By Zach Perry, Emmanuel Athens
There is an old understanding in parish life that unless you want to run a new program, don’t suggest one. Christmas Pageants are often the topic of this joke. Everyone wants to see the children in angel wings and shepard’s robes but nobody wants to put in the time and effort to make it happen.
I’ve attended provincial events for years beginning with a mission based PYE(Provincial Youth Event) in Bay St. Louis my freshman year of high school. It was only when I attended the Provincial Network Meeting at the beginning of December that I realized that, much like the Christmas Pageant, everyone loves the idea of Provincial Youth, but few are willing to put in the hours.
In the years I attended a pattern developed. Around four adults were always there. They could be counted on to be in the thick of planning and organizing the event. A few youth were consistent as well; often found on design team or having dragged their youth friends along for the ride. And a couple of Diocese could be relied on to send sizable groups. Aside from this core group, it was all very haphazard. Youth groups that had come the previous year were on pilgrimages, Dioceses had changed their youth coordinator and were going in a different direction, a parish mission trip kept another adult away. You would never know who was going to be there, but you always knew that great things would happen.
At the Network meeting this year, all but three diocese from Province IV were in attendance. This being the first provincial event I had attended in a couple of years, I was delighted to see the same familiar faces of the adults who had been running them since I was 15. With this I realized that the world of Youth ministry is a small one, much smaller than it should be. I knew half of the adults in the room not only because of their dedication to the ministry, but because for many of them, there was nobody to take their place.
The details of the meeting are another topic altogether, and are much better summarized in meeting notes taken by a friend in attendance. For me, this weekend was much more than hearing some good ideas about youth and meeting my counterparts from around the southeast, although that was accomplished as well. It was a kick in the head that in spite of the impact Provincial Events had on my life, they were put on the back burner by almost everyone in the church.
If there is to be a future of Provincial involvement, we have to be conscious about what we want from it. My youth group attended because we didn’t have the resources to plan and organize our own mission trip. For some diocese, PYE is a pivotal part of their summer. But for most it is a trip that was advertized too late and doesn’t have enough information to warrant sending youth.
The wonderful people who have put so much time into Provincial ministry need help to accomplish the things that they are being called to do. It’s easy to sit on the side lines and point out what’s wrong with something. It’s a different beast entirely to dive head first into the problem and fix it. That happens on a diocesan level.
Most who read this will have never attended a provincial event, and likely don’t plan on doing so in the future. Why should you care about the goings on in Louisiana when you can’t get five youth to sunday school? Why does something called Bishops Ball matter to you when our own diocesan programs are needing revamping and reevaluating? This is the same debate as getting involved on a diocesan level in spite of parish issues. It doesn’t always make sense to send three youth to Tennessee to clear brush in a national forest, but the exchange of ideas, stories and beliefs that occurs is something that cannot be cast aside as unnecessary.
The event was hosted by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina at a Lutheran Conference center. The Youth coordinator from the ECSC attends church in a funeral home. She sometimes has to move youth group to the hallway on account of a dead body being in the assigned youth space. What happened in South Carolina is the result of a diocese who doesn’t see the purpose of being involved with the national church. After thirty years of gradually increasing separation, splitting from the Episcopal Church seemed a necessary move to the average parishioner. Quantifying the results of attending Provincial events may be hard, but the consequences of not attending is a church that claims unity in the Anglican Communion while having no understanding of what that actually means.
I encourage you to look into provincial events and National events as well. They are not all youth related and offer a wide variety of opportunities. If you are interested please get in contact with me or Easton (Who might just send you to me). If you want to know more about the actual meeting and what youth programs in other Diocese look like, then let me know and I would love to fill you in. Enjoy the rest of Christmas and have a happy New Year!
By Hope Hutchins, Christ Church Macon
“The Five Marks of Mission…
This weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to a little town about an hour north of
Houston, TX called Navasota for a young adult retreat. The purpose of this retreat was to talk
about The Five Marks of Mission and how we can live into those marks of mission in our own
lives. I will be the first to admit that I had never heard of The Five Marks of Mission, but y’all,
they are so integral in how we live into our roles in the church.
Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom. Let the world know how truly awesome God is
and how he works in our lives! Too often as Episcopalians, we fear the “E-word”
(evangelism…yikes) but this is our chance to evangelize in whatever way we choose. This
doesn’t have to mean going up to a stranger and telling them plainly that God is your Lord and
Savior, but it could be the “Faith Friday” Instagram post that you repost or just through your
actions towards the people around you. Proclaim the Good News of The Kingdom!
To teach, baptize and nurture new believers. Love God, Love Yourself, Love Others. If
we share our gifts and knowledge with others, than that can help bring them to Christ. And not
only that, but when we share our gifts with others, that in turn comes back to us and we also
receive gifts from them that we otherwise wouldn’t have received. Whether that be the gift of
understanding, the gift of empathy, the gift of being humble, whatever it might be. God blesses
us by sharing with others and nurturing them in their journey.
To respond to human need by loving service. I think this completely emulates what
mission and what service is all about. Responding to human need with loving service. When we
see a human need arise around the world (hunger, oppression, social injustice, etc.) typically one
of responses is “what can I do to help?” Responding to these needs with loving service is
something we do more than we realize. I doesn’t mean you have to hop on a plane to Africa to
help combat the hunger need there, but doing the 30 Hour Famine at your church which raises
money for World Vision is responding to that need. Participating in The Hunger Walk for the
Atlanta Community Food Bank or attending Walk the Road for Emmaus House or even
collecting items for the homeless in your area is responding to human need by loving service.
To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every
kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation. In our world today, challenging violence of
every kind and pursing peace and reconciliation is so crucial with so many violent and
socially unjust events occurring regularly.
Luckily for us in The Diocese of Atlanta, we have an incredible bishop who lives into this mark of mission daily. We see Bishop Wright peacefully protesting against the death penalty, we see him praying with The Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta, we see him marching in the gay pride parade, and we see him continually praying for peace around our world. What better example to
have for the 4th mark of mission? Witnessing Bishop Wright live into the marks of mission daily gives us a better sense of how we can live into these marks. What can we do to help transform unjust structures of society and to challenge violence of EVERY kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation?
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of
the earth. What are we doing in our day to day lives that are helping to sustain and
renew the life of the earth? That’s probably not a thought that goes through our minds
during our days, but it should! Are we doing what we can to respect the dignity of the
earth that God created? Are we using his creation the way he intended us to use it?
Take a moment to think about this. Think about everything God created and then think
about the ways in which we abuse and neglect it. Now think about ways in which we
can help to change that. Possibilities are endless, y’all!
As young adults, it is sometimes hard to find our place in the church and what we
can do to live into our roles in the church. This is it, guys. Mission! Living into these Five
Marks of Mission and showing our local communities and the world how we can help
bring change. This weekend was incredible. I was able to listen to speakers from all
over The United States talk about how they are living into these Five Marks of Mission,
from the mission work they are doing all over the world to how they are combatting
social injustices locally. I was able to show up to Camp Allen in The Diocese of Texas
where I did not know a soul and left renewed, encouraged, and ready to change the
“When we return from a pilgrimage, we should be bringing with us something of the God who has been walking with us on the way…Holy places are places where our vision is transfigured—not so much in simply seeing God afresh, but seeing the world afresh—and ourselves in it.” -Rowan Williams
What would you expect to happen on a pilgrimage to Ferguson, Missouri?
Pause for a moment and think about this.
I paused often in the weeks leading up to the Young Adult Pilgrimage to Ferguson that was sponsored by The Episcopal Church. Eventually, my expectations were threefold: First, as an Episcopal school chaplain and teacher, I went to the Pilgrimage to Ferguson expecting to learn more about how to identify and address racism within our communities, eventually integrating this into a curriculum and model of chaplaincy. Second, as an American Christian who believes we are in the midst of a unique national movement for social change, I went with the expectation of forming friendships and support networks with other young adults in the Episcopal Church who share my passion for spirituality and justice. Third, as a member of the Beloved Community: The Commission for Dismantling Racism in the Diocese of Atlanta, I went to Ferguson to have the experience of a pilgrim because our Commission is organizing pilgrimages to lynching sites around Georgia over the next three years.
