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Day 3

Report of the Church of Ireland Youth Department Received by Synod

The report of the Church of Ireland Youth Department (CIYD) was presented at General Synod in Armagh this morning. CIYD’s Simon Henry outlined an exciting year for CIYD.

He highlighted  the Church of Ireland Youth Forum which took place in January of this year in the City North Hotel. The forum was launched by the Archbishop of Armagh and was attended by young people and youth leaders from almost every diocese.

Throughout the day young people debated issues affecting them and looked at ways of encouraging and supporting youth participation. They also looked at ways of facilitating change and taking action and how young people could be supported on their spiritual journeys.

Mr Henry recalled the young people’s ideas of what they would like to see in their own parishes. These included greater involvement of young people in church services, a ‘church beyond walls’ through outreach and further engagement with their community, welcome for groups on the fringes, increased support for youth groups, to improve spiritual disciplines, all age sermons, greater use of technology and more leadership opportunities for young people.

“I, on behalf of CIYD, on behalf of the young people we engaged with at the Youth Forum, am asking you as bishops, clergy, leaders and influencers in your parish and dioceses to get behind young people and give them more opportunities within your parish and your diocese. A simple way to start this would be having a regular youth–led service, with strong leadership and input from young people in shaping it. CIYD, and local diocesan youth officers and youth councils, would love to help you achieve this,” he said.

He added: “We have to remember that Church is no longer at the centre of many of our communities.  Young people inhabit a world that is increasingly pluralistic and morally relative. Yet, they are more than ready to hear about Jesus Christ.  They are more than ready to give him their life and take those first steps into discipleship. It is vital that we do everything we can to direct young people towards God and to help them develop their faith and provide opportunities and not barriers”.

He said young people were often not taken seriously and only valued as the church of the future rather than the church of the present, he stated and added that the church had much to gain from all they had to offer.

The motion was seconded by the Revd Nicola Halford who highlighted the role CIYD has in training and resourcing youth ministry throughout Ireland.

She drew attention to the Aurora Course which offers an opportunity to youth workers to gain professional certification.  “A part–time youth worker I spoke to in the last year told me that they loved doing this work and would be sorry when they would have to get a ‘real’ job. It is sad that youth work is not often seen as a viable profession. Perhaps that is a bigger question however, and something we need to reflect on as a Church,” she commented.

She commended resources provided by CIYD. “All of the resources, training days and work of CIYD seek to equip youth leaders, to give to them confidence and encouragement so that they, in turn, can help young people in our churches to grow and develop in faith,” she said.

Speaking to the report Mark Wells (Down and Dromore), a youth worker, commended the work of CIYD and all they do for youth workers. He encouraged everyone to get in touch with Simon for information they might need on youth work.

Bishop Pat Storey said she was disturbed with the Church spent a lot of time urging the contribution of young people’s voices and yet more often than not the CIYD report was at the end of Synod when many people had left. She highlighted the Barna Youth Report ‘Finding Faith in Ireland’ which she said contained information about what young people think of Church. She said the research gave a flavour of what the societal changes meant to young people.

She spoke about the Youth Forum which she described as an extremely productive day which gave young people a voice. She said good youth work was needed in parishes and dioceses. She thanked the staff of CIYD for their hard work and enthusiasm.

The Revd Rosie Diffin (Armagh) highlighted the service of the Church Lads and Church Girls Brigade which has the mission of extending God’s Kingdom. She said that she appreciated the opportunities that the organisation brought to her parish.

The Revd Robert Miller (Derry) spoke about resourcing youth work effectively. He said that funding from the Church must be examined.

Hannah O’Neill (Kilmore) thanked the CIYD team for all they do to support youth ministry in the Church of Ireland. She commended the Fuel resource.

Miriam Weibye of the Scottish Episcopal Church said she was 30 and in some of the church areas she was involved with she was still considered youth. In the secular world this would be ridiculous. She said that the church should take into consideration that young have a valuable contribution to make and can represent the church on committees as full members and not youth members.

Canon Patrick Bamber (Kilmore) said it was sad that confirmation candidates were not expected to give an account of their faith and to have a real tangible experience of what it is to be a Christian.

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