CIYD report to Synod – ‘Our young people need to be re–introduced, re–included, and re–invigorated’
The impact of the pandemic on young people and those in youth ministry was highlighted in the presentation of the report of the Church of Ireland Youth Department Report on Friday afternoon (October 1).
Proposing the report, CIYD chairperson Bishop Pat Storey, spoke of the experience of young people. “They have felt isolated without the company of their friends, robbed of their early university years, and devoid of the fellowship of their churches and youth groups. As President of the Church of Ireland Youth Department, I have also witnessed the isolation and helplessness of staff, diocesan youth officers, and volunteer youth leaders around the whole island. Youth ministry, due to government regulations, effectively stopped. Along with schools and colleges, young people were confined to home and bereft of peer company. Whilst all of us found the pandemic difficult, some young people found it unbearable and we will be dealing with some residual mental health problems for years to come,” she stated.
However, she said staff and youth officers had persevered and reinvented the way they communicated with young people. She agreed that while virtual youth ministry was far from ideal, it helped maintain contact and fellowship with and among young people. She said it had left youth officers and leaders in need of rest and recuperation but they had been exemplary in their delivery of youth ministry in very trying circumstances. “It hasn’t gone unnoticed and it is not taken for granted. Young people will remember that you kept the youth flag virtually flying,” she commented.
Staff had been busy doing what they were able to do including putting together a valuable resource called ‘A Welcoming Church’ which addresses ways in which youth ministry could be inclusive of those with particular challenges. As youth activities open up according to government guidelines, Bishop Storey said they were grateful for the grants CIYD receives to help make youth ministry happen. She paid tribute to the staff, Barbara, Simon and Steve.
CIYD’s Day of Prayer for Young People takes place on Sunday November 21 and the Bishop urged Synod members to continue to pray for young people and the Church of Ireland’s youth ministry. “Our young people need to be re–introduced, re–included, and re–invigorated as we re–enter face to face youth ministry and other youth organisations in our churches across the island. I count it a real privilege to be involved in this work and as we work to share our faith with our young people, we remember that they are both the present and the future. We are grateful for their energy, their humour, and their passion. Let’s do all we can to encourage and support them as we return to traditional youth ministry,” she concluded.
Seconding the report, All Ireland Youth Officer, Simon Henry (Down and Dromore) thanked Bishop Storey and Bridget Barrett for their guidance and support. He also gave a shout out to all Diocesan Youth Officers and the many volunteers in youth ministry. “Even when the chips were down they still showed up on Zoom,” he said. He added that there is a lot of rebuilding for youth ministry and encouraged all members of Synod to consider how they can support youth ministry at diocesan and parish level. He also asked them to pray for young people who have been through so much.
Brigid Barrett, Chair of the CIYD executive, echoed Bishop Storey’s commendation of Simon and Steve and commended the imaginative and creative ways youth officers and workers found to stay in touch with young people.