Episcopal Youth Event (EYE 14): part 1

Posted on July 21, 2014

I’m ridiculously grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of such a large, warm, open, and understanding community. Each person inspires me in a way that I hope I can take back to the homeland. The Youth of The Episcopal Church are the most inspiring and motivated youth. I’m not just saying that because I am one — but when you hear stories of people your age teaching, tending, transforming, and treasuring this beautiful world and church, it makes me want to do the same. I’m just saying what everyone else knows. We — the youth — are the future. And like a great earthquake, prepare all you want, but you will not be ready for the ground breaking. And it will truly be groundbreaking.

— Geraldine Mack, age 17, Holy Child St. Martin, Daly City

Over 1,200 of God’s faithful Episcopal high school-aged youth gathered for one week in Philadelphia to explore the theme “Marked for Mission” through worship services, workshops, large group activities, touring the city of Philadelphia, and urban mission projects. Thirteen DioCal youth added their voices to the singing, their hearts to the vulnerable sharing, and their passions to the work. All agreed that it was one of, if not, the most transformative experience in their lives of faith. And they are ready to, as Geraldine said, “bring that inspiration back to the homeland.”

The delegation’s trip to the Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) was 10 months in the making through applications, interviews, publicity, fundraising, and preparation. After a long day of travel full of delays and cross-country weariness, the youth were met in the opening Eucharist by a gym full of 1,200 of their peers chanting their diocesan pride, dancing to worship music in 100-person strong conga lines, thunderous cheering as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori processed in, and a body of young people that truly celebrated the Eucharist. Slogging through the first few days of humidity and jet lag was made much easier by the energy of the EYE group (and the magic of the discovery of lightening bugs and evening thunder storms!).

Upon arriving at the event, the youth immediately harnessed their energies and began introducing themselves to other Episcopal high school students from across the world. They quickly discovered that being from California had an added “cool factor” in the books of many other youth, which made initiating and continuing conversations at meal times, free time, and in workshops much easier. Many of the youth of DioCal expressed that making connections with new people was the most meaningful part of EYE for them.

Dozens of workshops were held for both youth and youth workers with topics from leading music to praying the rosary to Christian life in college. Presenters from across the church offered resources and discussion space for the youth to engage in topics of faith in their lives. The DioCal delegation offered two workshops themselves. The Rev. Leonard Oakes from Holy Child St. Martin, Daly City, ran a workshop about indigenous Filipino music which culminated in workshop attendees performing with indigenous instruments at the closing Eucharist. Grace Wilkins, a DioCal youth; Grace Aheron, a DioCal chaperone and intern; and Logan Rimel, a diocesan young adult sponsored by Oasis; presented a workshop on the ways in which queer theology and the queer God offer a new framework for understanding lives of faith, for transforming unjust structures of society, and for knowing God.

Sermons and plenary sessions offered new insight and inspiring words for the youth to understand themselves as “marked for mission.” Additionally, many of the DioCal youth noted that every adult speaker was either a person of color or a woman, which, to them, demonstrated The Episcopal Church’s commitment to empowering more marginal voices in society and, “really mattered.” Canon Stephanie Spellers from the Diocese of Long Island opened the event by commissioning the youth to “bring it” when it comes to living out the Gospel story in their lives. The Presiding Bishop — whom the DioCal youth now lovingly refer to as “KJS” — explained God’s call to mission through the image of a mosquito — that nagging presence that agitates you into action. The Rev. Randy Callender from the Diocese of Maryland was raised in Philadelphia and offered a moving personal narrative about his struggles as a young, black Episcopalian, but the way in which the mantra, “Be still and know that I am God,” in Psalm 46 grounded him in God’s will for his life. The Rev. Becca Stevens brought the entire congregation to tears through her passionate narrative of the mission of the Magdalene House and Thistle Farms — a recovery program and community for women struggling to get off the streets. And, finally, Bishop Curry from North Carolina brought the youth to their feet in cheers and laughter with his charge to “GO!” as Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 20. Ignited with the words and passions of leaders of The Episcopal Church, DioCal youth took that energy and inspiration into the following two days of urban mission service.


Logan Rimel

Evening Prayer

Closing Eucharist

photos: Geraldine Mack; outdoors group photo: Grace Aheron 

To see more from EYE, check out the links below:
EYE photos
EYE sermons, plenary speakers, worship services
Episcopal youth

Part 2 of the EYE story will be available next week.