Camper to Counselor: Stephanie Onyeiwu

Diocesan Summer Camp is now in full swing for 2017! We’ve already heard from counselor Henry Palattella about his experience moving from being a camper to a counselor, and this week we’d like to introduce new counselor Stephanie Onyeiwu:

“My name is Stephanie Onyeiwu and I attended Camp Nazareth as a camper since I was in 6th grade. I heard about it from Christ Church, in my hometown of Meadville. I graduated last year, and I am now entering my second year in college. I love children, I enjoy spreading the word of God on mission trips, and doing volunteer work. I am most looking forward to helping these kids grow into the best version of themselves. Apart from volunteer work, I enjoy singing, playing the piano, and attending camp – of course! I am eager to see all the new faces I will meet this year, and can’t wait to see what the week will bring! This year will be my first year on staff, and I am interested to compare the week to my prior experience as a camper. I am not really nervous about anything, but mostly excited and blessed to have another camp experience!”

We’ll follow up with Stephanie after camp week to see what she has learned, and how being a counselor allows her to experience God and share His message with others in a new way. Please keep all the campers and counselors in your prayers this week, and watch the diocesan Facebook page for camp updates!

From Camper to Counselor

I served as a camp counselor at Camp Nazareth this past summer, and it was an experience like no other. Now, I am not a newbie to Camp Nazareth, as I had attended it the past 11 years as a camper, making countless memories. But this summer was a whole new experience.

The first new experience that I gathered during the week was the method of getting there. Ever since I was in middle school I was always envious of the older kids who could drive themselves to camp, which led to me telling myself that that would one day be me. Well, the day of camp I packed my sister (who is now a freshman in college) and myself into the 2006 Dodge Vibe I had over the summer, and away we went. The changes in my duties were evident as soon as I got there. When I was a camper I could afford to be aloof for most of the week, focusing only the task at hand. That isn’t the case for counselors, however, as not only did we have to focus on planning on the tasks, but we also were in change of keeping track of our campers, which for me meant a group of energetic 2nd-5th graders.

The change was evident from the start, as I had to wake up early to wake up the campers (which was very tough, I enjoy my sleep). I was also introduced to the task of planning events very quickly, as I spent most of the morning on the first day helping Melinda (the kids’ camp leader) plan the day. During the afternoon on the first day was when I truly felt like a counselor, however, as I got to sit back and enjoy the madness of the all-camp activity as an observer, which I didn’t mind at all.

The week overall was one that was filled with new experiences along with new twists on old ones. It was really cool to see an event that I helped plan not only go off without a hitch, but also to see people enjoy doing it. This doesn’t mean that I was an observer in everything, however, as I was still able to participate in the annual Frisbee game (which my team won) and I also helped lead the Counselors to a win in the camper vs. counselor volleyball game, something that I’m very proud of.

Probably one of the toughest transitions that I had to make was the actual transition from camper to counselor. Going straight from camper to counselor meant that a lot of my close friends were still campers, so sometimes it was tempting to go hang out with them, since I had been doing so for most of my time at camp. But luckily, I was busy enough to not have that be a focus.

I hadn’t had any real big contact with kids’ camp in close to 10 years, so everything that I did as a counselor was still relatively new to me. While some of the stuff that we did in teen camp was some variations of what kids’ camp did, it wasn’t the same, so I had some new experiences just like the campers.

Overall, being a counselor was a great experience, and one that I’m honored to do again this year. It not only taught me a lot about camp, but also a lot about myself.

Henry Palattella is a sophomore at Kent State University and a member of the Cathedral of St. Paul. 

This year’s Diocesan Summer Camp runs from June 11-17. You can learn more about camp and register for this year by visiting the new camp website, http://www.dionwpacamp.org.

Diocesan Summer Camp 2017 – Go!

Whether you like to swim or play basketball, read or do crafts, challenge yourself on the high ropes, or just be with new and old friends, Diocesan Summer Camp has something for everyone!

This year’s camp is June 11th through 17th, and the theme is “Go!”  Be challenged on the ropes course, camp1learn a little Tae Kwon Do, do some acting, worship together, explore nature, play sports, splash in the pool, make art and much, much more. Come and have a great time making new friends, seeing old friends, interacting with caring counselors, enjoying dynamic worship and of course having a lot of fun!