Despite these straightforward expectations (all of which were met), when I reflect on what impacted me most profoundly in Ferguson a series of memories come to mind that altogether exceeded my expectations. Whether I label these experiences as ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ is irrelevant. What is relevant and essential is the unexpected ways in which I encountered God in Ferguson.
(Silent Cries & The Laying on of Hands)
“The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” These words from the Cain and Able story echoed in the recess of my mind as I stood before the exact location where, just over a year ago, Michael Brown’s blood silently cried out for justice as his spirit departed and his young black body, needlessly and repeatedly shot by a police officer, lay dead in the middle of the street for hours in the August heat.
(Will you persevere in resisting evil,
and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
I will, with God’s help.)
When I arrived with the other pilgrims, the scene of violence had since been replaced by a makeshift memorial to Michael Brown, composed of a narrow line of teddy bears and stuffed animals, baseball caps of local teams, plastic flowers, dollar store candles, and small tokens of respect brought from as far away as Hawaii.
(Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons,
loving your neighbor as yourself?
I will, with God’s help.)
Though the violence of the scene had been covered over, a silent cry still lingered: a cry coming not only from the ground where Brown had taken his last breath, but a haunting cry coming from voices past and present—centuries upon centuries of voices of those who have been, and who continue to be degraded, exploited, brutalized, deported, incarcerated, or murdered. The ear of my heart listened to this silent cry of history as it joined the present in overlapping octaves of woe, frustration, and suffering; and in my mind’s eye came the image of the crucifix surrounded by the all the company of heaven who had been murdered, martyred, or mistreated. At the agonizing center of this choir that included Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, and countless others victims of injustice, Jesus mouthed from his cross three words: ‘Here I am.’
(Will you strive for justice and peace among all people,
and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will, with God’s help.)
There, in the heart of the street, I knelt down on one knee, inconspicuously made the sign of the cross over my chest, and pressed my hands against the same ground that became the epicenter of the racial earthquake that started in Ferguson. I can’t rightly say why I felt moved to lay my hands on that ground. (Words can sometimes explain away, reduce, or change the meaning of an action.) What I can say is that there is an implicit promise of sorts, an irreducible connection of a giving, receiving, and blessing that takes place with the laying on of hands. In retrospect, I now recognize that the Holy Spirit moves through our hands, just as it moved through mine in that moment. As I pressed my palms to the concrete in prayer, the silent cry of pain and death began to take on a starkly different tone, so that through the overwhelming reality of injustice and suffering, I sensed a faint but undeniable hum of hope, like the feeling of the rising sun moments before it breaks over the horizon.
(Will you proclaim by word and example
the Good News of God in Christ?
I will, with God’s help.)
The next night in a hotel room, as the clock stuck midnight, I turned 30 years old and my fellow pilgrims granted my birthday wish of blessing my life and my future in ordained ministry. I knelt down on my knees and a dozen or so of my new friends lay their hands on my shoulders, arms, and head. Each hand became a conduit for the Holy Spirit. Prayers were said in multiple languages. Never had I felt so uniquely vulnerable, empowered, and filled with a renewed sense of responsibility.
(Phoenix Moment & Questions)
Much consciousness-raising took place in the 36 hours that followed our initial encounter with the Michael Brown memorial. We met with key clergy involved in Ferguson and social justice ministry in St. Louis; we engaged in conversations with the Bishop of Missouri, local activists, and educators; we listened to lectures and panels on the St. Louis area’s history of race relations, the school-to-prison pipeline and the prison industrial complex, police/civilian relations, and the theology of crisis; and we got to know some of the surroundings, struggles, and aspirations of the Ferguson residents themselves.
