The Spring Youth Gathering (SYG) was held at Bellwether Farm on April 26- 28. It was a wonderful chance for youth from across the diocese to experience the beauty, opportunity, and fun that the center has to offer.
The theme was “rooted” and we explored roots by harvesting root vegetables, discussing the importance of roots and their functions as well as the significance of what surrounds the roots and determines if the plant will thrive or wither and die. Naturally, we made the connection to us and what roots us, nourishes us, and what suffocates us or makes us thrive, and the role our faith plays in our lives.
Activities included picking carrots and using them to make centerpieces for the tables at Bellwether and using giant slingshots to launch potatoes into the pasture. Youth also participated in karaoke, tie-dye, arts and crafts with natural resources, canoeing, archery, fishing, and a cooking competition.
The youth were also able to participate in planting the cutting from the "Survivor Tree" that was received as a gift last year. The "Survivor Tree" is a 90-year-old tree that was not expected to survive after the blast from the Oklahoma City bombing. However, the tree continues to grow and gain strength and vitality each year. Our cutting will stand as a living symbol that good triumphs over evil, and hope over despair.
I believe the most significant dynamic of the weekend was the deepening of friendships and the forming of new ones among the young people. I am always in awe of our youth who boldly come to events not knowing a soul and manage through the awkward beginning. Because they do so, by the time they leave they have truly formed new bonds, many of which last a lifetime.
This SYG was of particular significance to me because it was the last Diocesan youth event I will oversee as the Canon for Christian Formation. Having served on Bishop Mark’s staff for 10 years, I will transition June 1 to full-time parochial ministry as rector at Church of the Ascension in Lakewood. Serving with the youth for the last ten years has changed me as a person and formed me as a priest. Their authenticity, fearless questions, creativity, passion, and willingness to be real and vulnerable have shaped my vision for the Church and all it can be. I am so very grateful to the bishop, the youth, their parents, and the whole diocese for trusting me with this very important ministry.
Several people have asked if I am sad or going to miss the youth. Of course I will miss them! But also, the reality is that I am not going anywhere. I will still be actively involved in the life of the diocese and participating with the youth in my parish.
With Anna Sutterisch taking on this ministry with children, youth, and young adults, I have nothing but joy and confidence. She is a person I love and trust. I have had the opportunity to both mentor and learn from her. I have complete faith in her abilities to take on this role.
And with the opening of Bellwether Farm and the health of youth ministry in our diocese, we are poised to go from good to great as we carry on God’s mission and ministry and grow ever more into the full stature of Christ.