always stuck with me and after this Sunday it has new meaning. Go find what fills you and embrace it.
By Laura Kraynick, Junior at St. Columba's
Two days ago, after just returning from work camp, I got a text from Easton that read, "Hey! I need you tomorrow for the funeral. They want us to do Oceans and a couple other songs." When I told him my concerns, he simply replied with, "I'm counting on you!" Now, keep in mind, I had just been at camp with my best friends for the past 5 days. My voice was almost completely gone, I was beyond exhausted, and I was not in the mood to intrude on a funeral for someone that I didn't even know. Long story short, I did NOT want to go. At all.
When I woke up yesterday, I was tired and bitter and my voice was gone. When I say gone, I mean that absolutely no sound came out when I tried to speak. I am not ashamed to say that I cried several times. I was positive that I was going to make a fool out of myself in front of hundreds of people in mourning. I was in my bed for hours, wondering why I had been thrown into this situation. I eventually slipped into a dress and got into the car with my mom to head over to St. Columba’s. I didn’t smile, I didn’t speak; I just sat in the car thinking about how awful this was going to be.
If you know me, you know that I don’t tend to cry in public. Even when I see other people cry, I hold my emotions in and I push through. However, this funeral was a different story. I don’t think I’ve ever felt my heart physically break until yesterday. The person that we were gathered at the church for was a beautiful little 2-year old girl named Melissa who had passed away from cancer. The service was beautiful, and I kept it together for the most part, until Melissa’s dad went to the altar to speak. He had been crying through almost the entire funeral, and I expected for him to be a mess during his eulogy. Surprisingly though, he didn’t shed a single tear. He went on and on about how Melissa had been full of happiness since the day she was born, and he shared several stories about her strength and perseverance during chemo. The realization of her age seemed to hit me like a ton of bricks. She was literally a baby. She had only been on the earth for two years, and she went through more than I can even imagine. The tears started flowing, and it only got worse when a slideshow began to play on a screen at the front of the room. She was a beautiful little girl, with a contagious laugh, and a lack of fear in her eyes. She was the bravest little human that I had ever seen, and she lost her life after only 2 years of living. When it sunk in, I lost all composure.
I had been so bitter about being asked to sing at this funeral, and now I felt like an awful person. This family had just lost their baby girl. They went through months and months of pain, lost hope, and heartbreak; and I didn’t want to get out of bed because I was a little tired. Singing for the Depa family yesterday made me a new person. I didn’t realize how much it meant to them that I was singing at their daughter’s funeral until I was looking into their eyes. It’s insane how the smallest act of kindness can affect someone. A lot of the time, I take my voice for granted. I can’t help but live in the mindset that I’m just a kid with a mediocre voice. However, days like yesterday make me realize that I can actually do something meaningful with this gift that God gave me. Melissa may not be with us anymore, but she changed my life. My view on life completely turned around yesterday. Never take the little things in life for granted, because they may mean a lot more than you can imagine.