By Weston Curnow
When General Convention met in Baltimore in the summer of 2022, church leaders made a pragmatic but painful decision: they chose to protect young people from COVID-19 by canceling the Official Youth Presence (a feature since 1989) and the Young Adult Festival (which has met alongside the convention since 2003).
Disappointed by General Convention, I set out to meet some members of the Episcopal Church’s next generation of leaders. These are five of them.
Macy Kendzior of Gainesville, Florida
Macy Kendzior is working on a post-baccalaureate degree in educational science at the University of Florida, after recently completing a degree in speech pathology, communication science, and disorder.
Macy grew up in the Episcopal Church, and remained active in church while in college, working across one campus and two dioceses.
Macy serves as president of Chapel House, also called EpiscoGators, at the University of Florida. As president, Macy is in charge of coordinating meals, planning retreats, networking with students, and making students aware of the opportunities at Chapel House.
In the fall semester, Macy was offered the opportunity to serve as student liaison to her bishop, the Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard of the Diocese of Florida.
Macy also serves as the events director of DaySpring, the Diocese of Southwest Florida’s summer camp in Parrish, 160 miles south of Gainesville.
Macy wants the Church to know that a young person’s interest and dedication to ministry do not equate to a call to priesthood. “We often hear of young people as being the Church of tomorrow, but that is not true,” she says. “We are the Church of today.”
Macy hopes God will continue to use her as a lay minister to do the work of the Church.
Gage Woodyard of Lincoln, Nebraska
Gage Woodyard is the director of St. Benedict’s Ministries in Omaha, a monastic community of the Diocese of Nebraska. Among many other duties, Gage’s work includes supervising St. Benedict’s urban gardens, managing the food pantry, and coordinating weekly community dinners.
Gage grew up Episcopalian and was heavily involved in Episcopal St. Francis Canterbury at Kansas State University, where he studied kinesiology.
Gage’s hopes the church will strike a balance: young people will be granted the leadership they need to respond to their times while avoiding overloaded responsibility and ministerial burnout.
For Gage, God is everywhere: in the people he feeds, in the gardens he tends, and in the monastic rhythm of prayer. Gage hopes he can take what he is learning at St. Benedict’s and encourage others to found comminutes of prayer, service, and fellowship.
Ellie Singer of Houston
Ellie Singer grew up in a Jewish and Unitarian-Universalist family and converted to Christianity while at Georgetown University, where she studied economics and theology. Today, Ellie serves the church as a social-media specialist, a small-business owner, an editor, a small-group facilitator, and a delegate to the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26).
Ellie was drawn to the church through Commonplace: Episcopal-Lutheran Ministry at Georgetown. Ellie appreciated Commonplace’s support for women in ministry and its stance on LGBT rights. “I was called to my ministries by a movement of the heart,” Ellie said of her time in college. “God knew my path before I had taken my first step.”
Unifying her diverse forms of ministry is a pervading commitment to community and sustainability. As the owner of Common Prayer Shop, Ellie creates vestments and gifts made from sustainable materials. As managing editor for podcasts at Earth & Altar magazine, Ellie helps those traditionally without a platform share their stories. As she hosts monthly conversations with the Great Middle — a group of Episcopalians from the central United States, from the Rockies to the Great Lakes — she helps people reflect on God’s love and how best to show that love to the world.
Though a strong advocate for youth in leadership, Ellie stresses what Gen Z has in common with other generations: “Aside from our approach to technology, we are the same; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ellie hopes, through her myriad ministries, to speak to the universal needs of people and show them that God is with them.
Andrew Loran Raines of Durham, North Carolina
Andrew Loran Raines is an aspirant studying at Duke Divinity School. Andrew grew up Southern Baptist. During his junior year of high school, he encountered Anglicanism at an Evensong service for the sesquicentennial celebration of his local Episcopal church.
As an undergraduate, Andrew joined the Episcopal Center at Duke, where he was confirmed, occasionally preached, and — in his senior year — served on the vestry.
Andrew began his studies at Duke with a major in biomedical engineering. While attending a college dinner, he was seated next to theologian William Willimon, dean of Duke Chapel at the time, and later a United Methodist bishop in Alabama.
Andrew said that by the end of the dinner, Willimon told him, “You are going to be a preacher” — the very thing Andrew was avoiding. “God gives you aggravating people to tell you to be a priest,” Andrew says.
Since that dinner, the trajectory of Andrew’s life and studies has vindicated Willimon’s prediction. In the summer of 2022, Andrew was selected to serve as a steward at the 15th Lambeth Conference in England. In addition to meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury, presiding and diocesan bishops, and other church dignitaries, Andrew worked alongside young adults from around the world.
Andrew said he felt the Holy Spirit knitting together progressives and traditionalists in love and commitment. After Lambeth, Andrew remained in England for the rest of summer, interning at All Saints Notting Hill in London.
Andrew wants the Church to know that young people are looking neither for the Republican nor the Democratic parties at prayer, but rather a moderate place of prayer. “Young people are so lonely, and are looking for community in other places,” he says. “It will be the Church that can offer truly satisfying community as a member of the body of Christ.”
Andrew hopes to take his research further and see where God leads in his ministry.
Julian Manresa of Cambridge, England
Julian Manresa is studying theology and philosophy of religion at Clare College, Cambridge. Julian was raised evangelical and has always shown a keen interest in Scripture. At 17, Julian found the Episcopal Church through Church of the Resurrection in New York City. Originally drawn to Anglo-Catholicism, Julian says his faith has its foundations in Anglicanism’s responsive and academic Protestantism.
As an undergraduate at Yale studying comparative literature, Julian was sustained in his faith by the life of multiple parishes. Julian mentions the Church of the Advent in Boston as the place where he began to develop his academic and missional approach to relational faith. “At the Church of the Advent, I found great intellectual engagement.”
Julian believes that with the privilege of studying in prestigious spaces comes the responsibility to witness to those who might otherwise not take Christianity seriously.
“God is before me in my studies, and in studying and witnessing, I am engaging in worship,” he says. Julian uses his learning to appeal to his peers, sharing the gospel in a way palatable to them: “Knowledge in not mere acquisition, but knowledge of God’s truth.”
Inspired by the life and work of 20th-century Anglican academics, Julian hopes to use his abilities within the academy to cultivate personal holiness and a missional attitude.
Julian calls on the Church and her people to have their faith “on the ground,” witnessing to people’s conditions and being the missionaries God calls his people to be.
Weston Curnow is an English and philosophy student and Episcopal peer minister at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.