An Invitation to Holy Friendship

By Paul Cizek, Youth Minister

I’d like you to tell me a story.  Tell me a story about how you became who you are today.  What were you like before?  What were the events that impacted you?  Who has been an important person in your life?  What big decisions did you make?  And, where was God in all this?

Risk telling me a true story.  Don’t just tell me a story that you think I want to hear.  Maybe something seems too big to share.  You don’t have to share everything.  Maybe nothing seems big enough to share.  But I want to hear about all the ordinary things too.  And, I realize this is hard because your peers are listening.  But risk telling a story about you that’s true.

There’s no measure of right or wrong here.  Sometimes we tell stories about how God drew near to us or we started to hear God’s call to us.  Sometimes we tell stories about how God seemed silent or distant, or how we wandered from God.  Sometimes our lives seem like a pendulum, swinging between faithfulness and unfaithfulness, mindfulness and forgetfulness, spiritual fervor and dryness, attentiveness and apathy.  And, how daunting to try to say how God might have been at work in all this!  But don’t be afraid: there’s no right or wrong hear.  Truthfulness is what’s valued.

Is this starting to make sense?  Could you do this?  Are you nervous?

We’ll go first, your mentors and I, to show you how.  We’ll do our best to tell you stories that are true, and stories that open up ourselves to you.  We’ll do our best to speak about God and our lives – to share our life stories with you.

The Garden

In Sunday School, we continue to imagine what that very first garden might have been like.  Here is how Scripture describes it.  We have a few beautiful books in our parish library that depict the first garden God planted.  (Please do drop by the “Borrow & Return” table in the CE Commons and take a book home.)  Your children have made some of their own depictions of that garden.



After we listened to the story of that first garden, we took time to recognize and give thanks for some of the gifts of creation.  This morning, I heard five and six year-olds giving thanks for God’s gifts of school, siblings, dragons, cheetahs, and parents.  There is so much that we forget to see as good, so much for which we forget to give thanks!

Of course, giving thanks is at the center of who we are.  We are Eucharistic people, people of thanksgiving.  So, take time with your kids this week to name and to give thanks for some of God’s gifts in creation.  If you lack words, turn to Psalm 148, or to St. Francis’s famous hymn (this illustrated version just got added to our parish library), or to the Prayerbook (see the Litany of Thanksgiving on p. 837).

See you next week!


On the Move!

By Paul Cizek, Youth Minister; Photos by Sonia Katchian

Another year of EYC has begun and three things have caught my attention:


Changing up the Kick-off event was a good call from the Youth Commission.  The past few years, EYC has met up at the Meadowmont Y pool for lunch and swimming, but this year we ate lunch at Holy Family and then headed out to Camp Chestnut Ridge for “Initiative Games” and hanging out.  Initiative Games create safe and accessible scenarios that foster trust and teamwork.  Like, build the tallest freestanding tower you can with these random PVC parts.  Or, get this ordinary marble down the hill without touching it and only using these plastic tubes.  Or, get your entire team from here to there, only stepping on these “marshmallows,” which sink the second someone stops standing on them.  Simple. Fun. Challenging.  And by late afternoon when we released folks to hang out, some went swimming, some played volley ball, and some bouldered on the rock wall, but no one got left out!  It was a great way to kick off the EYC year and hopefully a new tradition for years to come.



This past Sunday was the first night of EYC, so of course there was lots of newness: new youth, new mentors, new names to learn, new events to hear about, and new stories to share from summer or for the coming year.  New!  But, surprising familiar, too.  You see, since last January, a few youth, a few mentors, and myself have been working towards a common vision: how can we be an intentional Christian community on Sunday evenings; how can we be an Episcopal Youth Community.  And last Spring we rolled out subtle and sometimes sizable tweaks and tried out a few ideas.  And sometimes nothing changed or felt different, and sometimes things felt clunky and we muddled through.  But this past Sunday night, it was like the new rhythms and patterns of our common life just ‘clicked.’  We ate together, worshipped together, prayed together, played together, and shared our time and lives with each other.  Is this a taste of things to come?  Perhaps.  Perhaps God is on the move among us!


A high schooler caught me off guard recently: she pulled me aside at a youth event and asked, “Who are the new ones?”  “Excuse me,” I said.  “Who are the new youth?  I want to welcome the new youth.”  And she then proceeded to introduce herself to one, hug one, and eat dinner with another.  Perhaps God is on the move among us.  But surely God’s up to something in this young woman’s life!

As we begin a new year of EYC, pray that God will be on the move, knitting us together in Christ.

In the beginning…


For the next three weeks in Sunday School, we will enter the stories of creation in the first chapters of Genesis. The story of God creating the world, seeing it as good, is foundational to how we know God and ourselves.    Commentators often describe the first chapter of Genesis as a liturgical poem.  This week during Sunday School, we will be working to hear it as such, with special attention to the refrain, “And it was good.”  Take time this week to catch the rhythm of Genesis 1.  What images emerge as you read the poem?  How does God see the world that God has made?  How do you see it?

If you have children at home, consider spending time with one or more of the days of creation this week.  Here are a few examples of how a family with young children (college friends of mine) spent time with the Genesis 1 poem of creation.