Stepping Up in Leadership

1382002_10151953115018664_2012246037_n“I just faithfully do my thing at my church/in my diocese and don’t have time to do more meetings.”
“I don’t care about General Convention and all that political stuff – I just want to engage my ministry.”
“Why would they pick me? I’m just a youth minister!”

Lifelong Faith Formation is an integral part of EVERYTHING we do as we engage God’s mission in the world as the Episcopal Church. The above statements are the objections frequently heard when youth ministers and formation professionals are asked to consider running as General Convention Deputies or to serve on Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards (CCABs). Both deputies and CCAB’s are the bodies that help form the church and set the mission and priorities of the work of the church.

When asked to step up in leadership, a first response may be, “But I’m just a youth minister, children’s minister, young adult leader…” As Jesus was calling the disciples, he chose the unexpected folks, just as they are, just where they were to bring their passion, gifts and talents and follow him. He chose people to serve their community in a new way, to learn new things, and to bring others along side them in this journey.

As formation professionals, we are being called to step up in leadership. We are being called to bring our experience, passion, gifts and talents to serve God and to serve the church. Stepping into these new roles of leadership may be challenging, difficult, frustrating, life-giving, life changing, or nurturing.

As passionate people who serve God in the church, we cannot continue to abdicate our responsibilities and leadership. If the voices of people doing formation with children, youth, and young adults aren’t being heard, the church will not be able to engage the changing context of our mission field. Some of the passionate leaders who have been faithfully serving in these capacities and have been the strong advocates for ministry with rising generations are aging out and retiring. We need new wine for the new wineskins as the church responds to calls for change. And we need the voices of the formation networks speaking up in ALL aspects of our mission and ministry across the church.

We are praying that many of you will offer yourselves for leadership in three ways:
  1. Complete a nomination form to be considered for appointment to a CCAB. They are due August 14 and ask you to share your gifts, skills, and passion. Be bold and thorough! ( A draft list of the CCAB’s can be found here:
  2. Run for election as a General Convention Deputy in your diocese.
  3. If not you, then who? Nominate someone else who you believe is called to this sort of leadership. And if it is a young person who comes to mind, please walk with her/him and provide mentorship and pastoral care on the journey.

Report from General Convention: Day 3

Camp shirt day!

Today at General Convention was the day that all dioceses were told to wear their diocesan camp t-shirts. The Official Youth Presence was given Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers t-shirts.

For some of us, the day started out with legislative hearings in the morning. Others who wanted to sleep-in had the chance to do so. At about 9:30 am we all met up as a group for morning Eucharist. This was a great Eucharist from beginning to end. The service started off with a brief celebration of the Supreme Court ruling of same sex marriage being legalized nationwide. A jazz ensemble even took the place of the choir for the day, receiving numerous encores! After this amazing Eucharist we came to the House of Deputies for the first session of the day. After this session we were gifted to some pizza by Bishop Prior of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota at our suite at The Sheraton Hotel, which we are all very thankful for.

After pizza, we went back to the convention center and finished off the day. Once the last legislative session was adjourned, we all attended the United Thank Offering (UTO) banquet where we got to eat some delicious food. We also had the privilege of listening to three women who received grants from the UTO and learned about their plans for future mission work. At the end, we were extremely moved by Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon about continuing to, through both accomplishment and hardship, work towards God.

Today has been an excellent day and we are excited to see what comes next.

Blog post written by our Official Youth Presence media team: Amanda Zorrilla, Sydney Norman, and Levi Thomas.

Report from General Convention: Day 2

“Be fearless, not foolish.”
“No part functions alone.”
“We are never whole when we exclude members of the wider community.”
“Christ has bound us together in the love of God.”
“Reflecting the divine lover and creative spirit.”
“No matter who you are afraid of, we need each other.”
“Trade hate for greater life, we know how.”

The first official day started off VERY early. However, our delicious breakfast made it a bit easier to crawl out of bed. Right away, we had to decide which legislative committee meetings we would go to. Many of us wanted to go to the Social Justice or Liturgy and Music affiliated hearings. One of our very own youth even testified at a committee hearing!

