Every three years, the Episcopal Church hosts the Episcopal Youth Event (EYE). This youth conference is attended by youth from across the United States as well as many international churches who belong to the Episcopal Church (Taiwan, Haiti, Virgin Islands, Navajoland, Paris, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Honduras, among others). This usually means that between 1100-1500 youth and their adult leaders come together to work on leadership development, program and curriculum, mission opportunities, and experience amazing worship and engaging fellowship.
This year, the conference was held in Bethel University in Minneapolis, MN on June 22-26. And after the formal conference concluded, there was an additional 3-day mission trip opportunity for those who wished to participate. And during the conference itself, many attendees helped to build an energy self-sustaining house for a family in the city. It was designed with solar panels to generate more energy than was consumed by the homeowner. We worked with Habitat for Humanity on this project. What an awesome ministry to be a part of.
For me, it was such a treat, and something I had been waiting for since the last "EYE" back in 2008. It is a chance to reconnect with youth and adults involved in youth ministry from all over the place. The chance to see friends from other dioceses that I only get to see every couple of years is just priceless. And you learn so much from just talking and sharing stories and ideas! The workshops were numerous and I attended many of them. I particularly enjoyed the workshops on game leadership and 'dorky dancing' (yeah, it sounds funny but it was an awesome workshop on movement and engaging youth in fun activities that build community). These kinds of events really recharge my batteries for mission and remind me why I love Youth Ministry and the Episcopal Church.
The Diocese of Chicago brought a group of 11 to the conference this year, along with several others who were there serving in staff roles for the event. The Bishop of Chicago, the Rt. Reverend Jeffrey Lee was also with us -- how cool is that!! But more than anything, I love the young people that came on this trip. They are fun, smart, crazy, faith-filled, and amazing! And, we were lucky enough to pick up youth from the Diocese of Milwaukee on our way so the bus was full of cool people!
We got there on Wednesday the 22nd, just in time for dinner. Our first 'adventure' was at 2AM on Thursday, when the fire alarm in our building/dorm went off. We did not know it at the time, but a tree had fallen outside the building and hit an external gas line. Some kids smelled gas and the staff immediately went into action, getting everyone out of the building and alterting the fire department/police. The end result was that no one was hurt and after 1.5 bours, we were allowed to return to our beds and try to get some sleep. Sleep was fleeting; so Thursday was tough since I hadn't gotten enough sleep, AND, I ran 2.5 miles in the early morning before breakfast. (The campus at Bethel is beautiful; with running paths through green grass, tall trees, and besides a lake. It was a nice run. In fact, I ran another 3.5 miles on Saturday just because it was such a relaxing location.)
Our opening Worship on Thursday morning was celebrated by our Presiding Bishop. the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori. Her sermon was inspiring and her presence among us just electrified the entire community. The cool thing about our worship together was that all the services were fantastic! The music was awesome! What a music team! And the speakers were all great, especially Rodger Nishioka who spoke on Friday and really energized the faithful!
On Saturday, we enjoyed an outdoor cookout for dinner, followed by the Episcopal Olympics. I have to admit that by Saturday evening, I was really tired so I opted to take a little nap while everyone else jumped into the games. I wanted to be awake for the closing liturgy that night. And it did not disappoint. Wow!! I have a bunch of video from the worship services which I will work on getting published on my YouTube channel and FaceBook when I can find a good chunk of editing time. I also have around 600 photos to weed through so I can put together a nice photo album on FaceBook for everyone to enjoy.
The bus ride home was fun but a bit subdued. Everyone was tired and little sad that we were leaving all the friends that we had made during the conference. Most of the youth were staying and working at our Diocesan Summer Camp so that was something they were looking forward to (the bus was taking us to the Camp).
EYE was exciting, exhausting, energizing, and enriching! I cannot WAIT for EYE 2014!! No date or location have been announced yet but I plan on being there!