“He’s Got _____________ In His Hands”

By Paul Cizek, Youth Minister

One joy of our common life together as Holy Family’s EYC is to worship together on Sunday evenings, down in the Christian Commons, standing in a circle.  Because our worship is often done accapella, we utilize songs from traditions like Taize’ chants and African American spirituals.  During September, “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands” was part of our worship set.

Male pronouns aside, this is an awesome song, particularly because it allows us to improvise our own verses.  The first few weeks, we sang the scripted lyrics like, “He’s got the wind and the rain in his hands, He’s got the night and the day in his hands, He’s got the sun and the moon in his hands, He’s got the whole world his hands.”  But towards the end of the month we let the youth improvise the verses.  Anyone could come to the “improvising spot” in the circle and lead a verse: s/he would sing, “He’s got ___________” and we would respond, “In his hands.”  So on this night, God had “all the food,” “all the drinks,” and “all the desserts,” in God’s hands; God also had “the Duke Blue Devils,” “the UNC Tarheels,” and “the LSU Tigers,” in God’s hands; and we had much joy and laughter.

But the best moment of this worshipful improv came as a surprise to us all.  “He’s got all the creepy bugs in his hands; He’s got all of the snakes in his hands; He’s got everything that scares us in his hands; He’s got the whole world in his hands.”  Sometimes we get ideas in our head that take on new life when they come out of our mouth.  Perhaps this youth was continuing his “creepy crawly” theme when he sang, “He’s got everything that scares us,” but hearing and responding, “In his hands” seemed to bring home the full implications of those words.  God’s got everything that scares us in God’s hands.  There’s a lot of truth in that claim.  What comfort!  What an invitation to trust!  Surely, what a good reason to raise our voices in worship!

All Aboard to Charlotte!

By Paul Cizek, Youth Minister

In early August, a group of Holy Family youth and adults boarded a train at the station in Durham and headed to Charlotte for the day.  We spent the morning doing a Letterbox Scavenger Hunt in the old Elmwood/Pinewood Cemetery, grabbed some Chinese food for lunch, strolled around Charlotte a bit more, and then caught the train home.  Here are a few pictures from the day:

1- Train (4) 1- Train (1) 1 - Train (61) 1 - Train (28)  IMG_9197 1 - Train (23)

Appalachia Service Project

Many thanks for your prayers for and inquiries about Holy Family’s recent Appalachia Service Project (ASP).  Here’s a quick summary:

Holy Family took two teams of youth and adults to Watauga County, NC where we met up with 4 ASP staff and First UMC from Cary, NC.  We stayed in a local elementary school for the week and worked on houses in and around Boone. We were the 7th and final week of ASP, so came into and finished up projects that were already started.

ASP (70)

Holy Family’s first team worked on a project called You Lucky Dog, where we caulked painted the exterior of a large house, built some backdoor steps and retro fitted a Singer Sewing Machine into a patio table.  At this home, we met and got to know an older married couple.

Holy Family’s second team worked on a project called 13th Year, where we completed a ceiling installation, caulked a leaky tin roof, and extracted and replaced rot from a bathroom floor and walls.  At this home, we got to know a mother, two kids, and a grandmother.

(You can find our pictures here.)

We also spent a few evenings at the local Cook Out for milkshakes.

From the time we decided to try out ASP last January, there’s been a buzz about ASP.  And, the youth and adults who went were pretty jazzed about their experience.  Will we return again next year?  I imagine so.  In the weeks to come, our team will reunite for lunch and to discuss what we learned from this trip and if we will return.  It’s all part of our ongoing discussion of what it looks like for us to be Holy Family’s Episcopal Youth Community (EYC). If you’d like to be part of future ASP work or discussions, be in touch: pcizek@chfnc.net.

End of the Year Bash

EYC wrapped up for the year on a Saturday evening in June with games and swimming at a nearby pool.  Jr. EYC challenged Sr. EYC to a game of Ultimate Frisbee, but may have regretted this challenge after the game, and then again after the re-match.  Two low diving boards prompted a synchronized diving competition.  And we sang our last “Be present at our table Lord,…” before our cookout feast.  A fitting end to our year-long endeavor to be an Episcopal Youth Community.

