I Sincerely Thank Everyone – by Nina Palattella

Nina Palattella is a high school senior blogging about her experience as a Christian. This is her final post. Click here to read Nina’s previous blog posts.

IMG_1673Hello and welcome to my eighth blog post! As the school year is drawing to a close, this will be (at least for the foreseeable future) my last post; it has been an honor to share my various thoughts with all of you through the writings since the fall. In preparation for this entry, I went back and read several of the other posts I have published over the last year, including my very first one that I wrote at the end of last summer; it was fun to look back at the things I had forgotten that I had written about. It was inspiring, too, to read the activities I listed in my first post and think about what I’ve added to it in the past year.

When I graduate from high school in a few days shy of three weeks, I will also have graduated from The Vine, my community’s Episcopal youth group. I feel lucky to have participated in the group for the two years that I could, but I am thankful that such a great program exists for the kids who will still be around to enjoy it. In addition to adults and youth at my church, I know that there are people from other churches and beyond (including readers of this blog) who are hoping for my success, and that’s a pretty great feeling that I am fortunate to have.

Because of my experience writing this blog, I’ve become more aware of just how much of an impact my faith and my involvement in the church has on my life, and because of that awareness I’ve realized how important it is to me that I continue practicing that faith as I get older and gain the ability to make more independent decisions about my faith, as well as other aspects of my life. I’ve accepted the fact that the ways I practice my faith are subject to changes, both minor and significant; the church I currently attend won’t be an option for weekly Sunday services, so if I want to worship with a traditional congregation, I’ll have to seek out a parish (and if I happen to find more than one, I’ll have to decide which one best satisfies what I’m looking for). Maybe I’ll decide that it’s more convenient for me to express my faith more informally and individually for a while, which I think is just as much of a valid choice for anyone.

In less than one month I will return to Camp Nazareth for my final year as a camper, which is both terribly exciting and a little bit saddening. Even though I’m only there for one week of the year, camp and the people I have spent time with there are responsible for a large part of the formation of my faith throughout the past ten years. One of the best things about Camp Nazareth is that I associate it with so many fun times as well as with religion, and I think that’s critically important, especially for children but really for people of any age. Communities like Camp Nazareth and The Vine have helped me stick with my faith because they have showed me the real-life positive impact that my beliefs can have on other people, and they’ve taught me that living a life with Christ can be achieved in any number of ways, many of which are really awesome (like sliding down an enormous soap-covered Slip ‘N’ Slide with not only your fellow campers but the ministers as well).

Of course, anyone who’s read even a little bit of the Old Testament knows that religion isn’t fun all the time. It can cause some people to feel overwhelmed; other people cite the current condition of the world, as well as tragic events, as their reason for not believing in God or higher power in general. I understand that the concept of believing in something as malleable as God can feel like too much—or like too little, depending on your stance in this debate—and I have had flashes of doubt in how I believe and whether it can be enough for me. However, I have always been oddly willing to accept that God is beyond definition and I can only have the most basic idea of what His plans are for me or for anyone. I think that as long as I continue to enrich my life in all the ways that matter to me, such as through education and music and literature, and as long as I work to enrich the lives of others in as many ways as I am able, then I can be satisfied with the life that I am living, both for myself and for Christ. I sincerely thank everyone for following and guiding me through this process, and I wish you all the best in wherever life may take you!

Nina Palattella, The Cathedral of St. Paul Erie

‘Courage To Follow A Call’ by Nina Palattella

Nina Palattella is a high school senior blogging about her experience as a Christian. Click here to read Nina’s previous blog posts.

Hello again and welcome to my seventh blog post! I hope that all of you are enjoying the return of spring and the Easter season. Easter is a universal time of joy in the church; although Lent was in my church a necessary and productive period of reflection, I was happy to enter into a multi-week celebration of Christ’s return that includes flowers throughout the church, loud hymns, and unapologetic use of the “alleluia.”

I have another piece of happy news to report—after much stress, research, and careful deliberation, I have decided that I will be attending the Honors College at Kent State University this fall! I made my last visit to another large research university, my second top choice, this past Thursday, and after that I felt I had all the information necessary to make my decision, and I wanted to go to Kent. I am looking forward to being a student of the Honors College and living in a dorm with other kids in that program, and I am excited to begin my studies as an English major under the direction of very competent and enthusiastic faculty. My brother will be around to help me if necessary, but we don’t expect to run into each other all the time, which is most likely a good thing.

