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.