The cost per camper is $345. Scholarships are available: please contact Dennis Blauser at 724-699-3747 or frdenny@earthlink.net.

Gold Medal Ministry – the VBS Olympics

Creating a Vacation Bible School from scratch may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it! It is an opportunity to flex my creative muscles and work with some pretty fantastic people. It was only a few years ago that I was introduced to the idea of creating my own VBS by Pr. Joie Baker while working with the churches in Sharon and Hermitage. There has been no looking back.

In my last four summers with St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Fairview, our VBS participants have been superheroes, spies, sailors, and Olympians. This being an Olympic summer, it only made sense to link this great DSC_9851world-wide tradition with stories from the Bible. Using the values of the Olympics and Paralympics – friendship, respect, equality, courage, inspiration, excellence, and determination –  each day we explored them within the stories of Ruth and Naomi, the Good Samaritan, David and Goliath, Nehemiah, and the Parable of the Lost Sheep. The themes are highlighted in a rotation of daily activities: music, science/art, storytelling/snack, and games. We keep our VBSers and volunteers busy the entire two and a half hours they are here.

It is quite amazing to see God at work in this ministry over the last few years, guiding us in steady growth. In 2013,DSC_0368 we hosted 27 children and about 13 volunteers. This summer, we hosted 55 children and had 27 volunteers! It is
hard to find the words to express the amazing community that continues to be built around this ministry. We see many of the same families, as well as meet new ones, and it is so much fun to watch the children grow from year to year.

I will be honest, as I really started thinking about VBS back in April, my biggest concern was not having enough volunteers for the number of children that I anticipated. It is all well and good to have an influx of children, but you absolutely need the adults to match it. I was overwhelmed by the response to my plea for volunteers from around our St. Stephen’s community. We had members of the church, Nursery School teachers, parents, grandparents, and teens offer to share their gifts with us for the week.  It was a comfort to know that we could handle a significant amount of kids in a fun and safe environment.

DSC_0039Volunteers are the heart of this ministry and, I believe, are the reason for our success. Ministries within the church are about lifting up and sharing the gifts that God has given us for continual building of the Kingdom, which is something that I strive to do within a VBS program. Being able to mold your program to the strengths of the volunteers is one of the benefits of creating your own program. The volunteers have just as much fun as the children who participate. And in the end, VBS is truly a team effort.

While much of our program remains the same, we are constantly evaluating it and finding ways to improve. One of the things that I am already thinking about for next summer is how to accommodate further growth. There is always something to adjust from year to year, but that is part of the fun!

Vacation Bible School is a great ministry that all churches can offer. It is a DSC_9741wonderful way to engage both the church and the wider community. It also brings a wide range of ages together to learn and share with each other about the love of Christ. As I said before, I love Vacation Bible School. It is an important and worthwhile ministry that I am always happy to talk about and share with others.

Missy Greene Christian Formation Associate at St. Stephen’s, Fairview

The Vine’s Winter/Spring Schedule Is Out

The Vine is a community for youth in 6th-12th grade and a collaborative ministry of the Episcopal churches in Erie County. The Vine will meet twice a month for dinner, conversation, activities, and prayer. Service, outreach, and mission will also be incorporated during the year, as well as overnights and social events.

11954753_482870405213312_9168523237462758084_n

WINTER/SPRING 2016 Schedule

Meeting:     Sunday, January 10 from 4:30 – 6 pm at the Cathedral

Meeting:     Sunday, January 24 from 4:30 – 6 pm at St. Mark’s Church

Meeting:     Sunday, February 7 from 4:30 – 6 pm at St. Stephen’s Church

Cooking Outreach Dinner:     Saturday, February 20 from 10 am – ? at the Cathedral We’ll be chopping, mixing, baking, making a mess.

Serving Outreach Dinner:     Sunday, February 21 from 2:30 pm – 6 pm at the Cathedral We’ll be serving up some grub. Come ready to work.

Mini-Mission Trip:     *6th grade – 12th grade only* Saturday, March 12 (probably around 10 am) thru Sunday March 13 (maybe 3 pm)
More info on this soon.

