Rethinking Service in Sr. EYC

You might have heard that Holy Family youth are exploring “Outreach” during March and April through both classroom discussions and experience. In Sr. EYC, we’re putting on our thinking caps to dig deeper into a few big questions:

  • How does God reach out to us?
  • How does God’s outreach inform our outreach?

We’re working our way through a lecture by priest and theologian Sam Wells called Rethinking Service. Give it a read!

(Those attending the Monday book discussion or Wednesday evening program during Lent will find this lecture to be clear, concise, and quite helpful as you engage Wells and Owen’s book, Living Without Enemies.)


Beyond the Jargon of “Outreach”

By Paul Cizek, Youth Minister

Holy Family has long prioritized “outreach.” We consistently go beyond our campus walls into our surrounding communities and sometimes even abroad. And when we go beyond our walls, we believe we’re following where our Lord Jesus has already gone: to be with the poor, lonely, sick, and imprisoned. Outreach matters in this parish.

But what is “outreach?” A buzzword? Just jargon? “Outreach” is certainly a bit abstract and perhaps a bit vague. So what is it… and why do we do it? Lots of people volunteer or earn service hours. So why do we as a church believe that our outreach has anything to do with following Jesus – with being Christians?

Over the next few months, Holy Family’s youth will have an opportunity to explore these questions through classroom discussions and hands-on experience:

Middle School Sunday School is in the middle of a six week exploration of outreach.  Diane Steinhaus launched the discussion in week 1 with some big questions about outreach (“What is outreach? Why do it?) and in the weeks to come various members of Holy Family will visit the class to share stories and pictures about their work with Habitat for Humanity, Prison Ministry, South Sudan, and more.

Between now and May, middle and high school youth will also have the opportunity to visit Carolina Meadows and the Goodwill Farm.  These two sites were chosen by youth preparing for Confirmation through Youth Journey in Faith.  At the farm, youth will work in a garden that provides food for the poor, and at Carolina Meadows youth will teach residents basic computer/internet skill for keeping in touch with their families (i.e. Skyping).

In all this, pray that “outreach” becomes a concrete and tangible way in which our youth learn to follow Jesus.

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:

Youth Appalachia Service Project: Update

By Paul Cizek, Youth Minister

Since launching Holy Family’s first Appalachia Service Project this past January, much has happened.  Here’s the scoop:

  • For those who don’t know, Appalachia Service Projects (ASP) are week long mission trips for youth 14-18 years old in the Appalachian mountain region.  Teams of 5 youth and 2 adults do light construction projects to help make homes in the region warmer, safer, and drier for those in need.  ASP has been in operation for over 40 years.
  • 11 youth and 4 adults have joined the Holy Family crews, making up two work crews.  10 of us are members of Holy Family and the other 5 are friends of our youth.
  • Our week of ASP is July 21-27.  We will be working in Watauga, NC, just north of Boone, NC.  We will be staying at a local elementary school, eating in the cafeteria, and sleeping in classrooms.  Each work crew will work at one home in Watauga for the whole week.
  • We have begun and will continue our preparations for ASP on a few Sunday afternoons this summer.  During these times, we will get to know one another through games and activities, we’ll learn a little bit about the Appalachian region and Watauga, we’ll learn some basic carpentry skills to  get familiar with hammers, saws, tape measures, and chalk lines.  We’ll also eat together and clean-up together to nurture our bodies and our common life, and begin learning how to live together and work together.

Please keep us in your prayers as we explore this work with ASP in western North Carolina.  May we discover that Christ is already there among the poor when we arrive.

Youth Engage Hunger in Chapel Hill (or, Why We Crop Walk)

By Paul Cizek, Youth Minister

Take a moment to consider food and the lack of food.

  1. What’s your favorite food?
  2. When is the last time you were hungry for a significant period of time?  How long was it?  Could you control when you ate next?
  3. Name at least three things it’s hard to do when you’re hungry.
  4. How many kids do you think are at risk of going hungry on a daily basis in Chapel Hill/Carrboro?