After the legislative meetings, we all congregated in the House of Deputies. We got to listen to Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, and the president of Episcopal Church Women, Rev. Deacon Nancy Crawford. Each one had an extremely engaging message to convey to our delegation. Occasionally, the speakers made jokes to keep the setting cheerful. These jokes helped us to focus, even though many of us were searching for our second gust of energy.

After lunch we joined the House of Deputies to hear from the nominees for Presiding Bishop. They started with videos, then gave in-person introductions, followed by a session of Q&A.  All of them answered eloquently.

One might think that an event like General Convention might lack fun. However, this is wrong. There have been countless moments of laughter.

Later we concluded the day with a meeting with Neva Rae Fox, Officer for Public Affairs for The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, about how to incorporate social media into our work and how to interact with the press. We can’t wait until tomorrow especially because we have more time to sleep in.

El primer día, oficial, comezó muy temprano. Sin embargo, el desayuno estuvo tan rico que nos ayudó a despertarnos mas rapido.  Mucho de nosotros ya sabiamos a que reuniones de los comites legislativos queriamos asistir. Muchos jovenes querian ir a la sesiones de Justicia Social o Reuniones Afiliadas con Musica. ¡Hasta uno de nuestros representantes juveniles hablo´!

Después de las reuniones legislativas, todos nos reunimos en la Cámara de Diputados. Escuchamos a la Primada, Katherine Jefferts Schori; Presbitera Gaye Clark Jennings y la cabeza de las Mujeres Espiscopales de la Iglesia, Nancy Crawford. Cada una tenia un mensaje muy importante para la delegación. A veces, los conferenciantes hacian chistes para mantener el ambiente entretenido. Estos  chistes nos ayudaron a enfocarnos aunque muchos de nosotros estabamos agotadisimos.

Despue´s del almuerzo vimos todos los candidatos para ser escogido como el proximo Obispo. Comenzarón sus campañas con videos, luego se presentarón personalmente con toda la cámara de diputados y respondierón a todas las preguntas muy eloquentemente.

Quizas una pensaria que un evento como este seria solamente serio. Al contrario, hemos tenido muchos momentos llenos de risas. Al termiar el día nos reuimos con Neva Rae Fox para discutir como manejar con las rede sociales y la prensa. Estamos muy emocianados para seguir mañana trabajando especialmente porque nos podemos levanter mas tarde.

Blog post written by our Official Youth Presence media team: Amanda Zorrilla, Sydney Norman, and Levi Thomas.

Report from General Convention: Day 1

Today, as we arrived at General Convention, there were many emotions in the air. There was excitement, anxiety, and exhaustion, but nevertheless we are grateful for the opportunity to represent the Official Youth Presence (OYP). We were received with open arms from our chaperones/mentors in the hot Salt Lake City air. As we were arriving to the hotel, we noticed the glorious mountains that surrounded the city.

When we first reached the hotel, we congregated into the presidential suite, which was previously used by President Obama. We were then told the plan for the evening, which consisted of walking to the convention center to meet Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori and going out to dinner. It was a delight to hear Bishop Katherine speak in such a down-to-earth and wise manner, answering both simple and sophisticated questions.

One of the most meaningful messages she conveyed pertained to our mindset going into General Convention as well as everyday life. She said, “Do the things you’re passionate about. And be open.”

After meeting the Presiding Bishop we all ate an exquisite dinner at Buca de Beppo, making it hard for us to walk back to the hotel. Thankfully, we all made it back and ended the night with a meeting to discuss the week ahead.

Although it has been 2 months since we last saw each other, it feels like no time was lost. We are blessed to be a part of the Official Youth Presence and we are looking forward to the journey ahead.

Blog post written by our Official Youth Presence media team, Amanda Zorrilla, Sydney Norman, and Levi Thomas.

Official Youth Presence Research

BenToday’s guest blogger is Benjamin Cowgill, General Convention Official Youth Presence Class of 2012 from Province IV. He’s coming back to General Convention with us in two weeks to serve as an adult mentor, and to conduct some research!

Three years ago I was privileged to be a part of the Official Youth Presence (OYP).  For me OYP was one of my highlights of high school and a life changing event. It affirmed my vocation to serve the church, and since has made me more aware of global issues and the work of the Episcopal Church. In college I have had the opportunity to do religious studies as well as take classes in youth ministry to continue my passion in the field.