Youth Voice Interests for April EYCs

By Paul Cizek, Youth Minister

With only a few EYCs left this year in April, we wanted to give youth one more opportunity to raise topics and questions for our discussions.  This past Sunday, we polled Jr EYC, and this is what we received:

What Things Don’t We Discuss at Church That We Probably Should?

  1. Stress and staying positive when we feel down
  2. How to be inclusive when there are things about other people that annoy us
  3. Things about ourselves that are good; things that others see in us that we sometimes don’t see
  4. How to deal with bullying in school
  5. Adapting to new things
  6. Loosing faith in God after a traumatic event, because he wasn’t there to help you through it
  7. How we spend our free time
  8. Our futures
  9. Dealing with failure

What Question Should We Explore Together?

  1. Why are all the set-ups of the altar different at each service?
  2. If someone is mean to you and keeps being mean to you, how are you supposed to forgive them?
  3. Why is it so easy to lose faith in God and so hard to believe?
  4. What is your favorite part of being a Christian?
  5. Is hell a real physical place?  What does it take to go, if so?
  6. What’s a good way to pray
  7. What makes you happy?

Looks like we’ll have some good discussions together in April!

Lenten Lion

By Paul Cizek, Youth Minister

You may have heard by now that we’ve started compiling a Youth Library in the Parish House, filled with books we hope will stir up our imaginations towards Christ.  What may surprise you is that there’s more fiction on these shelves than non-fiction.  And recently both Jr. and Sr. EYC listened to an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe that led us towards the cross of Christ.

At last [the Witch] drew near.  She stood by Aslan’s head.  Her face was working and twitching with passion, but his face looked up at the sky, still quiet, neither angry nor afraid, but a little sad.  Then, just before she gave the blow, she stooped down and said in a quivering voice,

“And now, who has won?  Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor?  Now I will kill you instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeased.  But when you are dead what will prevent me from killing him as well?  And who will take him out of my hand then?  Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his.  In that knowledge, despair and die.”


“I was hungry…”

By Paul Cizek, Youth Minister

There were five us, adults and youth, in the car that drove to El Buen Pastor to experience our Episcopal brothers’ and sisters’ monthly food distribution on Durham’s East side.  We arrived in the church’s basement-level Parish Hall just as they were praying for the morning’s work and for the people who would receive food (at least, I think that’s what they prayed for, but I don’t speak Spanish so I can’t say for sure).  There were about twenty of them, and half of them were high school youth.  We felt out of place – like intruders.  But they had been expecting us, graciously greeted us, and then mixed us in among them for different tasks.  Slowly but surely, we started to chat-it-up with each other: “Where do you go to school?” “Where’s your church?” “You do this every month?!”  And then a truck-load of food arrived: restaurant leftovers, grocery leftovers, and gleaned produce from farm fields. We sorted the food: fruit, vegetables, greens, staples. And then for the next hour a steady flow of folks from Durham’s East side passed through the line, each leaving with two heaping armfuls (and more!) of food.  And there was enough for everyone, and some left over still!  By the time clean-up started, we were a bit less timid and just scrubbed, carried, and stacked till the job was done.  And finally a quick debrief with our host: “How many families come through the line each month?” “What surprised you about this morning?” “When can we come back?” “Will we see you again next month?” Good question: I sure hope we come back, for our brothers and sisters of El Buen Pastor are helping us learn what it looks like to feed the hungry Christ (Matthew 25:35).  Thanks be to God!

A Complicated Problem

By Bill Andersen, Jr. EYC Mentor

Last evening, Jr. EYC engaged in another one of our  “Things we don’t talk about at church, but probably should” sessions.

The topic was homelessness. And more specifically, the following question:  “How should we – as followers of Christ – interact with the people we see begging for money on 15/501 and near exit ramps?”

Everyone shared an observation.. some were emphatic in their views …. others were more reserved… but all had empathy.. and all realized this was a complicated problem.

Then we tried to “physically categorize” ourselves by moving to one of 4 couches, each signifying a position,  from “never” to “no, but because..” to “yes, but because” to “always” (interact/give money).

Some knew right off where they fell .. many switched as the discussion went on.. some couldn’t bring themselves to align with a single position and so straddled in between couches..

Mentors were careful to avoid injecting their opinions .. but prodded with questions that began with “why..”

