The second Sunday of every month, we gather in the Children’s Chapel for a special Eucharist service. It is a unique time where the children listen, observe, and pray in ways that may not resemble the mannerisms of adults. All participants are able to stand around the table, close enough to touch each other. They lean in close, often with eyes fixed on the bread and wine. They have to be reminded to step back so the celebrant can circle the table and give each person the bread and the wine or a blessing. Sometimes, however, their curious minds and fidgety hands can be a distraction or worse. During the children’s Eucharist in December, one young person asked if the cup had blood in it, and another young person said it was wine. The two argued back and forth saying, “It’s wine” and “It’s blood” until one person shoved the other and both had to be escorted outside. I knelt down to hear each person’s side of the story and why they thought it was blood or wine. We talked about how physical force and violence are not tolerated, nor do they justify or prove either person’s position. But I wanted to address their theological questions too.
Their arguing took me back to some of the frustration I felt when I read Zwingli and Luther’s arguments over the Eucharist and what Jesus meant when he said, “This is my body . . . this is my blood. . . .” I informed these young people that countless others have had this debate for centuries. And I assured them, at the risk of overstepping my role, that they are both right, that the Episcopal Church makes room for both of them at the table. Because these are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, we do not have to draw lines or claim corners and positions. We did not get into the fine points of transubstantiation or consubstantation, but we did reconcile our differences with offers of apologies and forgiveness. We did not make it back inside in time for the post-communion prayer, though we acted it out in a way. We had reflected on the spiritual food we were fed and we formed a new peace to carry us into the world. But I’m still thinking about how stubborn, willful, and self-assured we can be and how amazing it is that we are graciously accepted as living members of God’s Son our Savior Jesus Christ. We can hold on to our ideas, beliefs, and preferences; and we can pass them on to our children. And yet, despite all our differences, we share a miracle as we are sanctified to receive the sacrament and serve God in unity, constancy, and peace. It makes me wonder beautiful things about life to the fullest, new creations, and what Jesus has in mind for Peter (and for us!) when he says, “Feed my sheep.” --Justin Walker
By Justin Walker: Youth Leader
In October and November, I made four trips over the Skyway to the DaySpring Conference Center for various ministry information meetings and workshops. On one occasion, I attended my first Happening! Though I can’t reveal what goes on at a Happening, I can say that every trip I make to DaySpring — most of which I share with youth from the Cathedral and the diocese — confirms something amazing: We share beautiful gifts.
The physical space of DaySpring is majestic to behold. Settled on the Manatee River, it is a wonderful place to attend an Eastertide quiet day with the Bishop or a louder summer camp or youth ministry weekend. It is in these ministries where we can see the youth share their gifts of leadership, empathy, joy, and worship with each other and with everyone they meet. The location that is itself a beautiful gift attracts and cultivates the gifts and talents of everyone there.
We too at the Cathedral have beautiful facilities that encourage face-to-face gatherings and transformative connections. There is a worship service, group meeting, dinner, etc. going on every day somewhere at the Cathedral. We share the youth group room as meeting space for other ministries during the week. We get to share our gifts with each other, help each other grow our gifts, and — though it is seldom recognized — we get to receive each other’s gifts. Each person brings his or her own gifts and experiences to the table, wherever it happens to be set. Our youth have been exploring where we can gather and how we can welcome others to the table.
Recently, we’ve been remembering those around the St. Petersburg deanery and beyond. Our weekly Sunday evening ministry and our larger monthly outings continue to welcome youth and grownups from around the area. In early November we joined members of several parishes in the deanery for our Youth Event: Painting & Paintball. Youth from St. Giles, St. Anne of Grace, St. Thomas and a representative from the diocesan office joined Cathedral youth for an afternoon of slightly painful adventures.
We were able to play several games of paintball followed by a pizza dinner, where we had a chance to laugh about the games and show off some bruises. We also had time to talk about upcoming events and hear more about what the youth would like to do regarding mission trips, service opportunities, and a big push for Cathedral youth to attend Happening 76 this March at DaySpring.
