Sarah’s reflection on General Convention Official Youth Presence

Here’s another in our ongoing series of reflections from participants in this summer’s General Convention Official Youth Presence.

This reflection is by Sarah Neumann, Province 1 participant from the Diocese of Massachusetts.

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Imagine What Young People Can Do
by Sarah Neumann

It would be impossible for me to put into words the impact that being a part of the Official Youth Presence has had on me.

Ever since I first applied to be part of the GCOYP, I had a profound sense that God was calling me to do this unique work. I couldn’t explain exactly why I felt so drawn to apply, but my interest in church polity coupled with my desire to connect to the worldwide Episcopal community seemed to make this the perfect opportunity for me. I was ecstatic when I was selected, and my excitement only grew as I attended training, met the other members of the GCOYP, and learned more about the work I would be doing at General Convention.

The work that the GCOYP did at Convention was difficult at best, frustrating at times, and thoroughly exhausting. But I wouldn’t change a single thing about my experience at Convention. It opened my eyes to what it means to be an Episcopalian today, the direction our Church is moving, and the challenges that we will face together in the future.

Even when I disagreed with the people around me, I have never felt so deeply connected to a community as I did each morning when we worshipped and celebrated the Eucharist together.

I am confident in saying that my experience at General Convention was by far the most formative experience of my life. I discovered the truly global community that I as an Episcopalian am a part of, and every day saw the diversity that makes us who we are and the love that binds us together.

I met Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bonnie Anderson, and countless other leaders who inspired me and who truly valued the presence of the OYP at Convention. And perhaps most importantly for me, I found my voice in hearings and on the floor of the House of Deputies, and when I spoke to the issues I was passionate about, I finally understood that even as a youth I have an influence and a voice in this Church that I love so much.

Even now as I have returned to my normal routine, I think about General Convention and the influence it has had on me every day. In particular, I reflect on how it affirmed my call to do the work of the Church in my life as I returned to my parish and diocese, and the voice it showed me I had and could use.

For future OYPers, my only advice is to cherish and make the most out of your time at Convention. Live in the moment, ask for help when you need it, and use plenty of hand sanitizer!

Remember that it’s impossible to do everything, but to use your voice and your presence wisely – you will have an impact and people will listen to you.

For the wider Church, remember the passion and optimism and spirit that are intrinsic to youth ministries and the young people they serve. Now imagine what those young people can do when you give them a voice and the power to bring change and new life to our Church.

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