Thursday, November 17, 2011

Youth Commission Report to the Diocesan Convention 2011

Good morning. I am Nora Vinas, the new Youth Commission president. With me are Gillian Newman, our vice president, and Eva Ortez, our secretary. Our Administrative Assistant is Dominique Douglas, who couldn’t be with us today. We are proud to announce that our Youth and Young Adult ministry have been well represented in multiple diocesan events this year. From the youngest acolyte attending our annual Acolyte Festival last spring to our young adults coming together last summer at the first Young Adult Diocesan Summit, we’ve made sure all age groups are being integrated.

We begin each year with the Diocesan Christmas Ball. Last year Holy Family, Miami Gardens, hosted the event. This was a fantastic evening where the youth of our diocese shared a dinner and dance. This is one of our largest events of the year; over 100 youth attended this event last year, and we’re looking forward to this year’s Christmas Ball on December 17th at St. Benedict’s, Plantation.

In February our focus shifts to middle school. New Beginnings is a spiritual weekend designed especially for middle-schoolers focusing on their relationships with Christ, family and friends. This is a “Cursillo”-type event with content for middle-schoolers. High school students run this program with minimal supervision from adults, learning leadership skills to equip a new generation of church leaders. This all took place last winter at St. Martin’s in Pompano Beach. This year New Beginnings will be held at St. Benedict’s in Plantation, February 16th through 19th.

Each spring we are honored to sponsor the Diocesan Acolyte Festival. This is our biggest event each year, with over 400 attending last spring at St Marks, Palm Beach Gardens. We owe a special debt of gratitude to all the volunteers there for making this such a great event. This year the Acolyte Festival will be held at Trinity Cathedral on April 28th. The theme is “Acolytes Committed to Restoring our House of Worship.” A portion of the fee for the festival is going to help with the cathedral’s restoration.

Another event we offer is Happening. Happening is a spiritual weekend held twice a year by high school students for high school students and this IS a life-changing experience. Throughout the weekend we gather the youth and motivate them to take a step back and reestablish their relationship with Christ. We had the latest Happening just last weekend [Nov. 4-6], and over 80 youth, young adults and adults were present. The next Happening will be held March 23-25 right here at St. Joseph’s, and we couldn’t be more excited.

Also this past summer we attended EYE, the Episcopal Youth Event, held in St. Paul, Minnesota. This event is held every three years for youth from all over the country. Unexpectedly, we were asked to hold a workshop on Happening, along with selected youth from the West Texas and Iowa groups. The EYE workshop was a huge success, and we were invited to the Happening in West Texas, where the program originally began. EYE was absolutely incredible and an amazing learning experience, and I was reassured that the future of the Episcopal Church is growing in grace, with strong, young hands preparing to take our place in the church.

Additionally, PYE, The Province IV Youth Event, was held in conjunction with EYE in Minnesota. We worked with the Red Lake Nation helping to restore the Ojibwa tribe by working on two churches. This was a wonderful cultural exchange and very gratifying to know that in the tribe’s eyes we shined a light on youth. We definitely now know that our mission is to show God’s love by helping those who are in need.

As great as it is to travel to national events, it is great to gather our own each year at our Diocesan Youth Convention. This year we had delegates representing four of our six deaneries. We participated in workshops, held our election of officers and planned for the coming year. The closing service at convention was held at St. Benedict’s, Plantation, where we worshiped together and commissioned our officers. The next Youth convention will be held August 4th at Trinity Cathedral.

Many of you may not know, but this summer for the very first time we held a Diocesan Young Adult Summit at the Chapel of the Venerable Bede on the campus of the University of Miami. Thirty-five young adults attended with the intention of getting a diocesan ministry started. They elected officers and planned activities for the year. The group will be sponsoring the annual Christmas Ball for the Youth, as well as a dinner for graduating seniors to ease the transition from youth to the young adult ministry. We are very excited about this new ministry and look forward to watching it grow.

In the coming year there are many ideas we will be exploring to continue building up our ministry. We would like to have more weekend retreats, peer ministry workshops, Happening Reunions, and possibly to go down to the Keys and do a Happening there. One of our major goals is bringing our diocese together.

This year we plan to address the issues that interfere with the growth of our youth, such as communication and transportation. We are very blessed to have such a big and diverse diocese; but distance plays a big role in the youth’s not being able to participate in activities, because transportation is limited and we don’t have a camp in which to gather on a regular basis.
Nevertheless, this is going to be an exciting year in youth ministry.

I honestly thank all the youth coordinators who devote their time to insuring that youth ministry reaches all our deaneries and to running major programs on both the diocesan and deanery levels. I would also like to thank all the volunteers who go out of their way to help us and nourish us at youth events.

And of course, great leadership begins at the top. None of these events could be possible without the support of Bishop Frade; if you didn’t believe in us, this ministry wouldn’t have come this far. I can personally say the youth program has changed my life, and I know if we continue working hard the best is yet to come and we will achieve our goal of getting all our youth in the diocese together. Therefore, I encourage you, parents and youth leaders, to motivate your youth, to become involved in deanery and diocesan events. When your parish receives emails, newsletters and invitations for upcoming events, please get the message out there. This ministry needs the support of each and every one of you to make this a productive year. We need you to have faith in us because we can’t do it without you.

We may be the church of tomorrow, but we’re already making a difference today.

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