Following my main youth ministry class last fall, I found myself asking questions. Much of the contemporary research in youth ministry focuses on the reason Christian teens leave the church during young adulthood.  I wanted to know what made teens want to stay.  By partnering with my college and the Youth Ministries office for the Episcopal Church, I get a chance to answer this question. But I will need some help from my fellow GCOYP alumni, from my class and other General Conventions.

This summer I am investigating the link between participation in church governance and the religiosity of youth and young adults.  By surveying and interviewing both the current members and alumni of the General Convention Official Youth Presence, I hope to build both a narrative history of this program for the Episcopal Church, as well as see if this program and others like it have a positive effect on involvement in the church bridging from high school participation to continued young adult engagement.

This is where we need your help more specifically.  If you were involved in GCOYP from 1997 onward, or know someone who was, we would love to have you take our general survey. To sign up, please email me at You can also request a return call from me at that email address to hear more about my research and get any questions answered.

Thank you in advance for reaching out – every person we can connect with will help us paint a fuller picture of how God is working through our church, and how both the Episcopal Church and Christ’s larger church as a whole, can improve the religious life of our youth and young adults.

General Convention Official Youth Presence and Alums - July 2012

General Convention Official Youth Presence and Alums – July 2012

Thank you, Ben! We look forward to having you with us at the 78th General Convention and to hearing about your findings. The Office of Youth Ministry is extremely interested in identifying as many former GCOYP participants as possible. Ben’s research is only covering the years in which the Youth Presence actually had seat and voice on the floor of the House of Deputies by a change in their Rules of Order which took effect in 1997. We know the program dates back to a resolution in 1982. Please forward this and ask GCOYP alumni to contact the youth ministry office’s current missioner, Bronwyn Clark Skov, at or on Facebook. We would like you to join us for dinner with the current OYP and the Young Adult Festival on Monday, June 29. Questions? Call Bronwyn at 646-242-1421. See you in Salt Lake City in two weeks!

Bronwyn Clark Skov publicó: “El bloguero invitado de hoy es Benjamin Cowgill, clase 2012 de la IV Provincia en la Presencia Oficial de la Juventud en la Convención General. Él vuelve con nosotros a la Convención General dentro de dos semanas para servir como mentor adulto, y para llegar a cabo alguna investigación. ¡Hace tres años!”.

El bloguero invitado de hoy es Benjamin Cowgill, clase 2012 de la IV Provincia en la Presencia Oficial de la Juventud en la Convención General. Él vuelve con nosotros a la Convención General dentro de dos semanas para servir como mentor adulto, ¡y para llegar a cabo alguna investigación!

Hace tres años, tuve el privilegio de ser parte de la Presencia Oficial de la Juventud (OYP, por su sigla en inglés). Para mi la OYP fue uno de mis hitos cuando estaba en la escuela secundaria y un evento que me cambió la vida. Afirmó mi vocación de servir a la Iglesia y desde entonces  me ha hecho más consciente de los problemas globales y de la obra de la Iglesia Episcopal. En la universidad he tenido la oportunidad de hacer estudios religiosos, así como tomar un curso sobre el ministerio de los jóvenes a fin de mantener mi pasión en este campo.

Luego de mi primera clase sobre ministerio de los jóvenes el otoño pasado, me encontré haciéndome algunas preguntas. La mayor parte de la investigación contemporánea en el ministerio de los jóvenes se centra en la razón de que los adolescentes cristianos se van de la Iglesia cuando se convierten en jóvenes adultos. Yo quería saber lo que hicieron los adolescentes que optaron por quedarse. Al asociarme con mi universidad y con la Oficina del Ministerio de los Jóvenes de la Iglesia Episcopal, tuve una oportunidad de responder a esa pregunta. Pero voy a necesitar alguna ayuda de mis compañeros que han sido miembros de Presencia Oficial de la Juventud en la CG, tanto de mi clase como de otras convenciones generales.