12957437_1154559797910014_7548171173434636891_o  Earlier this month, my church had the pleasure of hosting the annual North American Conference of Cathedral Deans; as the name suggests, priests from cathedrals around the continent converge in a different location each year for a long weekend of discussion, prayer, and fellowship. The conference is not usually hosted in locations as humble as Erie, Pennsylvania (think Jerusalem and Hawaii), but the dean of my cathedral made a very convincing argument—the phrase “Rust Belt Chic” was mentioned more than once. I was not present for all the events of the conference, but our congregation was praised many times for their involvement in the entire process, including showing the deans around our (unfortunately cold) city, baking and arranging treats to be served after the Sunday service, and simply being visiting with our guests. My parents spoke repeatedly of the wide variety of friendly, interesting priests whom they had the pleasure of meeting; the deans included people from different generations, genders, races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and cultural backgrounds, reflecting the wide reaches of the bonds and acceptance of Christ, which is a wonderful aspect of the Episcopal church that has always made me proud to be a member.

12321334_564938103673208_5533117079208251553_n At the last gathering of The Vine, the Episcopal youth group in my community, we had the pleasure of having the Very Reverend Miguelina Howell come to speak to us. Rev. Howell currently serves as the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut, and when she was installed in early 2016 she became the first Hispanic woman to be elected dean of an Episcopal church in the United States. In addition to the short PowerPoint presentation she prepared, Reverend Howell spoke about her experience growing up in the Dominican Republic as well as preaching there and in the US. She told stories about her parents, and spoke very affectionately of her father, who was not formally educated but insisted upon education for his children. She talked about a camp that helps serve the youth of Santo Domingo, which seemed very similar to the church camp that I attend except that it operates year-round, helping better the lives of children who are often very poor and disadvantaged. I admired that she has done so much great work in the country where she grew up, but followed what she felt was her call to serve in the United States. It often takes a great deal of bravery to recognize exactly what our individual call to serve might be, and it requires even more courage to follow it, but great people like Reverend Howell have shown me that it can be done.

After the conference had ended, my dean gave a sermon that tied in the theme of the conference, which focused on the perseverance of faith in times of loss and hope. Cathedrals, he said, are different from regular churches because they are at the heart of the community, both in terms of location and involvement in the lives of the people whom they serve, and the Cathedral of St. Paul is involved in its community through varied efforts such as food pantry, outreach dinners, and special events such as the conference. Christianity, cathedrals, my community and similar communities across the country—each of these has experienced its own form of loss, from declining attendance to declining populations to financial uncertainty. Change is evident in every facet of life, and occasions like this conference give us a multitude of reasons to be hopeful; they show us that our work is appreciated, worth continuing, and far from finished.

Nina Palattella, The Cathedral of St. Paul

‘Waiting’ by Nina Palattella

tulips-175600_640     Hello there and welcome to my sixth blog post! After a long period of textbook winter weather, the last few days have been spring-like, and I have been trying my best to find time to enjoy it. I am also looking forward to the mini-mission trip that my youth group has planned for this weekend; we are traveling to Warren to spend a couple of days with the youth and congregation of the Episcopal church down there and assist them with whatever things we can help them accomplish.

Both liturgically and generally speaking, this time of year seems to be a time of constant waiting. Many of us in colder climates are waiting for the winter to taper off, and students across the country are waiting for spring break to commence, which will be the first substantial reprieve from school since Christmas. In church, Christians are observing (and in some aspects, suffering through) the season of Lent, which represents the anticipation of Jesus’ crucifixion and the celebration of Easter.

books-1012088_640  Since as early as the beginning of this school year, I and my fellow seniors in high school have endured an additional kind of waiting: we have been waiting to receive decisions from the colleges and universities to which we applied. The high school which I attend requires all of its seniors to apply and be accepted to a four-year college or university to graduate, so all of us have shared in this waiting to a certain extent. Some of my classmates have already been relieved of their burden: I have friends who have already made their unofficial selections and a few who have already made their deposits for the school of their choosing. For me personally, however, the end still seems very far off. I applied to a total of twelve schools, and of those twelve, I have received decisions from only half of them. I finished all of my applications by late November, so the length of time between then and now seems like eternity. “National Decision Day”, which is considered to be the deadline for students to pledge their attendance to most institutions, and especially the more competitive ones, is less than two months away, so I hope to receive my remaining letters as soon as possible. At the time which I am writing this post, I will actually receive the decision for one of my top choice schools tomorrow afternoon. The dates which I have been made aware of for a few others are not until later this month or stretching into early April, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for me to make the most important decision of my life so far. I have become quite accustomed to responding to the question, “So where are you going to end up next year?” with “I have absolutely no clue.”

