My introduction to the Episcopal church came when I was in college. I was new to the state of North Carolina and at a relatively small university. Church had always been a huge part of my life, and with the closest Lutheran church being 20 minutes away, I knew I wanted to be involved in campus ministry. I “shopped” around some for the right ministry for me but did not find something that fit with what I knew and loved from the Lutheran church. I was able to quickly find some friends who felt the same way and we worked together to form the Episcopal Lutheran Ministry (ELM) at our school. Our big goal with ELM was to be a community for other college students who did not feel like they belonged in one of the other 9 ministries. Out mission statement as an organization was to be a community of believers who practiced “radical hospitality”. We fellowshipped with the Secular Student Alliance, hosted events with the GSA, served communion in the quad, and did compline at Starbucks. We became a community for anyone who felt like they needed one.
Building inclusive and welcoming communities is something that I believe is so important especially for our youth. Having a community for our youth, gives them the space to have discussions about their faith and beliefs. So when I started my role with St.John’s I knew that I wanted to make the focus of EYC for the year community. We began by focusing on our physical space, then moved to community members within our church, we finished the fall by discussing how the church gives back to the community it is apart of.
We have shifted during Epiphany to talking about the global community. As part of our weekly conversation, I like to check in with our youth to see what global issues they are passionate about. Our youth are concerned about the environment, violence, racial equality, the LGBTQ+ community, public health, and even the political environment. I like to give our youth the opportunity to share how they, as youth, can make an impact on the issues they care most about. We are creating an EYC community based on the same “radical hospitality” philosophy. It is a space and a community for everyone to be a part of, and everyone to feel included in. I hope we can continue to build our EYC community to be an open and welcoming space for all of our youth to explore their faith, discuss the issues that are important to them, and feel included in a space of like minded individuals.