Este verano estoy investigando el nexo entre participación en el gobierno de la Iglesia y la religiosidad de los jóvenes y los jóvenes adultos. Al hacer una encuesta y entrevistar tanto a miembros actuales como ex miembros de la Presencia Oficinal de la Juventud en la Convención General, espero crear tanto un relato narrativo de este programa para la Iglesia Episcopal, como ver si este u otros programas semejantes tienen un efecto positivo en la dedicación a la Iglesia, al hacer que la participación desde la escuela secundaria se continúe en el compromiso de los jóvenes adultos.

Es aquí donde necesitamos tu ayuda de manera más específica. Si tomaste parte en la GCOYP a partir de 1997, o sabes de alguien que haya tomado parte, nos encantaría que contestaras nuestra encuesta general. Inscríbete y, por favor, envíame un mensaje de e-mail a También puedes pedirme, en esa dirección de e-mail, que te devuelva la llamada para darte más detalles de mi investigación y obtener respuestas para algunas interrogantes.

Gracias de antemano por haberte dirigido a mí —toda persona con que podamos conectarnos nos ayudará a pintar un cuadro más completo de la manera en que Dios obra a través de nuestra Iglesia y de qué manera tanto la Iglesia Episcopal como la Iglesia cristiana en general, pueden perfeccionar la vida religiosa de nuestros jóvenes y de nuestros jóvenes adultos.

Presencia Oficial de la Juventud y ex compañeros en la Convención General: julio de 2012

¡Gracias, Ben! Esperamos tenerte con nosotros en la 78ª. Convención General y enterarnos de los resultados de tu investigación. La  Oficina del Ministerio de los Jóvenes está extremadamente interesada en identificar a tantos ex participantes de la GCOYP como sea posible, gracias a un cambio en su Reglas de Orden La investigación de Ben sólo abarca los años en los cuales la Presencia de la Juventud tuvo en verdad asiento y voz en el pleno de la Cámara de Diputados, mediante un cambio en las Reglas de Orden que tuvo lugar en 1997. Sabemos que el programa se remonta  a una resolución de 1982. Por favor, divulga esto y pídeles a ex compañeros de la CGOYP que se pongan en contacto con Bronwyn Clark Skov, la actual misionera de la Oficina del Ministerio de los Jóvenes, en o en Facebook. Nos gustaría que te reunieras con nosotros para una cena durante el actual OYP y el Festival de Jóvenes Adultos el domingo 29 de julio. ¿Preguntas? Llama a Bronwyn al 646-242-1421. ¡Te veré en Salt Lake City dentro de dos semana!


Young Leaders

come_as_you_are_article1This week the Episcopal Church Foundation published its digital newsletter, Vital Practices, with an article by a young adult who is close to my heart.

I met Lucy Cabrera Montes in the spring of 2006 when I volunteered as one of the adult mentors of the General Convention Official Youth Presence in Columbus, Ohio. I know her as Luz Cabrera, as I met her when she was a teenager from Houston and before her recent marriage.

Luz navigated the 75th General Convention as one of the only bi-lingual youth, spending much of her time helping to translate and interpret for her new friend, Alexa, from the Dominican Republic. The two of them witnessed the announcement of the election of the current presiding bishop from the floor of the house of deputies. As many of us were marveling at the election of a woman, Luz and Alexa were giggling as they tried on a new word in their first language; obispa.

10498256_949558981736880_957669064791817675_oLuz returned to the 77th General Convention to pay it forward as a young adult mentor and interpreter, and she has also assisted at the Episcopal Youth Event. She is pictured on the left in the red shirt next to another outstanding young adult, the Rev. Arlette Benoit. They both serve the youth ministry office as Youth Ministry Liaisons. I know Luz to be a faithful, compassionate, intelligent, creative and friendly soul. Please read her article linked here to get a greater sense of her ministry in her local community.

And please stay tuned here as we continue our journey toward the 78th General Convention in search of the stories of Official Youth Presence Alumni. If you know a former GCOYPer, forward the article and tell her or him to get in touch!


Bronwyn Clark Skov

Missioner for Youth Ministry


Official Youth Presence Progress Report

General Convention Official Youth Presence 2015

General Convention Official Youth Presence 2015

When many of us received the acceptance letter to be part of the General Convention Official Youth Presence 2015, we were ecstatic. It is such an amazing honor to be a part of this group of extremely intelligent, thoughtful, and ambitious youth.

