A bluegrass concert and a Hip-Hop Eucharist, a cultural carnival and a photo op with Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold were four of the many events that greeted 1,400 high-school-age Episcopalians who traveled to Berea, Ky., for the six-day triennial Episcopal Youth Event. Griswold, who spoke daily to the assembly, said he was touched by the energy, imagination and directness with which the teens spoke about their faith.
“I’m really convicted in my own superficiality at times by just the pristine nature of their own trusting and believing,” Griswold said in an interview with the Kentucky Herald-Leader. Teens roared their approval, applauding loudly each time Griswold, dressed in shirt, shorts and sandals, took the stage.
For Coleman Reed, EYE meant “Experience Your Excitement” for Christ. “My experiences have been eye-opening,” he said. “I am a confirmed Episcopalian, but I have never felt so wonderfully immersed in God’s love.”
Meeting at a Berea College at the foot of the Kentucky Appalachians, the teens worshiped, sang, played and listened intently to speakers with challenging messages. They chose from dozens of workshops on topics ranging from “identifying your spiritual gifts” to “living in nontraditional families.”
Eighty-five dioceses, including some from the Caribbean and Central America, sent delegations. Ten of the most conservative dioceses sent no one.
A ‘cool’ event
Designed and led by a team of youths and adults who represent the diversity of the church, EYE is a celebration to inspire teens to a deeper faith in Jesus Christ and a renewed commitment to mission and ministry, said Betsy Boyd, staff officer for youth ministries.
Bishop Stacy Sauls of the host Diocese of Lexington called it a great opportunity for youth to unite. “Episcopalians often feel like a really small minority, so it’s really cool to be with this many people who share in their Episcopal heritage,” he said.
Lydia Hawthorne from the Diocese of Minnesota agreed. “It was really great to meet people from all over the country and other countries, because you don’t really realize how big the United States is and how many different cultures there are..”
In interviews with the Herald-Leader, several teens said they were confident about the future despite current church conflicts about sexuality and other issues.
“All churches have to have hard times sooner or later,” said Lindsey Flanders of the Diocese of Connecticut. “I think it’ll just be a phase for a little bit, and then it will go back to its former glory.”
Concluded Maggie Morgan of the Diocese of Minnesota, “There’s so many youth here, and there’s so many people just worshipping God. It shows the church is definitely still alive.”