At the close of our pilgrimage in Ferguson, we worshipped with a local congregation, broke bread, and a few of us played a pickup game of basketball with some older kids in an elementary schoolyard located less than a mile from the scene of the shooting. Then, for the second and final time, we went to Michael Brown memorial. First, I sketched of the scene in my notebook. Next, once again, I lay my hands on the ground to pray. With my thumbs together and fingers reaching outward, the shape of my hands vaguely resembled that of a bird with outstretched wings. As a gleam sunlight rested on my hands, the image of a phoenix arose in my mind. A mythical bird that conflagrates at its moment of death and is reborn from its pile of ashes, the phoenix came to be a prominent symbol for Christ’s death and resurrection in the Early Church. It struck me that Ferguson has its own phoenix story.
In that ‘phoenix moment’ I realized two things. First, the question of the Ferguson is the question of the cross that Christians everywhere must ceaselessly confront: what sinful actions and systems, visible and invisible, are causing individuals and communities to suffer under the crucifix of injustice? Second, the question of Ferguson is also the question of the resurrection that must continually shape Christians’ way of life: How are members of the Body of Christ, working through the power of the Holy Spirit, moving in conditions of despair, injustice, and death, and transforming them into new life forms of solidarity, healing, and hope?
Christians must be the phoenix people: a people of the cross and the resurrection. If we are to honestly answer these two questions posed by Ferguson, we must actively confront the manifold forms of racism in our communities—personal and structural, conscious and unconscious, explicit and implicit—and commit ourselves to sharing the Good News of Jesus, the evangelism of God’s justice, healing, and reconciliation.
(Evangelism & Transformation)
The full work of evangelism in America today—a ministry at the heart of our new Presiding Bishop’s vision for The Episcopal Church—involves the work of social justice and racial reconciliation. This work can only take place once individual people, parishes, schools, and dioceses have undergone an inner spiritual transformation born out of listening, confession, penance, solidarity, and meeting God in the face of the other. Without a spiritual transformation we cannot expect to transform the social world around us. The healing fruits of justice are rooted in a deep spirituality that is nourished by daily prayer, fellowship, and worship. The deeper the roots, the stronger the vine, the greater the fruits.
My transformation is ongoing and the pilgrimage was a milestone on the journey. My hands and soul will remain forever touched by Ferguson and my divine encounters there—imprinted with the silent cry of victims, empowered by the hands of my fellow pilgrims, inspired by the vision of the phoenix, committed to spiritual and social transformation, and emblazoned with the question: Where is the Body of Christ—crucified, resurrected, and sharing the Good News—in your own communities? If you listen close enough, the answers will probably exceed your comfortable, familiar, predictable expectations.
When you are prepared to sacrifice your comfort zone and open yourself up to encountering God in the places of crucifixion and resurrection in American race relations, expect the unexpected. Expect Jesus.
Timothy J.S. Seamans
In October 2015 I took part in Pilgrimage to Ferguson convened by The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society through its Offices of Racial Reconciliation and Young Adult and Campus Ministry, the Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE), and co-sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. This is the first of three posts that describe my experience.
By Noah Harper, GA Tech
Growing up in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta has always offered me a platform of youthful love through its established programs. Camp Mikell and Happening in particular have been very dear to my heart and I really looked only to these programs to refill my spiritual tank. However, this past weekend I had the absolute pleasure of working alongside several other youth to put on the first ever Diocesan Youth Day Retreat for our diocese.
A day retreat, the events primary purposes was to bring the youth together outside of an established environment such as Camp Mikell. It was meant to teach the youth of Atlanta that we are not only active at camp or Happening, but also throughout the year. At the retreat we discussed the various programs at Emmaus House and the Hunger Walk, where the youth can reconnect and strive to work for our loving Lord’s noble purpose.
What is notable about this retreat was its atmosphere. Mingled throughout the crowd of 200 there were old friends and new friends and maybe even a couple “friends to be.” Despite the wide spectrum of relationship, the love and fun present this past weekend was overpowering. During the singing, the small group time, or the odd game of 9-Square the youth laughed and loved in a harmony comparable to that of only family.
Under the leadership of the wonderful Easton Davis, our youth are striving to become an integral part of this Diocese, and it’s through these new programs that they might come to learn to fill these shoes.