Many of the high school counselors and leaders at DaySpring summer camps, New Beginnings, and Happening got their start at their first New Beginnings or Happening in previous years. They experienced something that shaped them and inspired them to join in and support later attendees — in a way, they were called. By serving in leadership roles at later DaySpring camps and ministries, they are contributing to the transformation of those attending who are experiencing much of the same joy and overwhelming love that the leaders knew and felt at the beginning of their journey.
We are well positioned to continue growing youth leadership through our ministries at the Cathedral and by their participation at DaySpring. We are also fortunate to have the Jim Budd Youth Fund to provide scholarships for most of the DaySpring ministry participants and fund mission trips and experiences like the Episcopal Youth Event (EYE 2017) last summer. Shared experiences inspire our youth to leadership and service. DaySpring is a beautiful, sacred place that connects youth with old and new friends from around the diocese, where they can grow in their knowledge and love of the Lord. At the Cathedral, we are growing a youth ministry that seeks to do the same.
Regularizing Children in Church
Making up words is fun
(like: regularizing)... but it doesn't compare to hearing our Children and Youth read from the lectern or hearing their voices in the Eucharist prayers. Who else heard them last Sunday? Who else was nearly moved to tears? Wouldn't it be great to hear that more often or to regularly see some young people welcoming members and visitors into the Cathedral?
Rather than continue monthly Children in Church services, we are beginning to welcome Children and Youth to regularly serve in various roles during the 10:15 service.
Thank you to all who made this such a positive experience for the Cathedral. Email Justin for more info. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to everyone who came out for the Youth & Grownups Dinner on August 17th! We had a great dinner, the discussion was fruitful, and Emily enjoyed her birthday! The dinner provided a space for Cathedral Youth and their Grownups to share dialogue with Emily and I in response to three questions:
Who are we, What do we believe, and What is our path?
Who are we? Well, this question was answered both by Emily and I and by the Youth. This was our first meeting with some at the dinner who had their questions about our journey to the Cathedral, our interests and experiences with Youth ministry, and our hopes for the next few years. We also discussed the composition of the Youth regarding age groups.
The age range for the Youth roughly spans 13-18 years old.
As part of our efforts to build continuity and inclusiveness,
we have also formed a Middlers group of 10-13 years olds.
These groups will provide space for maturity-based programming and discussions. However, these divisions will also require greater involvement of more consistent volunteers and chaperones to maintain these groups.
The weekly Bible & Go ministry is tentatively planned for the Youth (13-18) on Sunday nights from 5:00-7:00pm. There will be a combined event for the Youth and Middlers each month.
What do we believe? We believe the Cathedral Youth are not the Church of tomorrow; they are the Church. As the Church, we look to what we proclaim and affirm for our beliefs and our ministry.
We believe, as taken from the Episcopal Church Youth Ministries website, that Youth ministries is a “bridging ministry of education, connection, formation and, hopefully, transformation.” Again from the Episcopal Church, “Youth Ministries calls for passion, patience, and faithfulness--pointing out the sacred in the midst of the chaos of adolescence and walking faithfully with young people as they transition from child to young adult.” It is with this understanding that we make and make known our path together.
What is our path? One of my favorite Psalms has an almost imperceptible detail that magnifies its possibilities. Psalm 16:11 can be read “You make known to me the path of life” or “You have made known to me the path of life” or “You will make known to me the path of life.” But I’ve never read it as an either/or situation but an all-the-above scenario. We both know the path before us and it is being revealed to us with every step. Is it any different with our Youth? We (the Grownups) have all been youth, even if we don’t remember it or our young people don’t believe we were ever anything close to their age. We may know how we made our way through adolescence, and yet it may not be the same path for our Youth.
Part of our path together is recognizing the importance of relationships in this season and the potential for harm or growth. Among myriad challenges, modern technology raises new concerns about boundaries and communications expectations. As we grow our relationships together, we do so according to Safeguarding guidelines, with open, public communication lines rather than private or personal messages. Out path together also includes more Youth led services and events. The predominant Youth led programming for this year is the weekly ministry Bible & GO. We are also looking to the Grownups of Youth to assist with planning and chaperoning various events. We will discuss these and other opportunities at an upcoming workshop dinner to discuss the different seasons and styles of being Grownups to Youth, i.e. how can we support the various parents and guardians of Youth alongside our support of the Youth?
