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‘Youth Are the Church Now’

 

This week hundreds of young people have descended on Louisville, Kentucky, for the 81st General Convention. Here are a few of those emerging leaders.

Elizabeth Rousseau, 24, Connecticut

This week is Elizabeth’s third time attending General Convention, and her second serving as a lay deputy from the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. At home, Elizabeth works to increase voter registration. “At General Convention you see the whole breadth of the church,” she said. “It’s like a family reunion of sorts.”

As one of the founding members of the General Convention Under 40 Caucus, Elizabeth serves as its policy and program chair. “Part of my role is helping new and first-time deputies get involved and know what we’re voting on.” Elizabeth sees her job at General Convention as being a “friendly face in the room” for other young people.

Elizabeth would like the church to focus more on allocating resources to youth ministries. “Young adult and campus ministry is a big time period in somebody’s life.” One of Elizabeth’s favorite parts of Convention was listening to the testimonies of Episcopalians from Navajoland in support of creating their missionary diocese.

Sam Favate, 15, Newark

Sam Favate is attending General Convention for the first time this week as part of a youth trip from the Diocese of Newark. “I wanted to come for a new experience and to meet lots of other Episcopalians,” Sam said. “The church is very important to me.” He is happy to see “the entire church come together.”

So far Sam has enjoyed walking around the Exhibit Hall and talking to the different exhibiters. Sam believes youth participation in Convention is important because “youth are the future of the church … youth are the church now.” Sam would like to see more young people become involved in the church because “it is important to be raised in the church. It is important to have that in their lives.”

Eloise Williams, 24, North Carolina

This week is Eloise Williams’s first time attending General Convention. Originally from North Carolina, Eloise works for a nonprofit in New York City that focuses on community education.

Eloise came to Louisville as an exhibitor with The Consultation, a justice advocacy group. “I am here to advocate for our church to take a stand and to speak with a clear moral voice on issues of justice, especially regarding the conflict in Palestine and Israel.” Eloise would like church leadership to “really listen to the voices of the youth, not just appreciate our presence, because [youth] really have something to offer.”

A cradle Episcopalian, Eloise said the church was “always there” for her during hard times, offering her “relationship with God and community.” She would like it to do the same for those experiencing hardships around the world. “We as Americans and Christians have responsibilities we need to live up to,” Eloise said. So far Eloise’s favorite part of Convention has been “meeting people from across the church with a common purpose and a common love.”

Amrit Tharkan, 16, Missouri

Amrit Tharkan, a high-school student from Missouri, is attending General Convention for the first time. “I came this year because I wanted to learn more about the legislative processes of the Episcopal Church.” So far Amrit has enjoyed the community worship offered throughout General Convention. “I really loved the Eucharistic service,” he said. “I quite enjoy the music of hymns and the way worship is done in the Episcopal Church.”

Something Amrit would like to tell the leadership of the church is that we need to “start earlier with our youth presence in the church.” Amrit also said that while youth participation in Convention is growing stronger, he would “love to see the church’s youth gain voting rights” at General Convention.

Parker Chadwell, 24, East Tennessee

This week is Parker Chadwell’s first time attending General Convention as a lay deputy from the Diocese of East Tennessee. Parker works as a clerk for a law firm in Knoxville.“One reason I wanted to come to convention was to provide a younger voice, a younger perspective, especially during such a momentous time of change in church leadership.”

Although Parker only intended to attend as an alternate deputy, he was called in to serve as a voting member at the last second. “One of my favorite things has been being out on the floor, seeing all the people.”

Parker believes that “although we have a strong foundation regarding youth in the church, more youth deputation and participation in legislation is only going to be a positive trend.” Parker cites the work being done by the General Convention Under 40 Caucus, sharing testimony and advocating for justice, as evidence of that movement. “Some people are pessimistic about the state of the church,” Parker said, “but I believe we have a bright future ahead.”

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