This past Sunday was Mothering Sunday in my church, and for that occasion the Gospel that was read was the parable of the Prodigal Son. In short, the parable describes a father who has two sons, the younger of which prematurely asks for his share of the inheritance he and his brother are expected to receive. Said son then goes off and spends all of the money doing what the Bible might as well describe as “serious shenanigans.” Broke and disgraced, he returns to his father to ask for a job so he can have food, but the father welcomes him with open arms and an awesome celebration. When the older son expresses a certain degree of anger and jealousy, because he has never disobeyed his father and also has never had a party held in his honor, the father assures the older son that he appreciates his son and has every bit of his respect, but he has to acknowledge his younger son’s miraculous return to him, because, despite his mistakes and shenanigans, the father still loves his son.

silhouette-1082129_640    Most everyone who is aware of Christianity in some way is aware of this story. It is one of my personal favorites, not only because it is so ubiquitous but also because it is one of the easiest to grasp the meaning of. But this Sunday, in his sermon, the Dean of my church gave me another perspective to consider. He said something like, “Each of us has a general idea of who we are in this story, but we have been or will be each of the different characters at some point in our lives.” In a few months, I will have to change how I think of myself in at least one major way, from high school student to college student. I am determined not to let the results of my remaining applications change my view of myself from anything other than a smart, dedicated human being.

The father of the Prodigal Son is waiting for his son to return to him. Jesus is waiting for his death, and Christians wait for Him to rise again. In time, these things will happen, but before they do, we just might have to wait.

‘Enamored With India’ by Nina Palattella

Welcome to the new series where we will hear from Nina Palattella about her experience as a Christian in her senior year of High School.  Nina will write a blog post about once a month over the course of the school year. This is her fifth installment.  Click here to see the others.

316 Hello there and welcome to my fifth blog post! I hope that you all are staying warm and safe. I have now entered into the second semester of my senior year of high school, which is both exciting (that’s so little time!) and excruciating (just get me out of here!) With all of the news coverage about the cold temperatures and heavy snowfall in places, it seems hard to believe that, at about this time last year, I was experiencing drastically different weather as well as a radically different way of life—I was in the midst of a trip to the state of Kerala, India, with my family and eight other parishioners from The Cathedral of St. Paul. That trip was a life-changing experience like no other and the subject of this blog post.

I enjoy traveling, but before this trip I had never visited another continent, let alone a country as seemingly other-worldly as India. I was wary due to the preventative medicines my family had to take for foreign ailments such as dengue fever and malaria, and I was also unsettled by the knowledge that I would have to be alert about things that all my life I had taken for granted—such as not drinking the water and not eating the fruit. The journey to our destination consisted of three flights totaling approximately 20 hours with layovers in three different countries, and, combined with the time difference of plus ten-and-a-half hours, it took almost two days for us to actually get to India. Our trip officially started when we were picked up at the Cochin International Airport, a busy place even at three-thirty in the morning, and taken to a “refreshment center,” which, despite its designation, defied all western expectations of refreshment. It was a small house adjacent to the travel agency office, occupied by a family and possibly other travelers. Though my brother and I were exhausted—I would be awake for forty hours straight—our mother instructed us to keep our shoes on when we laid down on the bed, so sleep was impossible. At one point during our short but hazy stay, a woman walked around and appeared to be counting all of us; we learned that she was determining the number of guests for whom she needed to make food.