We ended with more questions and opinions than we could get to…. but it was clear – our youth are definitely paying attention when we
drive up to those intersections and exit ramps…

[This discussion will continue next week with a stirring documentary about how some Episcopalians in Durham are engaging the homeless… Here’s a short preview. -PMC]

Bake Table + Youth = a Merry Christmas

By Thomas Reardon, a Sr. EYC Youth and Jr. EYC Mentor

On December 15th, 2012, Haleigh Collins and I went Christmas shopping for two kids who would not have had a Christmas otherwise.* We went to Wal-Mart, as bulk bargain shoppers tend to do. Immediately we headed for the toy section, constantly looking over our lists for the two boys we were buying gifts for. First, we decided to tackle Vince, an 8 year old boy whose favorite colors are red, blue, and yellow, and wanted a skateboard, super hero clothes and art supplies. This was mostly because the first thing we saw in the toy section was a rack of skateboards. We quickly went all around the store grabbing up super hero clothing and art supplies as well as coloring books. The next child on our list was Daniel, a 5 year old whose favorite color is blue, wanted a bike and a helmet, Sponge Bob items, books, and cars (which was particularly stressed on the list). We hurried back to the toy section to grab an abundance of Hot Wheels cars, and went over to the bikes and pulled down a Jeep bike with shocks and dual suspension. Next we found a collection of Dr. Seuss books which were off the shelf and into our cart in a heartbeat. After consulting Haleigh’s mother, Ann Collins, we decided that Wal-Mart was not the best place to get our five year old clothing. We checked out at Wal-Mart and drove over to Target and finished up our shopping there by getting Daniel some good t-shirts, including one that had a Tyrannosaurus Rex on it – cause what boy doesn’t like Dinosaurs? We checked out of Target and within two and a half hours we had the trunk and backseat of my 1995 Volvo station wagon chock full with gifts for these two boys. Even though Haleigh and I had a lot of fun, it meant more than we had thought it would. It brought back some childhood memories of coming downstairs to those presents under the tree and tearing off that wrapping paper to find exactly what you wanted.  Without us, these kids wouldn’t have had a Christmas that we had grown up having, and that made it all the more special.


(*Holy Family Youth partnered with Orange County Social Service to adopt these two kids.  The funds came from the Youth Bake Table held at Holy Family back on Nov. 18th.  For the sake of anonymity, the names of the kids have been changed.  -Paul, Youth Minister)

Bishops Ball 2013:lots of goodness

By Paul Cizek, Youth Minister

This past weekend, 6 youth and myself attended Bishops Ball – the annual December diocesan event for 6th-12th graders.  There were just over two hundred participants for this weekend full of fun, worship, and hands-on outreach work.  And to be honest, it’s hard to pick my favorite moment from a weekend with so much goodness.

Candidate 1: On Saturday evening, youth donned swanky dresses and bowties, sat down for a formal feast, worshipped with a Eucharistic feast, and then spent the rest of the night out on the dance floor – a much anticipated climax to the weekend.  The lights were low, the music bumping, and the floor was crowded.  But as our young Henry observed with all seriousness (and much to my amusement), “It’s not really a dance.  They’re all just jumping around.”  And this was mostly true, until they all did the Macarena.

Candidate 2: On Saturday, we all watched a documentary, Harvest of Dignity, about migrant farmworkers – primarily in North Carolina.  Afterwards, youth had a chance to discuss it and respond.  One youth in the small group I was a part of said, “It’s easy to not think about the conditions these people live in because we don’t see it.  It’s hidden.  But this movie sheds light on it and now it’s hard to ignore.”  There were lots of head-nods in agreement from youth sitting around our circle.  And while watching this documentary didn’t change the world, perhaps it planted a seed that will take root in the lives of one of these youth.  Pray that some of these seeds found fertile soil.

Candidate 3: The Bishops came on Friday night and stayed through Sunday morning, remaining wonderfully accessible to youth throughout.  They spoke when called upon or when they had something to share, but overall they were just there, accessible, and visibly glad to be there.  This is one thing that’s so wonderful and unique about Bishops Ball.  What a gift to have Bishops like this in our diocese!


So overall, Bishops Ball 2013 was awesome.  I encourage you’ll to come out next year if you missed it!