Two minutes sounds like no time at all, and yet as it turns out can actually be a little bit difficult to fill. This is particularly true at seven o’clock in the morning, when those of us who typically self-describe as “night people” are only just shaking off the sleep, in order to make it over to the hotel/convention center and up to committee hearings to offer testimony within that very two-minute window.
That was how I felt, at least, as I spent ten days back in July doing just that, at the Episcopal Church’s 79th General Convention in Austin, TX.
A group of us, all between the ages of 18 and 30 (many from the NYC area), came to the convention to offer our support to resolutions seeking to highlight and take action on peace and justice issues facing the whole church today.
We testified on, lobbied for, and even drafted some legislation—from issues of racial reconciliation to gun violence, to action on immigration, to divestments and socially responsible investing, to sexism and sexual assault, to prayer book revision, to police violence and mental health … the list goes well on. We also participated in direct actions of public witness led by our Bishops Against Gun Violence, as well as clergy from across the church at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center.
At every General Convention since 2006, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) — an organization which traces its origins to a handful of New York City priests seeking to support young people choosing conscientious objection to World War I, and since has become a network of grassroots peacemakers across the Episcopal Church — has convened this delegation of people ages 18 to 30 to do their legislative advocacy at convention. That is to say, EPF has decided that the advocacy that they do as an organization at General Convention should be directly led by adults under 30.
It was a joy to be a part of making this important statement about the value and witness of young adults as a member of the delegation this year. I also think that it was important that our group faced the challenges that it did, as numerous encounters with people from across the church often led to the feeling that “young adult” was not always a helpful designation—that it could be something of a marginalizing phrase, making us feel at times that we were an affinity group not to be taken very seriously. It is something that I think we must wrestle with in how we go forward from this convention and in ministry with young adults in general.
I come away from the experience-expectant and hopeful as ever about who we are and what our witness can be as the church, as well as even more convinced that the voices of young people at all levels of church governance must be encouraged and heard as equal partners in faith and dialogue.
Check this out for more reflections on GC79 from other members of the EPF delegation.
Author: The Rev. Spencer Cantrell, who is a transitional deacon and an Associate at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Harlem. A recent graduate of General Theological Seminary, he lives in Brooklyn, where he will begin working as a hospital chaplain this fall.