stay tuned for a workshop for grandparents of youth
While in Marietta, GA during hurricane Irma, Justin and I had the opportunity to return to the church where he served in Atlanta: Holy Trinity in Decatur. His supervisor, and a mentor to both of us preached. She talked about Matthew 18: 15-20, and she talked about community. She emphasizes that Jesus asks, "what kind of a community will we be?" The call to community is foundational to a life as Christian people in the world: people following Christ, and here in this Gospel people with Christ in a very physical way. She noted that isolation and the possibility to move around create "...a false sense of independence and self-sufficiency that leave us lonely and filled with anxiety." If we keep moving searching for that perfect community, or if we keep to ourselves in self-inflicted isolation, we will be lonely. Some people say we are relational beings. I'm sure the eucharist has a role in that, as well as our baptismal covenant. Her sermon continued to say that when we are in community and share real intimacy and tell each other how we are really doing, we have people who can be our confidants. It is difficult to be vulnerable, authentic and to show people the other parts of our wholeness as a person: the parts that extend beyond our niceness we present on Sunday mornings. She encouraged us that Jesus is with us as we struggle through the difficult parts of community and relationships.
With these thoughts in my head and heart I feel compelled to examine the ways the Cathedral community came together during the hurricane. From our vantage point of Marietta, GA we saw a facebook newsfeed filled with status updates sharing both the scary, apprehensive and the funny. It was a time of listening. Katie came onto facebooklive every morning and evening sharing prayer. We updated the website and instagram, facebook and newsfeeds to tell people we are safe and what is the plan moving forward.
In summary, way back up at the top of the post is an image. I wrote down the big ideas that are guiding us as we return to St Pete, the Cathedral and the ministries of Children and Youth. Somehow all of the words started with C, such is life.
Curriculum, Consistency, Collaboration, Community --> Church
with the question/idea:
"Who we are as a children's (& youth etc) Cathedral Church Community?"
Each day, as we wake up, we have the opportunity to listen to the voices of guilt and compassion. There seems to be no sure-fire way to live perfectly. And so we are called, by God/Jesus to live as community. To discern together our call as people of the church and what this year ahead will look like. Thank you for being a part of our/this community.
Shared Ministry Craft Closet
Thanks to one of our youth, Sarah, for helping to maintain our Shared Ministry Craft Closet in the nursery-- alphabetized resources!
We've learned a lot over the summer about what is important in a Cathedral Children & Youth program/ministry. For one thing, there are many moving parts! The program is in a regrowth phase, so we learn as we grow..
Beautifying Our Space
In the nursery, you will notice that several pieces of furniture have been cleared out- thank you, Craig & Bill! We've reorganized the closet into a Shared Ministry Craft Closet- thank you Anslee and Sarah! For the bathroom in the nursery, we've ordered a doorstop (to keep the door ajar when an adult is assisting a child--Safeguarding), Thistle Farms lavender soap and room spray to freshen the space and a colorful floor mat.
We've ordered faux plants to fill the space (lavender), and hope to add potted plants and work with the Flower Guild. There are also faux thyme plants going into the Children's Chapel. These plants will serve as a baseline as we build green spaces in the year to come. A mixture will allow for growth and the implementation of dreams as we go along. Many thanks to Eric Peterson for hanging pieces of artwork in our spaces- bringing life and culture into our 3 rooms (Nursery, Youth Room/office and Children's Chapel).
The Youth room was cleared out over the summer. Binders to organize paperwork, thanks Marilyn. We'll remove the interior temporary wall and the sofa this year to make the space open and Safeguard friendly. Thanks, Tommy, for helping to organize the materials-- we'll continue to sort through the curriculum this year.
The Children's Chapel is transforming into a more sacred and contemplative space. We've noticed that is gets warm in there- we may add fans. Children also are thirsty (especially after sharing the bread), so we'll have fresh water available on Sunday mornings.
Emily updates the sign-ins weekly, is rethinking name tags (maybe the Children and Youth-- and Nursery kids! can have Cathedral name tags...) and the volunteer/lay minister rota. We're looking for 15 co-leads in the nursery and 4 rotating group co-leads in the Children's Chapel. We've hired a new paid Lead Cathedral Child Care person for consistency.