389 Despite the frightening introduction, I quickly became enamored with India and all its eccentricities. I took pictures of practically everything I encountered, from a goat that I saw standing in the middle of the street to a tree made of Communist flags, crowned on top with a golden hammer and sickle. I consider myself a fairly adventurous eater and tried many new cuisines, including idli, a Southern Indian dish of rice patties that I ate every day for breakfast and still long for every now and then; however, I was equally delighted to encounter the familiar macaroni and cheese on the menu of a restaurant recommended to our group by our driver, a citizen of the region, who served not just as transportation but also as a saving grace in more than one instance. We visited the Eravikulam National Park and encountered the Nilgiri tahr, an endangered species of sheep whose population is limited to certain areas of the southwestern Ghat Mountains. The dean of my church and his wife, 147who had visited India and this park before, said that they had seen only a few of these animals from a distance on their previous trip, but they walked among us freely. I rode an elephant and hiked to a tea plantation, one of many near our resort in the beautiful mountain city of Munnar. I learned that, in an unfamiliar place, even the mundane activities become exciting; traveling through the city was a stressful and seemingly perilous act, and without the benefit of our driver I guarantee that I would not be here to write this post.

203            Without a doubt, the most spiritually enriching part of our journey was our visit to the St. Paul’s CSI Church of South India; as I have mentioned in previous posts, with the help of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Erie, our sister church in India was able to revitalize their church building, and on this trip we delivered to them a donation to help them build a Sunday school, which is serious business in India. Our group was greeted by a procession of musical instruments, bright colors, decorative umbrellas and a village full of parishioners, all of whom wanted to greet us and thank us for our generosity. The church building was filled with people for the service, which was spoken almost entirely in Malayalum, the predominant language of the state of Kerala. The time of our visit was also that of a local festival; after the service, we had the pleasure of staying for an additional celebration, during which I had the opportunity to drink directly from a coconut. Although I may not have been able to communicate at 206length with many of the people I met, their faith, gratitude and excitement were plainly evident, and I was overjoyed to be present in their company. This is true of people whom I encountered throughout our stay: my brother readily became friends with boys whom he met through a shared love of soccer, and strangers whom we encountered at different places we visited wanted to ask us our names, where we were from, and possibly even invite us to take photos with them. It was their welcoming attitude that made a foreign place seem not so much different than any other place I could call home.

Nina Palattella

india

‘Go Forth In The World’ by Nina Palattella

Welcome to a new series where we will hear from Nina Palattella about her experience as a Christian in her senior year of High School.  Nina will write a blog post about once a month over the course of the school year. This is her fourth installment.  Click here to see the others.

Hello and welcome to my fourth blog post! I hope that everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday season. I spent a good amount of time with my family, both those who live in my city and those who have traveled in for the occasion.

For this post, I wanted to explore an aspect of life that is central to the Christian faith and often emphasized throughout the holiday season for all: charitable giving and volunteering. Whether in terms of volunteer work, financial donations made directly to the church, or the donation of one’s time and resources to help another person, charitable giving is a cornerstone of the Christian tradition, as well as in other religions. The amount which it is considered appropriate to tithe is widely debated; a quick Google search of the subject retrieves almost three hundred thousand results, each presumably with their own suggestions. One such suggestion I can recall being tossed around over the years is that each member of the church should donate ten percent of his or her income, but there are many cases when ten percent would be asking far too much, and others in which the same amount seems insignificant. I’ve matured considerably both as a person and as a Christian since I was first introduced to this hypothesis, and sometimes I can’t help but wonder how Jesus might have imagined his teachings as they apply to modern economics.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 4.13.37 PMI have recently had two personal experiences with charitable giving at work: in late November, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Erie City Mission with my youth group, The Vine. According to its website (www.eriecitymission.org), the organization is one of 275 nationally associated “Gospel Rescue Missions;” unlike government entities, rescue missions can attend to local needs without requiring a community-wide consensus to do their work. I had a general idea of the help the City Mission provided in the community—I knew that they hosted community dinners, I was aware that they offered temporary shelter for those in need—but until this visit I woefully underestimated the scope of their programs and the commitment they require. Not including the meals that are provided to program participants, the website states that the organization provides “3 meals [a day], 363 days of the year, to more than 151,000 women, children, and men.” Our group was taken through one of the dormitories for the emergency men’s shelter—it was sparse, but astonishingly clean, thanks to the meticulous laundry and hygiene regiments that are demanded of the individuals who stay there. The shelter can house up to 56 men for a maximum of 60 nights per person; if, 30 days after the original 60 days ended, a former resident is still in need of shelter, he may reapply for an extended stay. I had not known about this policy, and the generosity of it struck me. In addition, the organization has rehabilitation programs that range in length from eight months to one year, with emphasis on spirituality, overcoming addiction, and becoming reconnected to the community. The City Mission has several campuses in and around the city that offer ministries for children and women as well, which are in high demand but shorter supply around the city. Learning about the extent of the City Mission’s efforts made me realize that, in order to better a community, it takes the effort of the entire community.