Now watch this video about TABLE, a Chapel Hill/Carrboro based program that sends at risk kids home with food over the weekend (when school subsidized meals aren’t available).  TABLE is supported by Chapel Hill’s Inter-Faith Council.

  1. What caught you’re attention?
  2. How will you respond?

Consider the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Crop Walk as one way to respond to kids in need in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.  On April 21 at 2:30pm, Holy Family will join in this 4 mile walk to raise awareness about local hunger and raise funds to help prevent hunger locally and abroad.  25% of funds raised stay local with Chapel Hill’s Inter-Faith Council (and this is a really important fundraiser for the IFC).  75% of the funds will go abroad through Church World Service towards refugee and disaster relief.Crop Walk

  • Will you walk in the Crop Walk?
  • Will you give money to sponsor a walker (or yourself)?
  • If you give money, how much will you give?  How much do you think your food costs each day?

As one youth once said, “Crop Walk isn’t a huge sacrifice!” And this true, but it’s a start. Let’s start here and perhaps the Spirit will lead us beyond.

“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!

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)

New Summer Retreat for Holy Family Youth

I’m pleased and excited to announce a potential new summer offering for youth at Holy Family: the Appalachia Service Project (ASP).

ASP is a one week summer service retreat for youth 14-18 years old.  We’ll travel to the Appalachian Mountains, meet-up with nearly a hundred other youth, do building project and home repair projects for families who need help (no building experience needed), get to know these families as we work with them on their homes, and live in a nearby school for the week.  It’s active, hands on, relational, and an extremely reasonable cost for a week long program.

What do you think?  Would you like to come along? (We’ll need a few chaperons, too!)

In order to move forward, a few things need to happen.  If you are interested, please plan to attend an information meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 19th, at 7:30 in the Library.  At this meeting, we will go over retreat information, answer questions, and determine which week in June or July will work for our group.  If you cannot attend this meeting but are interested in the retreat, please email me ASAP:

Again, I’m excited about this possibility for our youth and hope you are, too!  I know that some high schools will accepted ASP as fulfillment for school required service hours – if that might persuade those of you on the fence.  Hope to see many families out on Dec. 19th at 7:30!

The Way of Life

By Paul Cizek, Youth Minister

Our baptismal font is shaped like a cross.  In our baptism we’re marked with a cross on our forehead.  And, we’re always making the “sign of our cross” upon our head, belly, and chest.

Cross, cross, cross: and yet, it’s so easy it is to forget that following Jesus will cost us something.

Sacrificing ourselves for something is common, though.  We sacrifice sleep to finish our work.  We sacrifice dinner with our families for play practice, swim practice, or soccer practice.  We sacrifice fun things now so we’re successful in the future.

Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice: but for whom are we sacrificing?

Here’s one mystery of our baptism: that the baptismal waters of death are also the womb of life.   As Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Throughout this year, small groups of youth and adults from Holy Family will visit an Episcopal community in Durham called the Community of the Franciscan Way.  These Christians have sacrificed themselves in order to live with those who would otherwise be homeless.  They’ve committed themselves to a life of prayer, work, and friendship with the poor.  And here’s the mystery: in sacrificing themselves for Christ and for those whom Christ loves – the poor, they have discovered true life.

So, I invite you to come and sacrifice yourself for Christ and for those whom Christ loves.  We’ll visit, eat with this community, and help them take care of their house of hospitality.  Space is limited, so contact Paul Cizek ( or Wren Blessing ( to come along.  Perhaps we too will discover that in losing our lives for Christ’s sake, we’ll find true life.

Saturday, Dec. 1 (8a – 12:30)

Monday, January 21st (7a – 12 noon)

Saturday,  February 9 (8a – 12:30)

Saturday, March 2 (8a – 12:30)