Attending the Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) is a privilege that approximately 1,200 young people and supporting adults experience once every three years.
Each diocese in the Episcopal Church—from Taiwan, Hawaii, and Alaska; across the continental U.S. to the Virgin Islands; Haiti, the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, and seven Episcopal dioceses in Latin America and the Caribbean—is invited to send a representative team to this gathering of celebration and mutual learning.
EYE 2014, Marked for Mission!, began yesterday at Villanova University, just outside Philadelphia.
Here are some quick first impressions from an EYE veteran who is delighted to have returned after six years cheerleading from a distance.
[I am hosting the VTS/CMT exhibit space, and offering two workshops, “Made in God’s Image: Approaching complex issues of gender, sexuality, and sexual orientation as Christians,” and “To Confirm or Not to Confirm.”]
Episcopalians are instinctively liturgical. We like order, tradition, and ceremony. Watching the EYE Hospitality Team greet hundreds of travel-weary, disoriented participants with genuine warmth and purpose reminded me of great vergers. In no time processions were underway, moving bodies and luggage efficiently to their respective dorms across this 130-acre campus.
EYE is General Convention without a legislative agenda: art family reunion, part summer camp, part continuing education. Forty-two bishops have made being here a priority.
The Exhibit Hall witnesses to a church living out global mission and believing young people matter. The space includes a stunning photo exhibit by Episcopal Relief and Development, a re-imagined United Thank Offering, and other booths from Episcopal Service Corps, Living Compass, Church Publishing, and so many more.
EYE is baptismal theology incarnate. There are no titles on our nametags, just our Christian names. Age is an afterthought.
All individuals are recognized as God’s beloved children, with gifts to share and covenant responsibility to enact. All things really are possible, with God’s help, and the level of anticipation is intense as we approach the official Opening Eucharist.
In the midst of flat Jesus, glo sticks, a zillion selfies, laughter, games, and deep conversations, I cannot help but compare the joy and hope I am seeing at EYE 2014 with the daily news about heightened suffering and violence impacting young people’s lives.
News channels are filled with tragic stories: the abducted young girls in Nigeria, the victims of gun violence in Chicago last weekend, the thousands of undocumented and unaccompanied children languishing at the U.S. border, the rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions surrounding the kidnapping and violent deaths of teenagers in the occupied West Bank.
May the EYE 2014 collect truly shape this event and each of us blessed to be here:
Ever loving God, you have brought us together and empowered us to serve as your disciples. We ask you to guide and bless us as we strive to tell the Good News of your love; teach and nurture all believers; tend to the human condition; transform and reconcile the world as Christ has shown us; and treasure your creation and our salvation through Jesus Christ. May we be engulfed in your love and blessings as we live out the mission and work you have given us, through Jesus Christ, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.
Lisa Kimball (@kimball_lisa) is director of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching and professor of Christian formation and congregational development at Virginia Theological Seminary.