Because I am off of school and he is home from college, my brother and I were able to volunteer at my church’s food pantry distribution. This distribution happens on one morning every week; it is usually on Friday, but because of the New Year, this past week it was changed to Tuesday. The regular volunteers told us that they had been distributing an average of 90 bags in recent weeks, and they told us that they were predicting an attendance of at least eighty for this week. Before the distribution started, I assisted in dividing fifty pounds of individually wrapped candy bars into bags of ten, and then I was assigned to a table where I was charged with handing out said candy, as well as jars of peanut butter and boxes of raisins. By the time my brother and I left almost two hours later, we had served only forty-five clients. However, just because our efforts directly benefitted fewer people than in the past doesn’t mean that they were wasted; every person whom we served was kind and polite; many of them thanked us and enthusiastically wished the volunteers and other patrons a happy holiday. I saw a connection between this experience and my thoughts on donations described at the beginning of this post—I believe that the number of people you help matters less than your effort to do so. Jesus calls his followers to “go forth in the world” and make a difference in His name, and if we are trying our best to heed his words, then I think that we will find ourselves on a path that He would find acceptable.

Nina Palattella

‘Balance’ by Nina Palattella

Welcome to a new series where we will hear from Nina Palattella about her experience as a Christian in her senior year of High School.  Nina will write a blog post about once a month over the course of the school year. This is her third installment.  Click here to see the others.

Hello there and thank you for coming back for my third blog post! I have been enjoying the beginning of my break from school for Thanksgiving, and I hope that the unofficial beginning of the winter holiday season has been kind to all the readers out there. I am still entrenched in schoolwork and preparations for my quickly approaching future. I have been accepted to three of the schools to which I have applied, and even received my scholarship offer for one, should I choose to attend that school; I have two applications still left to complete, and four more currently awaiting a decision. This past weekend I attended a musical production at an area high school, spent a night with my close friends, performed at my high school’s open house as a member of the Vocal Jazz ensemble, and went on a tour of the Erie City Mission with my youth group, which I plan to describe in more detail as a part of my next blog post.

Now that I’ve written all that out, it seems like a lot. I did have a lot of activity going on that weekend, but to say that it was abnormally busy would be stretching the truth. The same can be said of the vast majority of my friends and peers at my high school, who supplement their already challenging academic workloads with extracurriculars such as sports, theater, music, and community or religious service activities. Though the topic of this post is particularly relevant to teens and youth, especially in stacking-669065_1280the midst of the ever-hectic holiday season, I think that is relevant to all ages: describing my ongoing quest to create a balanced life in an often unbalanced world.

The search for balance is a constant topic of discussion on social levels ranging from international to interpersonal to explicitly personal: the balance of a particular country’s involvement in the affairs of others; work-life balance; for many students, it can mean finding a balance between school and additional activities that allows them to complete all their assignments while still making time for jobs, friends, and the things in life that they enjoy. Finding the “perfect” balance would mean being able to realistically achieve these goals without having to feel stressed or worried about whether they would get done. If such a perfect balance exists, I am sad to report that I have yet to find it, and unfortunately, I know few people who might say that they have, either.

One of the most useful pieces of advice concerning this subject came from my father; I think he may have first said it to me while I was in middle school, but it has only become more relevant as I’ve gotten older. I was fretting about the amount of work I had to complete for school the next day; I wanted everything to be done perfectly even at that age, and on that particular day I was worried that my standard of perfection wasn’t going to be attainable. My father, in his often understated wisdom, said to me something along the lines of: “You have to realize that there are the things that you have to do well, and the things that you just need to get done.”

