I was an extremely young youth minister. In fact, my half a dozen or so high school traveling companions were only a couple years younger than me. It was a hot summer day and we were literally standing out in the middle of nowhere in eastern Oregon waiting to catch a train. Our destination? The first Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) which was being held at the University of Illinois.
Every three of the last thirty years I have been blessed to be a part of EYE. This last week, as many of you noticed (and commented on) the Facebook and Twitter posts, I was fortunate once again to be with over 1000 folks in Philadelphia for the recent installment of EYE. And now I’ve shared this incredible experience with the phenomenal group of young people and dedicated adults from ECMN!
Both the worship and music were excellent. The program with its missional focus was great. But, as always for me, the transformative element of the experience was the coming together of a diverse community of young people and their leaders from all over The Episcopal Church. It truly is the embodiment of the rich, comprehensive depth of diversity which encompasses who we are as Episcopalians. And seeing a young person experience that for the first time in their life is, in my mind, what makes this triennial gathering not only incredible, but critical.
The reality is that the vast majority of Episcopalians have lived out most of their faith journey in less than three Episcopal churches. This demographic is great for building community, tradition, and deep roots. Yet it is critical for us to never forget that at the core of our identity as Episcopalians and Anglicans, we are big tent people – our brothers and sisters come from a wide range of cultures and contexts. Still, all are called to use their God-given gifts to engage in God’s mission in the world.
The young people, as well as the adults in attendance, left Philadelphia as transformed children of God. They are acutely more aware and appreciative of the diversity of their Episcopal family, and without a doubt they are feeling emboldened to use their gifts for ministry to meet the world’s needs.