This past weekend ECMN launched MNTEC #1, a new statewide retreat ministry designed by our young people themselves for their peers. Perhaps the weatherman heard Bishop Prior tell our teens on Thursday night that their weekend would be nothing short of "monumental," because this new ministry came to life in the middle of the historic blizzard.
Over the past five years there has been a growing core group of kids across ECMN who have grown in friendship and faith through our emerging collaborative children's and youth ministries. Last summer, many of these kids asked if we could do one big TEC program so that they could be together and so that they could meet even more new friends. They had experienced the gift of being invited into the beloved community, and they were ever so eager to share it, even with kids they had yet to meet. In the fall we invited kids onto our Youth Commission, and they came carrying wisdom from 5+ different expressions of TEC retreats.
Now with MNTEC #1 in the books we have a laundry list of thank you's to dole out. And there is no other place to start than with St. Mark's Cathedral for going above and beyond as a host for this new venture. After that, a huge thank you goes to anyone and everyone who has been a part of the 300+ Teens Encounter Christ retreats across ECMN since the 1970s. You kept this vital ministry alive, and many of you even helped launch this first MNTEC onsite. I said "helped" launch intentionally because it was really our youth who did the launching. So, the next thank you goes to the 70+ youth at MNTEC, and especially to the 20 teens on our youth commission who have met 8 times since December to iron out all the details.
So where will MNTEC go from here? This very same Youth Commission will chart our course. In May, they will meet to debrief this experience, and they will begin reaching out to every faith community to invite more kids onto the commission itself. Over the summer we will hopefully end up with one youth from each faith community. This larger commission will kick off a new year of work together at Convention in Mankato on Sept 14-15. Mark your calendars now for MNTEC #2 Oct 19-21, and reach out if you'd like to nominate a youth to join the youth commission (firstname.lastname@example.org). All updates for TEC will be posted on this page, so save it and check back!
For a closing thought on all of this, take a moment to sit with these words from a Junior who preached at MNTEC's closing service.
"Here we are at the end. We started in bubbles. We were kind of alone, maybe we had a few friends or acquaintances from our churches. But mostly we were closed off. We heard some talks. Then we listened to each other give talks, pour out their souls, and open up. We walked with Jesus and the disciples on the journey to Calvary. We felt forgiven. We shared in the pain of those who were there with him in that darkness. Then we woke up to the light of Easter morning. We celebrated. We laughed. We bonded. As we heard more talks we began to open up our minds and hearts to the holy spirit. We accepted the unconditional love of those around us and learned to give it out ourselves. We discussed our spirituality and had long conversations about what we actually believe in. We shared some pretty deep and emotional moments. We have become a family. I hope you have felt God this weekend because I know I have. I have seen God in each and everyone of you - in your eyes, your tears, your smile, your laugh, your songs. Sometimes the love of God is kind of obvious, like when we were sleeping up there in the balcony and woke up here in this beautiful church. Or when we were listening to some acoustic guitar in the dark cathedral. TEC has now come to an end, but I don't like that word "end." Here is why. We are able to take what we have experienced of God's agape love and use it in our own lives. We can take it into the world outside of this space. Then does TEC ever really end? Sure we leave this evening, we are separated from the friends we made here. We are taken away from this constant acceptance, respect, and unconditional love. But we bring all of those things to the people we know in our own lives. And the people we don't yet. We can make the world a happier and more loving place. Don't be sad it's over, be happy you were here. And that you now have this whole family supporting you for the rest of your life. There are some native tribes in America who don't have a word for "goodbye." They say, "see you again." So it's not over. It's only just begun. Amen."