Episcopal Youth Event (EYE 14): part 2

Read part 1 here.

After the four days of the EYE conference, the DioCal group participated in two days of mission in Philadelphia. The group worked at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chester, which the youth later learned is the poorest city in Pennsylvania with the lowest ranked school district. St. Paul’s houses Chester Eastside Ministries, a faith-based group that runs numerous programs for the community, from after school tutoring to GED classes to a weekly food pantry. The youth helped organize and distribute food for the food pantry on the first day, but the bulk of their time was spent alongside the children of the ministry’s summer camp program. Two days of dancing, singing, playing, and learning left DioCal youth inspired and hopeful for one of Pennsylvania’s hardest hit communities. In evening program, the youth spent hours processing the ethics of mission trips, sustainable development, intersections of privilege and oppression, and the power of commitment to a community. 

Meghan Sweeney (17) from All Soul’s Berkeley, summed up the experience in a letter to the Eastside Ministries:

Your stories inspired all of us in different ways. Some of us pledged to change our own communities. Others planned to spread the word about the amazing town of Chester. And the rest of us were touched so deeply in our hearts, we promised to change the way we live our lives and the way we conduct ourselves in this broken society.

In only one week, 13 DioCal youth experienced the breadth and depth of The Episcopal Church’s inspiring liturgy, commitment to diversity, and passion for fighting injustices in society. “I guess my life is ruined now — there’s no going back,” one youth stated in the closing reflection time. Marked for mission and wholly transformed, they are ready to bring this experience back home.