I myself had the most fun just watching. I watched the giggles slip out and the smiles dance on the faces of our youth. Words are insufficient to describe the happiness that pervaded over the Convention this pastSaturday, and I cannot wait to experience it again… and again… and again.
By Kate Long, Christ Church Macon
Sitting back at my desk in Macon, Georgia (three full days after General Convention’s end) I realize most of life here in this geographic place has not changed. People are still poor. People are still angry with the government. People are still being judged for factors out of their control. People are still living without love in their lives.
But I have also realized that I am called to be a part of the Episcopal Church to welcome people into the beloved community we are born into. I have more discernment and years ahead of me to live this out but here is what an intense ten days began to outline the needs humanity has:
Young Adult Ministry and Campus Ministries have a special welcoming opportunity. They get to welcome people to the community for the first time. They get to welcome back people to the community that get to choose our church for themselves. Intentional networking can connect everybody and help people find others they relate to because loneliness is the most common feeling in this age range. College creates thousands of choices and paths; I know it was super challenging for me especially the first six months. I cannot imagine going into the military or workforce as a young adult which is all the more reason young adults need to know how much they are part of the beloved community.
By Kate Long, Christ Church Macon
Language is a precious tool humans engage to communicate with one another, but until terminology is translated and defined, voices are silenced. This can be especially prevalent in our church, for example who are “young adults” and how are they different than “youth".
Meetings and panels this week continued to struggle with these terms. It would appear to be common sense to decipher them and in fact they look almost interchangeable, “young adult” and “youth". Until a clear vision is adopted by our dioceses, voices get muddled together. Even bishops I meet refer to me, a college student, as a youth, or a kid. I certainly do not feel like either of those terms fits me though.
Young adults would seem to be identified as someone who is transitioning from living with parents full time and attending high school to someone following a career track and moving to live on their own. The age range and spirituality levels for this transition varies so much therefore creative programs do not always prescribe a solution for all young adults; people in their 20's and 30's have an increasingly likely chance of having very different life experiences: marriage, ordination, work, college, children, mental illness, sexual assault, and addiction.
Within this group we lack an inclusive language of how to identify each other because as we have found it is important for people to find a relatable soul so they can grow together, but on the flip side it is important for people to identify when they are different so that can collaborate together because then both groups benefits from respective assets brought to the Lord’s table.
We experience dichotomies a lot with adults: thinkers vs feelers, cradle Episcopalians vs converts in youth and young adulthood, camp/youth event goers vs. Sunday parish attendees. Not everyone falls strictly in one category. It is not black or white. We must learn to find the gray area to build a bridge between the groups. Everyone has their own needs and as beloved community of Christ we are responsible to feed everyone's souls.
By Kate Long, Christ Church Macon
Last night I attended the Integrity Eucharist. One may ask, “Why was there another worship service when we celebrate Eucharist every morning of General Convention?” In asking myself this before hand, I realized there must be a great reason for its existence so I decided to go.
After a procession including Holy water sprinkling, a ribbon dove flying around on top of a 50 foot pole, and an overwhelming rendition of the spiritual “Wade in the Water”, I knew this service meant a great deal to a lot of people. For the first reading we watched a short video presentation celebrating Integrity USA’s founding and founder, Louie Crew- a gay man born in Alabama in 1936- to which the video kept reiterating “Louie had a huge love of God, his family, the South, and other boys” and then went on to explain how forty years ago Louie began pressing the Episcopal Church in middle Georgia (in the Diocese of Atlanta) to accept and embrace the entire gay community.
When Louie Crew carefully made his way up to the altar, he received a five minute long standing ovation with joyful cheers and tears being released throughout the 1000+ congregation in attendance. Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool- the first open Lesbian bishop consecrated in the Episcopal Church- received similar treatment when she approached the pulpit to preach the sermon.
This is where the evening's message quite literally hit home. She talked about Odysseus- the great Greek hero- and his great internal dichotomy of wanting to leave home for adventure and excitement but wanting desperately to return home to familial love and intimacy. Moses led the Israelites away from most of their physical homes searching in the desert for forty years to find a new spiritual home. Jesus rarely defined His own physical home constantly traveling to build up the following of souls to reunite as family in His eternal home, heaven.
