We are a chosen generation, called forth to show God’s excellence. All I require for life, God has given me and I know who I am. These are the opening lines of the worship song, “I know who I am,” by Sinach. It was one of the songs belted out collectively by hundreds of high school youth at last month’s Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) held at the University of Maryland at College Park July 4-8. The vibrant energy pulsating throughout the gathering was palpable as these words reverberated through the crowd. The lyrics expressed a deep truth for these young people – they know who they are and whose they are. They are beloved children of God. Their lives matter. They are good. They are loved.
This is a message that many participants longed to be reminded of. After navigating a pandemic that severed connective ties and made them feel isolated, many youth deeply desired to reconnect with peers and hear again the message that they matter to others, to God and to their church. EYE provided that opportunity to youth participants and their chaperones. The 5-day event featured uplifting worship, engaging plenary sessions, provincial meetups, an array of workshops and time for fellowship and fun.
Approximately 600 youth and 200 chaperones attended EYE, representing 108 dioceses, spanning 22 nations and territories. The Episcopal Diocese of Washington was represented by a delegation of 5 participants, several volunteers, our diocesan Creation Care Team, who had a booth in the exposition hall, and two EYE planning team members – Caleb Nelson Amaker, Director of Youth and Family Ministries at St. Mark’s Capitol Hill, and the Rev. Amanda Akes-Cardwell, diocesan Missioner for Faith Formation and Development. Liturgical items from several EDOW parishes, including chasubles, stoles, chalices, patens, albs, and processional crosses, were utilized at the worship services. Canon Anne-Marie Jeffery welcomed participants to the Diocese of Washington on behalf of Bishop Mariann Budde, who was on sabbatical during the event.
The EYE23 theme was Regresso a Casa: A New Age of Faith. My experience at EYE reminded me that this new age of faith is one where all people truly matter, are welcomed, and cherished. It was reaffirmed for me that in The Episcopal Church, we value rising generations, not because they are the church of the future, but because they have gifts and inspiration to offer the church and the world today.
At a local level, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington also believes this to be true. And to that end, we are working to re-envision youth ministry in the diocese. Over the 2023-2024 program year, a newly formed Youth Ministry Visioning Committee will work to create a vision, mission, and strategic plan for youth ministry in our diocese. More information will be forthcoming. If you’d like to learn more about youth ministry in the diocese, be part of the visioning process, or learn more about EYE or youth ministry at the national level, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
ICYMI: check out this highlight reel from the event!