“Happening” Happening in Belize
Happening, a retreat with a long history in the Episcopal Church, follows a "by kids for kids" approach. This retreat gives students a unique opportunity to learn from other students their age who share personal stories of their faith, struggles, and love for God. It connects high school students together and gives them a base in faith and friendship that lasts a lifetime. Happening was a huge part of my upbringing in the Episcopal Church. I started as a "happener" (a person going through the retreat for the first time) my freshman year of high school and experienced God’s love with many peers my own age as we confronted relevant issues to students our age. I then graduated to a small group leader where I had the opportunity to work with several special needs students. Finally, I was given the opportunity to run the retreat as the rector; to this day, that experience remains one of the most moving of my journey in Christ.
Perhaps what is most amazing about Happening is the bonds that it forms. Many of the friends I made through this retreat remain a part of my life. And in the reality of my faith life today, these students help form a safety net for me. What’s more, this retreat offers an opportunity for these same college students to gather once a year. I have found these weekends to be some of the most important in a tumultuous college faith journey. These weekends, surrounded by the priests I grew up with, the students I grew up with, and the faith I hold dear, calm my mind and allow for a spiritual peace I cannot find anywhere else.
In June of 2016, I had the opportunity to be part of a group of people selected to attend the Global Episcopal Missions Network conference in Ponce, Puerto Rico with a delegation from the Diocese of Belize. Our two dioceses broke bread together and learned a lot about each other and our needs. From these conversations, and from conversations I had with young people from Belize, it became clear to me that we share the passion for connecting young people to the church. After some brainstorming, we came up with the idea of a Happening in Belize. We plan to form a retreat that will meet the Diocese of Belize’s specific needs and wants while still bringing the overall essence of Happening.
It is my hope that this retreat will inspire more young people to get involved with the church and stay with the church and for the students experience God in new and unique ways. I am honored to be part of this project and I look forward to playing whatever role God has planned for me in the summers to come.