Energize, the celebration of youth and youth work in the diocese which took place in Glengormley on September 28 was a huge success.
Literally hundreds of young people and youth leaders travelled from all over Connor to St Brigid’s for an evening of worship, dance, music, fellowship and fun.
The church and adjoining halls were all called into use as Energize endeavoured to empower a generation and give the young people of the diocese what Bishop Alan described as ‘a different experience.’
Praise and worship took place in the 550 seat church, which was almost filled to capacity, and different rooms housed a coffee bar, juice dock, photo exhibition and prayer space, while there was a graffiti board at the front of the church.
In his words of welcome, Bishop Alan said: “One of the greatest gifts in the life of our diocese is our young people and I want them to have the gift to experience the richness of what this diocese has to offer.” The evening, he said, was all about giving permission. “I give you permission,” the Bishop added.
The evening was also about sharing and getting to know one another, Bishop Alan said. “There is so much talent around the diocese and the sharing of resources is part of what we do as a diocese.”
The bishop’s opening words were followed by a dramatic display of dance by Chrysalis Dance Ministry, made up of young people from St Paul’s and St Barnabas’s in Belfast.
Sharon Hamill of the Church of Ireland Youth Department, who was on the Energize organising committee, read in St Mark how Jesus healed the paralysed man whose friends had lowered him through a roof to Jesus.
The story was brought to life in a drama put on by young people from St Paul and St Barnabas, through the thoroughly modern interpretation of a TV news report.
Bishop Alan spoke of his own faith journey and how in his teens he had struggled, but had been carried through by others who had prayed and helped him in different ways during those years.
“There was nothing dramatic in my journey but I was conscious that there were people through those years who were carrying me,” he said.
Referring to the Bible reading, the Bishop added: “Even though Jesus did the healing, the healing would not have taken place if the paralysed man’s friends had not carried him there.
“We carry each other and youth fellowships are paramount in this. There are times when we are confused, and we need each other to help us through those times.”
The Bishop urged parishes to make sure young people are welcome in church buildings and ‘worry about the mess later.’ He went on: “Young people can be made to feel unwelcome and not part of the community, yet young people are key because they ask the difficult questions. They have youth and vitality and we have to look after them.”
Keith Neil, youth worker at Lisburn Cathedral, led the prayers and singing, along with the Cathedral band. He urged the young people to engage and hear what God had to say.
“We have a fantastic message to give. There are hundreds in here tonight but there are thousands out there who don’t know that message,” he said.
Video films shot at youth groups including St Mark’s, Ballymacash; Fusion, Ballymena; ER, Coleraine and Fusion, Lisburn, give rise to plenty of applause, laughter and cheer, not to mention food for thought about future youth group activities.
During the break the young people had an opportunity to view photographs taken at various youth groups in the diocese, as well as make their mark on the graffiti wall and enjoy refreshments and fellowship.
As the service drew to a close after more worship, dance and enthusiastic praise, Keith Neil told the young people. “We are at the start of a wonderful journey together in the diocese. This is about changing the face of youth work, it is about each of us being challenged and energized to go out there.”
Visit the picture gallery for lots more photos of the Energize celebration.