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EPISCOPAL YOUTH EVENT(EYE) 2011: An Interview with Bronwyn Clark Skov
By Sarah Johnson
The 2011 EYE will feel similar to past events in many ways, but it is shaping up to be a very different experience,” says Bronwyn Clark Skov, the Episcopal Church’s officer for Youth Formation and Vocation. The Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) occurs every three years by a General Convention mandate (D079), and this triennium’s EYE will take place June 22-26, at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. “The event itself will be two days shorter than it normally is,” explains Skov. “There will be three very full days of worship, sharing, praying, learning, singing, and working, and then it will be followed by three days for youth groups to engage in urban or rural mission.”
The decision to shorten the event and add three days of mission work was something that the Provincial Youth Coordinators (the planning team for EYE) came up with when they met. Skov explains, “They asked themselves, ‘What were the best things from past EYEs? How can we continue? What else can we do?’” They began by using gospel-based discipleship principles to look at the lectionary reading for Sunday, June 26, which is Matthew 10:40-42:
“We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing” (The Message).
“Based on the reading, the planning team concluded that this EYE needs to be about mission,” says Skov, “and they came up with the theme of EYE 2011: ‘Come Together: We Are Intimately Linked in This Harvest Work.’”
“Participants will arrive on June 22,” says Skov. “It’s a soft start as they arrive; we didn’t schedule any large group gatherings until the next day.” The opening Eucharist, on June 23, will be multicultural and multilingual, and the Presiding Bishop will be doing the welcoming and teaching. “There will also be a procession,” says Skov, “and each diocese that is attending will have a banner bearer so everyone can see which dioceses are represented, and they can see how much of the church is gathered.”
“Seeing the scope of the church is important,” she explains, “because every youth knows a priest, but not every youth knows or has access to a bishop. Bishops represent the larger church, and the youth have a chance to see how big our church really is. It is wide and global. The youth understand the symbolism of bishops, but at an event like EYE or General Convention, they can see how it is a bigger idea, and they can see how a communion works.”
EYE is crucial to teens, Skov explains, because “high-school-aged people are discerning about their connectivity with the church, and about their affiliation with a denomination, and about their future vocations. They are starting to make real plans about their future; it’s the best time to celebrate the gifts they bring and to see the full expression of how they can be faithful to their baptism – and to see how much the church can do.”
“While discerning vocation,” she continues, “at EYE they can see what becoming ordained is all about, and they can see the breadth of roles in church leadership, lay and ordained. They get a chance to see men and women in religious orders, deacons, priests, bishops – all orders of the church.”
On Saturday, June 25, instead of having a traditional closing Eucharist, there will be a Commission and Send Eucharist, “to lift up the work that has been done and to commission them to go forward,” says Skov.
There will then be three days of mission work. Some participants will stay to work in Minnesota, while others will return to their home dioceses to do mission. “Some diocesan groups are less defined at this point about what they are going to do,” says, Skov, “but they are all going out to mission work of some sort.”
In addition to organizing the youth’s mission work, each diocese is responsible for running a background check on every adult participating in EYE, in compliance with the Church Pension Group's Code of Conduct to Protect Children and Youth. For a relatively low cost ($5-$8 per person), a thorough background check can be done to ensure that no adult associated with the event appears on county, state, or federal sex offenders registries. “This is important to do,” says Skov, “and we take it seriously.”
“Through the Safeguarding God’s Children guidelines, we can offer a radical welcome for full expression of the church. EYE is designed to allow youth to recognize and affirm each other’s gifts in a safe environment,” says Skov. “It also provides an opportunity for peer counseling and sharing mission work with peers. You know, in the church canons, people are recognized as ‘adults’ when they are 16 years old, but in most congregations, they are not recognized as being fully adult until they are 30,” she says smiling and shaking her head.
“If we treat them like adults, it will be easier for them to become adults. We want to encourage high-school-aged people to participate in leadership positions in their vestries or on bishop’s committees in their congregations. We need to let them make decisions and raise the bar of expectations; but we need to equip them at the same time. If we do one without the other, it sets them up for failure.”
Bronwyn Clark Skov works out of her office in Minnesota:
(800) 334-7626, ext. 6074
Blog for Youth Formation: www.EpiscoYouth.blogspot.com
EYE 2011: www.episcopalchurch.org/eye2011.htm