There is only so much time in each day in which to do all the things I need to do or that I feel I need to do, and to be able to complete them all—not even thinking of their quality—requires some serious budgeting of time. And, as always, in addition to the necessities that feel like chores—school, homework, college application essays, cleaning the bathrooms every weekend, and such—there are other personal necessities to be attended to, such as finding the time to hang out with friends, practice my guitar, read a novel, or write a short story. My break from school for Thanksgiving seemed like the perfect opportunity to catch up on all of these (as well as sleep) with less interruption than usual. What I didn’t factor in, however, was that the holiday offered its own set of distractions; my brother came home from college, so I’ve been spending more time with him, as well as with both my immediate and extended family. I attended a church service with my father on Thanksgiving morning and was privileged to be in the company of members of our regular congregation as well as several visiting clergy. My mother and I ventured to the mall to unofficially begin our Christmas shopping. I didn’t plan for any of these activities to interrupt my usual schedule, but I don’t regret spending the time it took to do any of them.

I think that is the most important lesson I’ve learned in my ongoing effort to balance my life: the perfect balance looks different for every day of the year. Some days are harder to get through than others, when everything I do feels like work; others feel like a relief, when the most pressing thing I have to do is enjoy the company of the people around me. Thankfully, most days have at least a little bit of both, and if that’s the best shot at “balance” that I have right now, then I’ll take it.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post and maybe even received a bit of helpful advice; feel free to leave any comments below and enjoy the start of the winter season!

Nina Palattella

“Youth Group and Christian Outreach” by Nina Palattella

Welcome to a new series where we will hear from Nina Palattella about her experience as a Christian in her senior year of High School.  Nina will write a blog post about once a month over the course of the school year. This is her second installment.  Click here to see the first one.

Hello again and thank you for joining me for my second blog post! I hope you have all had a swell month. My time has been occupied by the beginnings of college applications and lots of essays as my senior year of high school has progressed in full force. In addition to the new school year, the arrival of the fall season also brings a new year for my youth group, which led me to the idea to make this post about Christian outreach. I would suggest that any teens and youth in the audience especially stick around for this one—make yourself comfortable and stay a while!

11954753_482870405213312_9168523237462758084_nWhen I was younger, I participated in youth programs that were specific to my church, such as Sunday school and Rite 13, our small teen fellowship group; last year, program leaders from three churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania in my area, including my own, banded together with the idea to combine the youth groups from the three churches into one “Episcopal community for youth” known as The Vine; the group takes its name from a verse in the Gospel—“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 5:15). Anyone from those churches (and any friends who are invited and always welcome to join) in middle school through twelfth grade can participate in the group’s biweekly meetings that may include mission trips, fun outings or overnight gatherings.

While the three congregations mentioned above constitute the roots of the group (pun somewhat intended), other churches in the diocese have helped the group and our mission, whether by spending time with our group, hosting us in their parishes, or simply by expressing their support, and with their help the impact that our work 11081471_421588111341542_4785778058643413919_ncan have reaches far beyond the limits of our central congregations. This past March, the Vine took a “mini-mission” trip to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Brookville, PA. I had never visited the small parish before, and I was stunned by the beauty of the church building; the wood in the church’s interior needed some restoration, and after the volunteers from Erie exchanged greetings with the members of Holy Trinity who would be joining us for the morning, we began our task, armed with buckets of polish and rags with which to do our work. It was nice to have a job that gave some degree of instant gratification—after a few minutes of polishing, the walls, pews and altars had a shiny, richer color; they felt smoother and better equipped to endure decades of more worship. Once we had completed our labor, we were given a tour of the surrounding small town, and took part in a variety of activities, including a short late-night worship service and a movie. The next morning, the approximately twenty members of The Vine joined the regular Sunday congregation at Brookville for a spirited worship service led by Rev. Melinda Hall, a great preacher and friend whom I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know for the past few years at summer camp.

11406955_850522778357978_5965102601537077651_nSpeaking of summer camp, this is a great time to mention that, while youth groups are likely the most common way that young people can get involved in their church and its ministry, they are by no means the only way. Each summer, I attend an overnight camp for Episcopal youth who have completed grades two through twelve, the majority of whom are from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Throughout the week, campers participate in many religious activities, such as daily Eucharist, program sessions based on that day’s Gospel lesson, and a Taizé service; in addition, the camp offers a variety of activities that are just plain fun, like hiking, crafts, 4 Square, and night swims (which is just about the coolest thing you could possibly imagine when you’re ten years old). It’s an excellent place where kids can get to know their religion, teens can explore how their personal faith is important to them, and everyone gets to build a community with each other that will remain after the week has ended.

