There’s been plenty going on to bring our young people together to enjoy worship, fellowship and fun. The reports below give a flavour of what has been happening in Connor in recent months.
In the space of three days, members of Connor Youth Forum shared their vision with Connor Diocesan Council and then ran an event for a large number of young people.
On Thursday March 23, Youth Forum members Catherine and Ciaran shared eloquently with the Diocesan Council. They spoke about the importance of Youth Forum, inviting new members from parishes across the diocese and demonstrating that there are young people in the diocese willing to serve.
They highlighted opportunities which Youth Council events have given them as individuals leading to development in their faith as well as helping them make connections with other young people.
Christina Baillie, Diocesan Youth Officer, attended and said: “We really appreciate Catherine and Ciaran coming along to share with the Diocesan Council how the youth activities within the diocese have impacted them as young people.
“We also want to thank the young people from Lisburn Cathedral and the Parishes of the Lower Shankill for contributing to a video which was played, outlining their engagement with events the Youth Council has organised. I sincerely appreciate the Diocesan Council engaging with what is on offer for young people and its continuing support.”
On Saturday March 25 the whole of Connor Youth Forum hosted an event in Jordanstown for other young people in the diocese to lead them through sessions, activities and share dinner.
Matthew Cairns was among the young people who attended. Here he writes about his experience:
“When we arrived we had the hard choice between quite a few seminars. The decision was difficult with a range of seminars from amazing speakers as well as talented members of the Connor Youth Forum to choose from.
“The first seminar I chose was about stereotypes, and the second was around temptations, both of these were brilliant and very relevant to us all.
“Then, probably my favourite part, the Freakshakes. Milkshakes topped with 1,000,000 calories, meanwhile football was happening outside which was great fun! After that we all sat and awaited the arrival of Sharon Hamill’s famous curry.
“When we’d finished, we set off on an adventure to find out as much as we could about the building we were in, only to come back and do a quiz on it, unfortunately our team came out last but I guess we tried and it’s the taking part that counts…
“On to the end of the day and our final session: Identity, girls and guys with Graham Hare. This was probably my favourite session, an opportunity to ask questions and break off into groups to have a discussion about things we rarely get the opportunity talk about. On the whole it was a fantastic event!”
Christina said: “We would like to thank all the young people involved in this incredible event, from the audio visuals to prayers, from introductions to biblical sessions, from hospitality to registration, it has been all thought through and planned by young people.
“Thank you also to our adult contributors, Phil Howe, Graham Hare, Sam Neill, Stephen Whitten, Simon Henry and to Sharon Hamill for providing dinner.”
If you would like any more information about Connor Youth Forum please contact Christina at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07753 312405.
Young people from across Connor Diocese put their sporting skills to the test at the Big Connor Contest organised by Engage Connor Youth Council on Saturday February 25.
Diocesan Youth Officer Christina Baillie described the contest, held in Glenavy Parish Halls, as ‘an amazing, competitive, intense, pizza filled, exhausting event.’
The young people were competing for the Big Connor Contest Shield and the competition attracted participants from Ballymena; Ahoghill; Lisburn Cathedral; Lambeg; Glenavy; St Peter’s, Belfast; Lower Shankill Parishes; All Saints’, Antrim; St Paul’s, Lisburn, and the Church of the Resurrection, Belfast.
During the day they pitched their skills against each other and tested their teamwork in dodgeball, uni-hoc, and volleyball, and battled to be the quickest group to ‘Escape The Room.’
The Youth Council ran all the fiercely contested sports with groups playing throughout the day, as well as a Chill Room with some space to play X-Box or enjoy a treat from the chocolate fountain.
The team from St Paul’s, Lisburn, was the overall winner, with Lisburn Cathedral and Lambeg in second and third places.
Christina said: “Connor Youth Council would like to thank Glenavy Parish for hosting us, in particular Richard, Lindsey and Andrew for all their help.”
Connor Youth Forum is going from strength to strength as young people from across the diocese have an opportunity to share their voices on issues regarding church, their faith and living life as a young person.
The Youth Forum met again on Saturday November 19 to plan an event for other young people, as well as chatting about their priorities as a Forum.
Members launched a Connor Youth Forum Facebook page which can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/ConnorYouthForum and updated it with information about the group.
The young people will continue to update this themselves, sharing information and events.
The Youth Forum would encourage you to ‘like’ the Facebook page for updates, and share this with any young people who might be interested in taking part and pray for the young people as they meet to speak on behalf of youth across the diocese.
On Saturday October 1 Connor Youth Council hosted Reveal, another fantastic event which included the launch of the Connor Youth Forum.
A fabulous selection of games was organised by Catherine from St George’s Parish and Sharon from Church of the Resurrection, allowing the young people to get to know one another and share lots of laughs!
