St. James’ Youth Group (known as the Episcopal Youth Community or EYC) involves all youth in the 6th – 12th grades. Youth are invited to participate in 6th Grade Confirmation, Jr. & Sr. High Sunday School, Wednesday Nights, events & trips. St. James’ youth group is a part of the Diocese of Mississippi, and all youth are invited to participate in the Diocesan Youth Programming.  We believe everyone belongs and everyone is needed.

All youth and all friends are always invited to participate in St. James’ Youth Group. The Youth Wing (located on the back side of the campus) is open for youth to relax, study, worship and learn. If the doors are open, the youth are welcome. We hope you will make a home as part of the St. James’ Youth Group where you are free to grow, to discover God, to discover your self worth, to take risks, to take chances, to begin again, and ultimately to develop the strength to hold your faith in Christ our Lord. As we said above, we believe St. James’ is a place where you belong and where you are needed.

Congratulations to our Senior Class!

8:40 Service –

Gillian Raley’s Youth Sunday Sermon

Good morning everyone! My name’s Gillian, if you don’t know me.

I’ve always loved the sound of nighttime in Mississippi — I can’t think of anything quite like it. There’s a certain promise and magic dancing alongside the rhythm of the cicadas, and you can believe anything you want about how the dark branches of the trees will actually look when the daylight returns. The whole world feels all at once empty and incomprehensibly whole. When I was younger, I’d spend many a summer night outside, sometimes lying down on the warm, tickling grass, listening to the familiar hum of the night. I would get this fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach, and all of a sudden it was easy to trust that every sorrow, ache, and trouble would eventually melt away.

Speaking of troubles, I’ve had a few. One of the big ones was — you guessed it — growing up. In middle school, I was one of those kids that set up a pretty neat life plan for herself. I secretly (or not so secretly) hoped that everything would turn out for me just like it did for Gabriella Montez in High School Musical. I would be the star student, pick out the perfect boyfriend, get into an amazing college, and have a fabulous singing voice, on top of it all. Seventh grade came around, and it looked like all of my dreams were falling into place. That is, until that one fateful night I learned I’d be moving across the globe, away from all those dreams, for an entire year. I wasn’t devastated at first, actually. To my seventh-grade-self, this seemed like nothing more than a cool opportunity to be different — I liked the idea of my identity becoming “that girl who lived abroad.” Eighth-grade-me, however, was in for a rude awakening. Away from the comfort of my friends since preschool and the life I’d grown up living, I was all-at-once forced to be Gillian, a girl I didn’t quite know. You see, as a child, I was allowed to function on auto-pilot, because every action I took, good or bad, could easily be brushed away by the phrase “oh, she’s just a kid.” But now, I was in a new country, a new city, a new school, surrounded by new people, and they wanted to know who Gillian was — so all of a sudden, I had to figure that out too.

It was at this point that I became in awe of the world around me, but unsure of my place within it. Since our excursion was funded by the Fulbright program, I had the opportunity to meet the other fantastic adults of all ages brought by the same organization, and they seemed to have their whole lives put together. Being a well-meaning perfectionist, it was a given that I would hold myself to the same standard of self-assurance. I had always been told, “If you know who you are and you know what you want, you can accomplish anything.”

Day by day, though, it became clearer how little I knew about my true identity. In the culture that surrounded me now, everything I once relied upon to define myself was taken away or turned on its head. I couldn’t be Gabriella from High School Musical because I wasn’t Gabriella from High School Musical. I couldn’t find fulfillment in the paths that the Fulbrighters had taken because I wasn’t them and they weren’t me.

In the transition back to St. Andrew’s my freshman year, I slipped back into my default character. I was once again one of the smart, nice girls. Not too loud and not too quiet, with a decent amount of friends. It was immediately obvious to me that the mold I had left behind didn’t fit so well anymore. Thus began the frustrating journey of two or three years in which I searched frantically for ways to identify my true self and act according to her desires. These years were rocky and painful, and I very often felt as Phillip did in the Gospel from today. I wanted a sign from someone, somewhere telling me who I was supposed to be, just like he wanted Jesus to go ahead and finish up the story and show them the Father once and for all. Jesus replied to Phillip with incredulity, surprised that Phillip hadn’t realized that the Father had been right in front of him all along, within Jesus and within the world. Strangely enough, once I stopped pushing myself to define my identity as everyone else seemed to have done, I discovered that my true self had been in front of me, or within me, all along. And that true character within didn’t come from my appearances or my friends or who other people perceived me to be — instead my words, actions, and choices spoke volumes. The person I had always been, the one who has always enjoyed the sounds of the cicadas on a warm summer night, didn’t need a definition — she was just me.