As we continue to make lists upon lists of human efforts to grow a ministry, it is essential to remember the elements of love of community/neighbor (asking others for help and sharing the load), love of self (we can't do this all in one day + self care along the way), and love of God (thank you, Lord, for answering our prayers and activating our work through the Holy Spirit).
May we continue to beautify our ministries
Learn as We Grow.
The InstaMeet happened almost a month ago! There is much growth to report on, including: this blog will be for SPC&Y....
SPC&Y= St Peter's Children & Youth. So now the age gap includes even more: newborns through 18 year olds, and kind of the 20-40s group, as well. And how about our college kids? So birth-age 49? For now, we we focus on three age groups:
Child Care/Nursery: age infant- 4 (roughly)
Children: age 5ish-11ish
Youth: age 11ish-18ish
... the circle widens.
Right now, as I type, I am with 4 youth from the Cathedral, about 24 youth from the Diocese of SW Florida, and about 2000 Episcopal people (mostly youth) at EYE: Episcopal Youth Event. We are immersed in the love of Christ, as Bishop Curry reminded us this morning in his sermon:
If you want to change the world and change yourself: Follow Jesus. If you don't: don't worry about it.
-- Bishop Curry
Many more pictures, poems, Scripture, writing, thoughts, questions and ideas to come soon.
You may look forward to musings from Christen Crosby on EYE and a future post about the movie we watched at the InstaMeet: Ruby Bridges. Updates on the nursery, Child Care, Children in Church! and the overall growth of Children & Youth at the Cathedral, the Diocese, and the Church.
in prayer and in Christ,
Salutations! (a summer letter from Youth Minister Justin)
Greetings from the Children & Youth Ministries at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter. We have enjoyed getting to know some of you over the past few months, and we hope to meet the rest of you soon. We wanted to update you on a few recent events and to let you know about up-coming ideas.
We had our first Instameet in June at the Cathedral before the Burns Friday Night Movie. We shared a meal and ideas with the youth to explore plans for the summer.
Some of the most prominent ideas for events are:
cooking-lessons and demos (Parents, can you believe it?)
just about anything related to DaySpring.
We also discussed various outreach and ministry options like:
community gardening: how about St Pete Eco Garden?
volunteering at the St. Pete Free Clinic, Campbell Park Elementary, and other local partners
hosting fundraising dinners
"Canoeucharist" (a canoe trip/clean-up mashup with communion)
We would also like to keep an eye out for events like:
Christmas Pageant date tba
In the meantime, Emily and I are happy to meet with youth at the Cathedral most afternoons Monday - Friday. And let us know about upcoming games or competitions that you have; we'd love to support you and your interests.
You will notice that this blog is starting off as rather plain and generic... that is because Justin and I, as Co-Ministers of Children & Youth here at the Cathedral, hope that the Youth themselves will create the direction of our youth group this year. You will see this blog grow as our youth group grows this year.
Some thoughts: Youth is a difficult term to describe. What is youth? Right now, at the Cathedral, the youth includes all 5th-12th graders. As you may be thinking, others have noted that this is a wide window for age and maturation... we will probably break into more than one group before too long.
Events: We have very few events on the calendar for youth moving forward. That is because, we hope the youth will contribute their ideas to build the vision for this year, with our guidance. This summer, and this year, and the next years to come, and the future of the Church as a whole... And of course the present of the Church. Because youth are.. young.. but also present in the Church today, like all of us.
Looking ahead: very soon ahead we have an event- Friday night! This Friday June 16! An Instameet that we will post all over the website, facebook, instagram and contact people about (they say contacting individuals is the best way to invite someone... so I may invite you personally to read this blog.. in person)
There are many things happening this summer for Children. Youth are always welcome to come to those events and help and volunteer and get service hours... but we want to make (the) youth an intrinsic part of life at St Peter's, so be on the look out for that, please.
The acolyte Festival is in the fall, youth can participate in Children in Church this summer and there will be a Christmas pageant. But I have a feeling, do you?, that the youth will form a particular personality and presence through choosing ways to pray and service together, in addition to the formational offerings of the Cathedral.
Please continue to check in here as our youth group grows. We'll report back after the Instameet on Friday.