Though not every church may possess these opportunities exactly, each church has something to offer in terms of outreach, whether that means volunteering at community dinners or food pantries, handing out bulletins before the service, or simply getting to know some of the people whom you see every Sunday—but it doesn’t have to stop there or be just that. I’ve learned from the experiences described above and others that some of the best Christian outreach happens outside of the typical places like churches or even youth groups. It can be as simple as helping someone through a difficulty in their life or spending time with the people whom you care about. There are an infinite number of ways to be kind, and as Christians (and as people) that is what we are most called to do.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post; please leave any questions or comments below!

Nina Palattella,

What it Feels Like to be a Christian in High School

Welcome to a new series where we will hear from Nina Palattella about her experience as a Christian in her senior year of High School.  Nina will write a blog post about once a month over the course of the school year.

Nina reading during a service at summer camp this year.

Nina reading during a service at summer camp this year.

Hello there, and welcome to my first blog post! My name is Nina, and I am a freshly minted senior at Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy in Erie. I have an older brother, two dogs, and my hobbies include writing fiction; singing, both in a vocal jazz ensemble at my school and solo, and playing the electric guitar. In addition, I am a Christian; my family and I have belonged to the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul, also in Erie, since I was about four years old. I cannot vouch for this personally because I was so young, my parents have said that everyone in the congregation was so welcoming and pleased that they were there, and that made a lasting impression on them and influenced their decision to begin regularly attending the church.

Since the beginning, there have been so many ways to get involved within the church and the Episcopal community at large, and I have been fortunate enough to participate in a few of them. I was formally involved in the Cathedral of St. Paul’s Children’s Choir for more than a decade, and I still sing with the regular choir occasionally on Sunday mornings. I participate in services as an usher, reader, and I am a licensed Eucharistic minister; my father has served on the church’s board, both as senior and junior warden, for many years, and there have been many Sundays where I spent the entire morning and even some of the afternoon hanging out at church. I have volunteered at community dinners, helped the dedicated food pantry pack bags for people in need in our community, and decorated lamb cakes for the Easter Vigil service. I’ve gone to summer camps, taken part in mission trips to assist other congregations and shared side-splitting moments of hilarity and fellowship with other Christian kids and adult volunteers as part of the Episcopal community for youth known as The Vine. This past January, my mother, father, brother and I, along with eight other members of our congregation, took a trip to India to visit a church that we had helped build, which was a life-changing experience that I hope to discuss in future blog posts.

When I was originally approached with the idea of writing this blog, the proposed topic was what it feels like to be a Christian in high school. As I’m sure you’ve gathered thus far, being part of the Episcopal Church has had a *huge* impact on my life, and I think I can say that with comfortably little exaggeration. As I’ve gotten older, it hasn’t always been easy to stay involved in the church, particularly because of my school, which is well known for its demanding and challenging curriculum. There are Sundays when I skip going to church because I have too much homework, or because I’m too tired from everything that I’ve had to do that week; when I do want to or have to go to church, I often have to plan my day around how I’m going to make up for those lost hours of work later in the day. I know many people, including some of my friends, who are skeptical of the faith they once had, some who seem to think that they currently don’t have the time to fit it into their lives, and some who have abandoned it altogether. Because I attend a public high school, religion isn’t a part of the daily lessons, and more often than not I can easily go days without hearing religion mentioned or talking about it in a meaningful context. I don’t hide my faith; I wear a cross necklace that was given to me by my parents the night of my confirmation a few years ago, and if anyone were to ask me about religion I would have no problem telling them that I am a Christian, and I like to think that I would make the other person feel secure in their own beliefs (or lack thereof) while still letting them know that they would be welcome to visit my church anytime. However, I don’t think I have a knack for promoting it or talking about it with relative strangers unless I am prompted by something else. One of my friends from middle school (who has since moved to a different town in Pennsylvania) possessed that skill, and I would marvel how easily she could make friends with someone and talk to them in a completely natural manner about how influential Christianity is in her life. The best strategy that I’ve been able to come up with so far is to not hide my identity and let the people who are interested know how Christianity has benefitted me if and when the subject comes up.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post, and if you have any questions or comments feel free to post them in the comment section below. Thanks and have a great day!