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June 2024 | Louisville, Kentucky

I recently had the privilege of serving as the Director of the General Convention Children’s Program for the 81st General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Louisville, Kentucky. In the fall of 2023, Bishop Reddall asked me to consider serving as the 2024 Assistant Director in anticipation of becoming the Director for the 2027 General Convention to be held in Phoenix. I was honored from the start and, with the input of my Saint Barnabas colleagues and Arts Camp staff and volunteers, decided to move up the Saint Barnabas Arts Camp by one week so I could make it to Kentucky by June 22 when the program would begin.

The planning process started soon after I signed on as Assistant Director via Zoom meetings and later a site visit to the Hyatt Regency Louisville. With the leadership of Patrick Haizel, Deputy for Administration and Operations for the Executive Offices of the General Convention, we began crafting a meaningful, fun, and formational experience for the children of General Convention participants, who include Bishops, Deputies, exhibitors, volunteers, clergy, and others. After a few meetings, I was asked to step into the role of Director for the 81st General Convention.

I soon began to collaborate with Heather Melton, Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering, who had previously written a vacation Bible school curriculum based on thankfulness and water: Waves of GratitudeI highly recommend this comprehensive and adaptable curriculum to all formation leaders looking for a fresh approach to church summer day camp. Its focus on the science of and play with water is delightful for all kids and the message of gratefulness is timeless.

Registration opened in March and, by the time it closed in late May, the program was full. Due to space, staffing, and safety concerns, we were unable to accommodate all who were interested. Over the course of the 7 days, 40 children ages 6 months through 12 years were enrolled to the General Convention Children’s Program. We also developed a Junior Counselor (JC) opportunity with an application, interview, and training. Four Junior Counselors participated and were joyfully received by the participants. In fact, half of the kids in attendance assured me that they would be JCs at the next General Convention.

On Saturday, June 22, the Children’s Program began with music and get-to-know-you games in a hotel conference room at the Hyatt right across the street from the Kentucky International Convention Center. I enjoyed meeting the children from all over the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii and was delighted to get to know them better over the course of the week. We sang songs, created art, played with water, engaged in science, and grew as a church family in those few days.

We even took a couple walking field trips – first to the Kentucky Science Center and later to the General Convention Exhibit Hall. At the Kentucky Science Center, the children had a blast pushing buttons, moving levers, and learning about the science of weather and water. On the afternoon trip to the Exhibit Hall, around 10 organizations with booths were ready to greet the children with games, prizes, and special pins. Collaborating organizations also brought guest readers and programming to the Children’s Program rooms. These generous programs include United Thank Offering, Godly Play Foundation, Episcopal Relief & Development, The Office of Development, The Office of Communication, Good News Gardens, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Church Publishing Inc., Latino Ministries, The Archives of The Episcopal Church, The Partner’s Path, The National Association of Episcopal Schools, Bexley Seabury Seminary and The Staff of the Presiding Bishop, along with the General Convention Budget and the support of the General Convention Office staff, just to name a few.

Toward the end of the week, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry invited the children to visit with him at the convention center. We had already written him thank you cards for his faithful service to the Episcopal Church so we brought the cards along with us in a wrapped box as well as our special Waves of Gratitude pin and t-shirt. In a joyful chorus, we shouted, “Thank you!” and I had the opportunity to thank him on behalf of all the children for being the “leader of the leaders.” He asked the children what they had been learning and attentively listened to their responses about what they were grateful for. It was an exciting moment for us all.

By the end of the week, we had sung and danced every day with musicians from Latino Ministries, engaged in “snack-tivities” each morning, swam in the hotel pool, renewed our Baptismal Covenant with water balloons, and packed a large priority mailbox with treasures to send home. So many of the children asked when the next General Convention would be because they wanted to come back and experience it all over again. Many formed friendships and made memories that they will never forget.

I am extremely grateful for this chance to serve and grow as a children’s minister and program director. It was a joyful way to wrap up my summer day camp experiences after a successful Saint Barnabas Arts Camp in Arizona. It is the experience with and support from the Arts Camp staff that prepared me for this position at the General Convention. The staff and parishioners of Saint Barnabas have formed me and continually encouraged me over the last 9 years. I would not have be given this wonderful opportunity without them.

The next General Convention will take place in Phoenix, minutes from my home church. I cannot wait to develop a new curriculum alongside the United Thank Offering and engage volunteers to serve children from all over the Diocese of Arizona. I anticipate the program will grow by leaps and bounds in 2027. Let us look toward the future of the Episcopal Church as we invest in our children today and delight in their presence at the General Convention and beyond.

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