Meeting:     Sunday, April 10 from 4:30 – 6 pm at the Cathedral

Meeting:     Sunday, April 24 from 4:30 – 6 pm at St. Mark’s Church

Something Fun:      Saturday, May 7 (probably around 6 pm – 8 pm)

Meeting:      Sunday, May 22 from 4:30 – 6 pm (not sure where)

 

For heaven’s sake, do this now:
Are you getting the e-news? Contact AJ Noyes (ajcnoyes@gmail.com)

Did you like us on Facebook?
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  • Subscribe by texting @747ff to 81010.
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Missy Greene: missygreene85@gmail.com 814.323.2434

AJ Noyes: ajcnoyes@gmail.com 814.440.2618

Craig Dressler: cdressler@saintmarkserie.org 814.490.5062

‘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,

“God’s Kids” – An Example of ‘One Church’ in Action

11231020_865488753529781_5278205703980367648_nJesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” (Matthew 19:14) In that spirit, many churches in Fairview are joining together to bring the children of Fairview Elementary to Jesus. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Fairview Presbyterian Church, Fairview Methodist Church and St. James Lutheran Church have partnered to start a God’s Club.  They will take turns meeting with first and second graders after school once a week starting in October. The group is excited for this opportunity to do God’s work in the school. The idea originated with Julia Pelligrino, the principal’s secretary. Dr. Ben Horn, the principal, supports the idea completely.

The selected curriculum is “Duck Kingdom” from Children’s Ministry Deals. The goal is to teach children how to love others. Each week has a special duck theme that will help children learn a new Bible lesson about loving others. Each lesson includes a parent sheet, memory verse, skit, object lesson or children’s sermon, small group discussion, and a large group game. Each week will start with a snack and singing. The club will be called “God’s Kids”.

The first session will start in early October and run for 9 weeks. The second session will start in the new year. There are plans to expand to include third and fourth graders. The team is excited to be bringing the children to know and understand Jesus.

M.J. Radock, member St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Fairview, PA

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!

The Vine’s Fall Schedule is out

The Vine is a community for youth in 6th-12th grade and a collaborative ministry of the Episcopal churches in Erie County. The Vine will meet twice a month for dinner, conversation, activities, and prayer. Service, outreach, and mission will also be incorporated during the year, as well as overnights and social events.

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HEY!

Summer is over and it’s time to get ready for a new year with THE VINE. Are you ready?

What has not changed:

We are still meeting on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month. We are still fabulous.

What has changed:


We will now be meeting from 4:30 pm – 6 pm
We will not serve dinner,  but we will give you snacks

HERE’S THE FALL SCHEDULE (or, at least what we can tell you so far)

MEETING:

Sunday, September 13 from 4:30 – 6 pm at St. Mark’s Church

CROP WALK:


Sunday, September 27 at 12:45 pm
That’s right. We’re walking. If you’d like to participate, please contact AJ (440-2618) for information and a donation envelope.

ASBURY WOODS:


Sunday, October 11 from 4:30 – 6 pm
Meet at the playground parking lot. There will be some minor hiking and some major spirituality.

TRIP!!


Friday, October 23 at 6 pm – Saturday, October 24 at about 3:30 pm
Meet at St. Mark’s Church parking lot. Eat dinner before you arrive. Cost $15. per person.
We’ll be sleeping at Church of the Redeemer in Hermitage and going to the Coolspring Corn Maze on Saturday morning. It’ll be a fun Halloweenyoctoberpumpkinfun kind of thing.

DIOCESAN CONVENTION

will take place on Friday, November 6 and Saturday, November 7 here in Erie at the Cathedral. There WILL be a large VINE contingent attending. More info to come.
No Meeting on Sunday, November 8.

TOUR OF THE ERIE CITY MISSION:


Sunday, November 22 from 4:30 – 6 pm.
Meet at the Cathedral, then we’ll all head over together.
** Parents, friends, siblings are all encouraged to come with us.

MEETING:


Sunday, December 13 from 4:30 – 6 pm at St. Stephen’s Church

________________________

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Call with questions.

AJ Noyes: ajcnoyes@gmail.com814.440.2618

Craig Dressler: cdressler@saintmarkserie.org 814.490.5062

Missy Greene: missygreene85@gmail.com 814.323.2434

Read More about the Vine here