The event took place in Carrickfergus YMCA where the young people ate pizza together and enjoyed the energetic games.
After the launch of the Connor Youth Forum, a few members were interviewed about why they got involved. The Youth Forum representatives said they hoped Youth Forum could be an opportunity to involve young people from across the diocese and to influence the wider church from a young person’s perspective.
Katie, from Lisburn Cathedral, said Youth Forum provided an “opportunity to get to know other young people in the diocese” and the aim of Youth Forum would be to “allow young people in the diocese to have a voice.”
When asked what she valued about diocesan events, Catherine from Church of the Resurrection said: “It’s great to come and meet other people.”
Sara from Lisburn Cathedral said she got involved with Youth Forum as she “enjoyed coming to these events and made a lot of friends.” Sara explained that everyone aged 15 and over can come and sit on Youth Forum, with two representatives from each parish.
Any young person interested in getting involved with Youth Forum is asked to contact DiocesanYouth Officer Christina Baillie on email@example.com.
From quality food to outrageous games, from great discussions to singing God’s praise, from water fights to quiet reflection – the Connor Takes the Castle Weekend had it all!
Connor Youth Council welcomed groups from across the diocese to the fantastic Castlewellan Castle to share in the fun from September 2-4.
Stephen Whitten, Church Army Evangelist with the North Belfast Centre of Mission, and Christina Baillie, Connor Diocesan Youth Officer, led the sessions on the theme of fear and speaking God’s truth into our fears.
Christina said: “We decided to speak on this topic as fear can be such a common emotion but can be really difficult to talk about. Fearfulness can stop us living our lives fully for God but we wanted the young people to understand how God’s perfect love casts out fear and how we all can claim the promise of being a child of God.
“The sessions were made up of interactive activities, worship, discussion and bible study which the young people engaged with really well.”
For the rest of the weekend, the young people took part in Fear Factor games which included some strange or scary activities.
There were competitive games on Saturday culminating in the grand finale of Connor’s Got Talent which had all the young people involved in acting out a skit with some incredible performances. Even in the midst of the rain, the young people enjoyed a water fight and slip & slide!
In their feedback on the weekend, young People from St Patricks, Coleraine, said: “We had a great time at Castlewellan Castle. It was good to be able to have time to sing about God and learn more about Him that was just for us.
“One of the things that we enjoyed most about Castlewellan was the opportunity to go somewhere together as a youth group and to get to make new friends with people from other groups. We just really enjoy things like this that give us a chance to go away together and learn about God. We would highly recommend that everyone try to go to events like this.”
Christina said: “Thanks to Connor Youth Council for all the hard work put into organising the weekend. Thank you to all the leaders for bringing their young people along. A massive thanks to Kate Peden and Adam Girvin from St Jude’s, Muckamore for leading our worship so wisely throughout the weekend, and to Matthew Cairns for the incredible audio/visuals!”
She added: “We already can’t wait until next year!”
John 13v34-35 says “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Connor Streetreach 2016 allowed young people from across the diocese to live out their discipleship together while working with local communities in north Belfast. The young people were involved in running kids’ clubs, gardening, providing activities in homes for the elderly, praying for others, hosting community festivals and bringing the love of God to all they encountered.
The team was made up of young people age 15 plus from parishes including Ballymena, Antrim, Belfast and Lisburn. Some of the team had taken part in Streetreach 2015 and for others this type of experience was brand new.
Many of the young people started Streetreach feeling anxious about new and different experiences outside of their comfort zone, but as the team bonded during morning team time, each young person jumped into each new challenge expectant at what God would do through them.
Diocesan Youth Officer Christina Baillie said: “We saw children learn about our incredible God, young people challenged through the witness of faithful disciples, our team praying for individuals in the community with various needs and we saw prayers being answered.
“We are incredibly thankful for the partnership with the Rev Emma Rutherford and the Rev Tracey McRoberts and their parishes in supporting the team through hospitality and connections within the local community.”
Christina continued: “The Streetreach team is glad to be part of the continuing witness within these communities and the team will continue to pray for all that is being done through the local parishes. Thank you to all who prayed for the team, we are so grateful!”
Each young person left Streetreach with a devotional with 14 sessions to help them personally consider the experience of Streetreach and how it can impact the rest of their lives. Please pray as the young people continue to use these over the summer and put their discipleship into practice each and every day.
The Engage Connor Youth team is thankful for all those who support this valuable missional opportunity for the young people in the diocese which sees lives transformed and faith developing in just a few short days.
Streetreach 2017 will take place from July 4-7 and the diocesan youth council will be inviting parishes to apply to host Streetreach 2017. More details will follow soon.
Summer Madness is over for another year, and the young people from parishes across Connor Diocese had a fantastic time, despite the rain!
The Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, joined Summer Madness for a barbecue, and helped cook the burgers and sausages.