As I relaxed into my innate humanness and allowed me to be me, I was finally free to see all the good I had missed along the way. I paid attention to all the beauty I had taken advantage of as a young kid, now attributing to it a deeper meaning. I spent more time participating in activities I was drawn to. One of these happened to be DOY Council, a group that spends 5 weekends out of the year organizing and running youth retreat weekends at Camp Bratton-Green. It was in that place, with those people, that I was able to truly sink into my identity. It was also in this place that I learned how huge God’s realm really is. In the first part of today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the many dwelling places of the Father. His ultimate message is that God is everywhere we look — within ourselves, within others, within all corners of the world, and there is a place for each of us within his massive dwelling. Weekends at Camp Bratton-Green were my opportunity to slow down, take a moment, and look for God. It was in looking for God that I realized I didn’t need to — he had surrounded me and lived within me all along. Not in a physical, definable sense, but in the love that was shown to me and the love I was able to show to others. He had always been there in the tickling grass and cicada rhythms of summer nights in Mississippi, and also in each new face I had ever encountered.

As I move to a completely different corner of the country in a few short months, I’m a little afraid that the defining-myself process will start all over again. But over the years I’ve also learned that all of us are only human, testing out the world together. We each have something specific within us, pushing us forward, and once we let that something take over our actions, we are truly ourselves. In my mind, that something is God.

11:05 Service –

John Chase Bryan’s Youth Sunday Sermon 

Hello everyone. I’m John Chase Bryan if any of you don’t know me, and I’ve been attending St. James for a quite a while now. When I was first asked to speak to y’all today I had two thoughts, first “oh my God my mother is going to make me do this,” and second, “What in the world am I going to talk about.”

After a few days of rumination on today’s readings I decided I basically wanted to talk about why St. James has been such a great place for me to really begin my journey into religion. So to start, I am not a person who religion is easy for. I really like things that I can find definite answers in like physics, so as fascinating as things like theology to philosophy are to me, sometimes they can be also be frustrating. In addition to liking definite answers, I also like to be right, which causes me issues from time to time as I’m sure my parents would be thrilled to testify. I think that in the twenty first century religion has become perverted in a lot of ways. When one looks out into the world today it doesn’t take much effort to find people doing stupid things in the name of Christianity. From a few churches that are literally monitored as hate groups due to their discriminatory beliefs, to televangelists preying on poor individuals by promising miracles in exchange for money, there is a lot of evil done in the name of Christ. Now I know it seems like I’m going in a weird direction, but when I look at people doing these things in the name religion, I sometimes struggle with seeing Christianity as being the right answer. But every time I step foot in this church, no matter how bothered I am by the way people are representing Christianity elsewhere, I remember exactly why it is the right answer.

One of my favorite writers, who I hope some of you are familiar with, is a man named Walker Percy. Much of his writing, which is often set in and around New Orleans, deals with a concept he calls “the search” which could be oversimplified into the existentialist concept of trying to bring meaning to life, and much as Percy did, I find religion to be an excellent way of doing so, which can be attributed to the side of religion that this church has shown me.

There are two things that really stick out to me in today’s reading from the Gospel of John that really reminded me of why this church is so great, and why religion really has been an answer to so much of my search and to so many of my questions. The first is where it reads, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” I think this message relates wonderfully to the diversity of the Episcopal Church. Out there off of Meadowbrook you can see the sign that reads, “The episcopal church welcomes you” and directs passers-by towards our congregation. So many of my concerns about christianity as a whole come from the examples when people discriminate in the name of God instead of preaching love, and I think that this reading and the sign out there work together to paint a good picture of one aspect of the Episcopal Church by really illustrating that this is a welcoming place. Some of the most amazing people I know are those who I met through this church, and there are many among them that would very likely not be accepted at other churches the way they are here. There really is a place for just about everyone in this church, and I think that is a big reason that it has been so great for me, because to me, Christianity being based on love and inclusivity makes more sense than the opposite. This church has shown me that people don’t have to discriminate in the name of religion the way that some do, and that is a big reason that is has been an answer in my search for religion.

The second portion of the gospel that interest me is the part that reads “believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” One of my biggest issues with religion today is that there are so many people who love to judge others and preach about how others need Jesus, but seem reluctant to actually help those people. In this Gospel, Jesus says that those who believe in him will do his works, meaning that they will help people. I think that in this church we do a great job of actually helping others. One of my earliest memories of an actual church service here is of Christopher Powell, who some of y’all will be seeing soon in Chicago I believe, preaching and telling a story of a trip during which he encountered a family whose car had a tire blown out. Unable to afford a new one, they were planning to drive off on three wheels. Christopher walked up to the family and said, “Our church would love to buy you a new tire.” This spirit of helping real people with real issues is a big part of what we do at St. James and is something I have enjoyed being involved in. One event that I have helped with consistently throughout the years is the rummage sale. And members of our congregation may not be giving others the clothes off of their backs, but the clothes from their closets and unused items from their homes certainly bring smiles to the faces of those who leave the sale with things that they need. Beyond the rummage sale our church obviously does tons of other work helping others. I think that this is a huge part of what churches are supposed to do, and again, is what makes this church so great. Helping others is important, and to me it is one of the best ways to make life meaningful, so this church has afforded meaning to me and countless others by presenting opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.

I wouldn’t look at the world the same way if it weren’t for the experiences I’ve had here. St. James is a special place that has meant a lot to me, and has been an answer to many of my questions. So I what I’m going to leave y’all with today is this, don’t be afraid to take on your own personal search, and look here for some of the answers, because this church community has so much to offer and really does mean a lot, to me, to most of you, and to the people we have helped. Amen

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