Young adults typically leave home after high school in search of worldly experience through college, military, work, or spiritual calling. Going off to college was so thrilling to me, yet I called home weekly sobbing because I missed my family and their way of life. The extraordinary opportunity we possess as in betweeners of childhood and adulthood is just that, a gray area where we straddle comforting memories of family dinner, home parishes, youth groups and enlightening odyssey of discerning our way to change the world.
By Kate Long, Christ Church Macon
Over the past two days I:
To sum up every thought I have experienced through the course of events mentioned above would be impossible because each moment required so much energy and patience. General Convention brings hope to the notion that love can triumph over evil. Everyone here sees different areas of life that need love - poverty, environmental stewardship, racism, marriage, homosexuals', transgenders', and women's rights, international involvement especially in Palestine and Israel, and even in our own church- and everyone here thinks they are right.
Heidi Kim quoted a movie called Psalm of Howard Thurman urging us to “cultivate the listening to the sound of the genuine in ourselves” because the only good work I can do is the work in which I am passionate and capable. This is hard because our culture focuses on money because money can buy us more possessions. Rev. Altagracia presented the hard fact that the church’s “business is in souls and you don’t have to buy a good soul” so the material world continually forces us into areas where we might not be as successful than if we listen to the Spirit moving inside our own soul.
In one of the many conversations I have walking (occurring a lot because it is beautiful outside and events take place all over the downtown area) , someone described their current position as administering the administrators. As our current Why Serve programming is about discernment, I felt enlightened in that moment, because I want to empower the priests, the activists, the politicians, ect. instead of doing their work for them. I identify myself as a follow of Jesus but an “apostle to the apostles” like Mary Magdalene, who can bring news of the resurrection of our church home to young adult ministry and our diocese.
By Kate Long, Christ Church Macon
Flying by myself was awesome. I had the entire airport to roam on my own volition; I felt so “adult."
Then I arrived to my hotel in Salt Lake and immediately expected to be told what to do and when to do it because that is how every other church event in my life has been structured. Instead I had to check into my room by myself and figure out dinner by myself. So then I had a miniature meltdown because I was lonely. I was afraid I had made all the church friends I could in high school and that was it, no more friends. I decided no one else was going to be like me or like me. I cried and wanted to fly home to Georgia.
But then something cool happened. The spirit moved to me call my high school youth leader who informed me that people really believe I can do something good here. Even better yet he told me it was awesome if everybody else was different because that is how many ways I would see God and grow with Him.
On my solo walk to dinner I found two people who I had met at previous events. They greeted me with running hugs- the kind where you see them off in the distance and run until you collide with them- and reminded me that at one point in time I had not met them yet either.
At Why Serve, the the discernment programming I am attending, welcoming meeting we were "intentionally welcome." While standing in a circle, young adults spoke aloud myriad groups welcomed to this convention and this program: every ethnicity, every language, every socioeconomic class, chronic illness sufferers, those who feel marginalized and those who do not, every gender identity, every religious and spiritual perception.
Jesus was alone in the desert for 40 days and nights, but at the end he was reunited with his people for another journey. In our lives, we go through cycles of wanting to be alone and wanting to be included. When angels lead you to a group, you can not help but decide it's a reunion- even if you have never met them.
By Kate Long, Christ Church Macon
This weekend I attended the ordination of ten new Episcopal priests at the Cathedral of St. Phillip. Bishop Rob Wright gave the sermon; it aimed to call the new priests to be shepherds not hired hands, referencing the Gospel reading of John 10:11-18, “because the hired hand does not care for the sheep”. As usual with Bishop Rob’s sermons, the message clearly extended beyond the intended audience. The sanctuary filled with the Spirit moving us to evangelize the world around us.
Later in John 21:17, Jesus, when asked what to do with our love for him, says “feed my sheep”.
As I travel to General Convention in Salt Lake City today, I am praying to come back with food for the young adults in the Diocese of Atlanta; for those that know they are in it and those who have yet to be welcomed into our green pasteur.