Diocesan Youth Officer Christina Baillie said: “A massive thank you to Bishop Alan for joining with and serving the young people and leaders for the BBQ on Sunday. It is great to have his support and see the young people engage with the Diocese. Words cannot express our gratitude to Canon Mark Taylor for his service and bringing together the groups of Connor through the ministry of food!
Thanks to the young people of St Michael’s & St Stephen’s for this report on Summer Madness 2016
It’s total Madness!! but if you want your young people to experience the love and joy of meeting with Christ for the first time or to renew and enthuse their faith in the presence of over 1000 other young people, Summer Madness is the place to be. And if you are in Connor Diocese life is sweet – read on! These are the stories of two young girls from St Michaels and St Stephens in Lower Shankill, Belfast.
Sophie’s story: Madness, Summer Madness, started on 1st July 2016!! The days ahead were full of joy, worship and excitement. Our spirits weren’t dampened by all the rain.
To waken us up in the mornings there was worship and this year Bluetree and Stephen Mayes and his band led it. We took part in the Salt Factory Treasure Hunt and we literally walked a 10k marathon! We also went sailing IN THE RAIN!! We were absolutely saturated but the choppy waves made it even more fun.
After our adventure sailing the seas, we changed out of our saturated clothes and our saviour Canon Mark Taylor came to our rescue again and made us an amazing dinner which the whole Connor sub-camp enjoyed.
We made new friends from St Paul’s in Lisburn and we hope that these friendships last ages. Special thanks to our leaders Caroline and Heather for organising our life changing trip. Of course we can’t forget the most important part of SM16 getting closer to God. The worship and speakers were fantastic and the seminars were amazing.
Giselle’s story: I think that Summer Madness was some of the best days of my life. I made a decision to become a Christian during the worship on Saturday night. I felt God surrounding us all in the big top tent, the atmosphere was unreal I really loved it and can’t wait for next year.
Some of my favourite things at Summer Madness were the worship, the seminars and the Prayer Ministry Team. The prayer team was outstanding! They talked to you about your faith and your Christian journey and they prayed. They take time with you, I prayed with Isaac and in the seminar called ‘New Christians: following Jesus after Madness’ he took time to answer my questions thoroughly.
I would like to thank God for these wonderful five days, it’s been unreal and I have loved every single second. We learnt that we are all ‘One Family’ with God ‘Our Father’. We helped the young people at Summer Madness to raise money to buy bibles through ‘Open Doors’ for our brothers and sisters in Christ in countries where they are persecuted for their faith – we bought about 2,400 bibles which was amazing!!
I’m so thankful for the people I’ve met and the time I have spent here, I will remember it forever.
As leaders we appreciate all that Connor Diocese Youth Council do to make life so much easier for groups – Head Chef Mark Taylor produced super main meals on Sat, Sun and Monday – life is truly sweet when these meals are sorted for you and it’s a great way to bring all of the Connor youth together. Many thanks to Christina our Diocesan Youth Officer, the Youth Council and Bishop Alan behind the BBQ in his ‘Ministry of Food’ T-shirt! Roll on SM17!!
The Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, joined the team of young people and leaders preparing to serve on Streetreach at a special commissioning event on June 18.
Streetreach is the Diocese of Connor’s opportunity for youth mission locally, and the young people gathered at the Hub at Queen’s University with their family and friends to commit themselves to serving in north Belfast from July 5-8.
The team will be running kids’ clubs, transforming gardens, visiting care homes, praying for local people and running community festivals.
Bishop Alan invited the young people to follow Jesus’ example in serving others and encouraged them in their willingness to get involved in the project. He prayed a blessing for all present.
The Commissioning Service was led by Lucy Burden from Lisburn Cathedral and concluded by Diocesan Youth Officer, Christina Baillie. It included worship led by Stephen Whitten, Church Army, and Claudio Barguena from Chile who will be leading the Adult Prayer Team supporting the Streetreach team through connecting in prayer across north Belfast.
Connor Youth Council would like to say a massive thank you to all the parishes and parishioners who are supporting Streetreach, whether it be through sending young people to join the team, fundraising or praying.
Young people of Connor get sporty!
Engage Connor Youth Council held its first Sports Tournament in Ballymoney on Saturday May 7, with young people from across the diocese competing for a variety of sporting accolades!
The event was organised to raise money towards funds for Streetreach 2016, and some superb trophies were up for grabs.
The young people played dodgeball and volleyball as well as completing a treasure hunt around Ballymoney Parish to compete for first prize.
Everyone gathered at the end for a barbecue, co-ordinated by Girvin Woods from Muckamore Parish, and enjoyed by all despite the rain.
Christina Baillie, Diocesan Youth Officer said: “It was great to see the young people of various ages compete against one another with plenty of close matches and super sporting skill.
“Thanks to the Connor Youth Council for another fantastic event, bringing young people together and building community as a diocese.”