So what exactly is the Youth Presence? We are a group of 18 youth that have been chosen to voice the opinions and views of the youth population of the Episcopal Church. Because of this incredible responsibility we were required to attend training for this convention.

During the first day when most of us arrived, we didn’t know exactly what to expect. A few people knew each other from previous church youth events, but it was still a new experience. When we arrived we all quickly got to know each other through several exercises to “break the ice.” These activities included asking questions about where we want to travel, where we live, and to what congregation do we belong. One of the most helpful activities was the Myers-Briggs Personality Profile. This tool included taking a short survey about how you handle different scenarios. This not only taught us how our personalities work, but also how our peers’ personalities work. It helped us to learn about one another and learn about how each personality can bring out the greatest potential for the 2015 General Convention.

Along with scheduled “break the ice” activities, during break time the kids would get together and get to know one another on a personal level. There was an ease to getting to know everyone that was very much appreciated. The openness of the youth as well as the adult leaders made for a comfortable environment. After getting to know each other, we then learned all about how the convention works and the different committees in an interactive way. It was a lot of information at once, but the diverse teaching styles that were offered by the adults made learning easy and fun. Next, we had a brainstorming session to decide on different topics that we can bring to the table at General Convention, such as more funding for summer camps and more college scholarships from the church. This was very helpful because we all heard each others’ passions and were able to work together to find a balance. Through this we learned about how the Episcopal Church has been working in other states and countires besides our own. Of course, we also learned about expectations: dress code, attitude, and the importance of drinking water. All of these things were told to us in interactive ways which was really cool because it kept us focused and helped us to engage in conversation.

With all of the work, we also had time to explore Salt Lake City. The mountains were gorgeous. Some of the youth had never seen snow in person before, so the snow covered mountains were a sight to see. The whole group, youth and adults, were able to walk around Salt Lake City to visit where we would be staying for Convention as well as the Convention Center, where we will spend most of our time. Along with this sightseeing, we also visited the Mormon Temple which was a very fun experience. The flowers were in full bloom and it was a perfect place to get some sun and fresh air.

All in all, orientation for the General Youth Presence was extraordinary. We are all very excited to participate, listen, and represent the youth population in the Episcopal Church. We have a group of youth that cannot wait to share in this wonderful experience and learn a lot along the way.



General Convention Office Youth Presence Bloggers

Sydney Norman, Levi Thompson, and Amanda Zorrilla

Sydney Norman

Sydney Norman

Levi Thompson

Levi Thompson

Amanda Zorrilla

Amanda Zorrilla

Congratulations Official Youth Presence!

GC logo15_colorPlease join us in congratulating the 18 members of the 2015 General Convention Official Youth Presence! These particpants were discerned from a field of over 100 applicants, each hoping to be selected as one of two high school teenagers representing their province of the Episcopal Church.

These teens will gather together in Salt Lake City the weekend of April 9-12 to engage in community building, gifts discovery, parliamentary procedure training, and legislative process. They will then reconvene at the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City to participate in committee hearings and take their place in the debate on the floor of the House of Deputies. Please hold the following participants in your prayers as we work our way toward #GCOYP15.

Anna Foster Province I Maine
Allegra Robinson Province I Massachusetts
Uzodinma “Uzo” Kanu Province II Long Island
Joseph “Joey” Archibald-Bowers Province II Virgin Islands
Nathan Harpine Province III Virginia
Nancy Brooks Province III Washington
Arthur “High” Garst IV Province IV Western NC
Levi Thompson Province IV Louisiana
Holden Holsinger Province V E Michigan
Richard Pryor, III Province V Ohio
Sydney Norman Province VI Minnesota
Summer Murray Province VI Nebraska
Amelia Mackey Province VII Arkansas
John C. Zuk Province VII Oklahoma
Sonja Barba Province VIII Hawaii
Madelyn “Maddy” Gonzalez Province VIII Olympia
Andrea Pena Province IX Honduras
Amanda Zorrilla Province IX Puerto Rico

These youth will be mentored and shepherded by a team of adults from across the church who are committed to youth ministry, some of whom have General Convention experience, and others new to this event. The Rev. Canon Vincent Black (Ohio) will serve as Chaplain to the group. The Rev. Randy Callender (Maryland), Celia Arevalo (Honduras), Christopher Palma (Missouri), Mindy Boynton (Minnesota), the Rev. Earl Gibson (San Diego), and Cookie Cantwell (East Carolina) will serve as mentors. Two deputies have been appointed by the House of Deputies President, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, to lead the parlimentary procedure and legislative process training in April; the Hon. Byron Rushing, Vice President of the House of Deputies (Massachusettes), and the Rev. LeeAnne Watkins, Rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Team Associate Valerie Harris will provide logistical support to the group and Youth Missioner Bronwyn Clark Skov is coordinating the presence on behalf of the General Convention Office.

