The Young Adult Festival (YAF) has a single message to General Convention: "We are here and we are committed to the Episcopal Church." Each triennial General Convention features a YAF and the current theme is "Together," a variation of the convention theme, ubuntu, a Xhosa word that means "I am because you are."
Young adult ministry is a convergence of technology, face-to-face time and a love of Christ, said a group of participants in the YAF, being held July 10-14. Young adult ministry serves those 18-30 years old.
Jason Sierra, associate program officer for young adult and campus ministries for the Episcopal Church and a festival organizer said, "This generation is living the changes society is going through right now with technology, finances and more. We get it -- FaceBook, the Internet, texting -- but we also get the traditions of the church, and want to show our desire to be involved and demonstrate how important we are to the future of this church."
This desire was echoed by festival attendee P'Tricia (pronounced "patricia") Egbert, age 24, of the Diocese of Kentucky. The perception, she said, is that this age group goes to college, leaves the church and comes back for the baptism of their first child.
"Two things need to happen to change that perception," said Egbefrt. "First the parishes need to recognize that we have gifts to offer, and second, we need to make a commitment to the church by stepping out of our comfort zones and getting involved. We can't write you a check right now, but we care about the issues."
It's not just about the numbers in the pews but participation, too. According to Wendy Pineda, age 24, a member of the YAF planning team and youth director and secretary for Iglesia Episcopal, a Spanish-speaking parish in San Mateo, Texas (Diocese of Texas), her church's participation in diocesan events has increased since she became involved in festival planning. This has opened doors not just for her but for the entire parish.
"I don't think the church is dying, but if that's all we'll concentrate on, the numbers we are losing, then we won't get anywhere," Pineda said. "Stop concentrating on the losses and focus on who is here. It might take time, but it will work."
Garrett Braaf, age 22, is attending YAF to develop a new young adult ministry program at St. Benedict's Episcopal Church, Plantation, Fla., in the Diocese of Southeast Florida. He sees the issue of young adult participation in the Church as being in God's hands. "We as humans can't perceive God's plan. The people that are supposed to be at a place will be there. God knows what's best â it's not about the numbers."
Participants invited convention-goers to a Young Adult Ministry reception on July 13 at 6 p.m. at the Marriott Hotel to meet the young adults of the church. MIX (Music in Christ), an ecumenical ministry at the University of Southern California (USC), will present worship expressions of song and word.