The Youth Council is looking forward to Streetreach and the sports tournament has helped raise resources to provide an excellent programme as the young people serve in north Belfast this summer.
Connor Youth take time to Pray
Young people from groups across Connor Diocese gathered in Ballymena on Saturday March 12 to enjoy time together and to pray.
Engage Connor Youth had invited Emma Thompson from Prayer Spaces in Schools to come and share, and everyone had the chance to explore prayer stations that could be used and set up in a school.
Diocesan Youth Officer Christina Baillie said: “It provided a great opportunity for leaders and young people to spend time praying in creative ways. We were pleased to have Kate and Lauren from Muckamore Parish involved in the running of the evening through praise and compering respectively.”
Engage Connor Youth organised the prayer focus evening following the success of an event held in 2015 focusing on the power of prayer. The youth council wanted to facilitate an event that would allow young people to be active in how they can engage with prayer on a personal and wider level.
“I have never been to anything like this before, but I really enjoyed it,” one of the young people commented afterwards.
Christina said: “The event in Ballymena provided a peaceful opportunity for young people to spend time talking with God. Emma provided some great tools for the young people to be able to pray to make it as comfortable and accessible as possible.
“We loved it that Emma was sharing stories of the impact of Prayer Spaces in Schools across Ireland and encouraging young people to consider hosting one in their school.
“Thank you to Ballymena Parish for hosting us and if you would like to find out more about Prayer Spaces in Schools, you can view their website: www.prayerspacesinschools.com
Connor Youth Forum gets to work
Connor Youth Forum held its first event – a residential meeting on the north coast – on February 26 & 27.
Members of the Youth Forum began to draft a logo and consider ways of influencing their own parishes. They planned events they can organise across the diocese, and had great fun in the process.
The Youth Forum’s first six members are excited at the possibilities ahead and are looking forward to inviting more young people from across the diocese to get involved. The Forum’s next gathering will be on Saturday April 9.
Engage Connor Youth was represented by leaders who facilitated sessions over the weekend but with the discussions being directed by the young people. Lucy Burden, Stuart Moles and Danielle McCullagh are all studying at Church of Ireland Theological Institute. Their advice was invaluable as they encouraged the young people and helped to set the scene for the impact that the Youth Forum could have.
Christina Baillie, Diocesan Youth Officer for Connor, is assisting in facilitating the Youth Forum gatherings. “It was a privilege to see these young people discussing this opportunity with expectancy that it can be used by God within the diocese,” Christina said.
“My hope is to see young people engage with their local parishes as well as discussing issues and actions for across the diocese. We hope to have young people from as many parishes as possible to help us to hear the voice of young people in various situations.”
Engage Connor Youth and the Youth Forum would like to thank the Rev David Ferguson and the Parish of Ramoan for the generous use of the Parish Centre for the Youth Forum sessions.
Youth Forum launched in Connor Diocese
A new Connor Youth Forum was launched by Connor Youth Council at its Christmas Celebration Event held in Antrim
The Connor Youth Forum will give young people an opportunity to help shape youth ministry across the local church and the diocese.
The Forum is for young people who are aged 15+ and there can be one or two representatives from each parish.
The youth forum will offer young people:
Diocesan Youth Officer Christina Baillie said: “We would love to see more young people from across the diocese engaged with this exciting project! We believe that it will be a great opportunity to connect young people to the local church and help them understand the Church of Ireland at a deeper level.”
Christina said there would be a number of gatherings of the young people involved throughout the year discussing youth ministry in Connor parishes.
She asked: “Are you a youth leader or know any young people in your parish who may be interested in this opportunity?
“Are you a young person who would be interested in signing up?
“Are you a member of clergy who is interested in finding out more?”
Youth leaders focus on Psalm 71 at coastal retreat
Youth leaders from seven different parishes across the diocese took part in Engage Connor Youth’s first Youth Leaders Retreat in White Park Bay on January 8 and 9.
The overnight stay gave those involved in leading young people in the diocese the opportunity to enjoy time away in a beautiful location before the start of a new year of programmes engaging young people.
Over the two days the leaders considered Psalm 71, focusing on God as our refuge.
Diocesan Youth Officer Christina Baillie said: “We are really thankful for Wilson Beare and Jude Frame for joining us for the overnight to lead our sessions. I believe everyone attending has found this an enriching and encouraging experience. For me it has been a joy to provide this opportunity for leaders to connect and spend time with God in a relaxed atmosphere.”
The leaders had fun joining in games together as well. Christina expressed thanks to all who attended or helped in the organisation.
Engage Connor Youth is looking forward to hosting another event in November 2016 for those involved in leading young people. Anyone who is interested should contact Christina on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07753 312405 for more information.
© Copyright The Church of Ireland Diocese of Connor 2017