The Office for Youth Ministry thanks the hundreds of people who applied, nominated, and discerned so many faithful and faith-filled candidates for consideration. The discernment was difficult, but having such a diverse field of qualified candidates to choose from was heartening. Watch the Youth Ministry Blog for updates and follow hashtag #GCOYP15 during General Convention to track their experience in Salt Lake City.

General Convention final reports

I am pleased to provide these final reports from this past summer’s General Convention. Each section is posted separately as they are large files. All are downloadable pdfs. [Read more…]

Julia Reflects on General Convention Official Youth Presence

From time to time I will be publishing reflections from General Convention Official Youth Presence (GCOYP) participants. If you haven’t already read them, please take a few minutes to read the reflections from Sarah and Ariana.

GCOYP, which was part of this past summer’s General Convention of the Episcopal Church, was an especially sacred experience of the power of young people to make a difference and a glimpse into the dynamic future of the Episcopal Church.

Even if you weren’t at General Convention, these reflections allow you to witness these forces at work through our youth.

The following reflection is from Julia Robinson, Diocese of Ohio.


When I think back to General Convention, it’s almost hard to remember. Not because the memories are fading—they’re there, vividly. But it feels distant, in a strange way. I have to ask myself, did it really happen? We were constantly moving. Constantly. It’s all become one big blur. Now that I’m home, I feel like spinning on a Merry-Go-Round, watching the world fly past. I can recognize the slide and jungle gym because I know they’re there. My favorite play ground… twelve perfect, exhausting days in Indianapolis.

I’ve often said that at the Episcopal Youth Event last summer, I learned how to love – I learned what it truly means to be “Christian.” At General Convention, I learned how incredible it is to be part of the Episcopal community.

I realize now that I went into the entire process sort of cynically. After my training in April, I was less than enthused. I expected that when I got to Convention, angry, jaded adults fighting one another not because they love Jesus, but just because they want to be right would surround me.

I found something much different.

The first committee meeting I spoke at was in regard to a resolution about Open Table. I spoke in favor; another member of the Official Youth Presence and close friend of mine spoke against the resolution.

As I listened to the testimonies of all the people, I realized: It wasn’t an argument between two dueling viewpoints. It was a conversation about the best way to honor Jesus. Protect the sanctity of the body or share it with all of God’s children?

No one appealing to Program, Budget and Finance was trying to cut anyone down, and the committee members had the hard decision of deciding not who was the most legitimate, but how to facilitate groups, each as Holy as the next, with limited funds.

There was fierce determination from some people to truly “Welcome” people to the church as we declare we do on websites, posters and bumper stickers everywhere.

I was blown away. And I realized, that’s what’s truly different about putting a group of Episcopalians together. Generally speaking, we’re in it for the love.

On one of our last nights together, Emma, Official Youth Presence from Minnesota talked about how she knows she wants to go into politics, and she expected to come to Convention and get a lot done. She didn’t expect it to be “clean” because we’re so used to the dirty, slimey game of American politics.

I think it goes so much deeper than politics—it applies to so many aspects of our everyday lives. You shine a bad light on someone else to make yourself look better. Selfish intentions. We’re so used to not really trusting one another. But not in our Christian community—at the heart of it all is love.

Call me naïve, but at the end of the day, this is why I won’t really fear for the Episcopal Church. The world will always need love, and after my experiences at General Convention, I know the Episcopal Church is based on love.

I entered Convention a sixteen-year-old, not sure of who she was or what the world is really about. And I left, a sixteen-year-old, not sure of who I am or what this crazy world is all about. But I also left Convention one hundred percent positive what type of person I’d like to be.

An Episcopalian.