What is the St. Michael's Youth Conference?
On June 19-25, eight Christ Church parishioners joined other young men and women from across the diocese at Camp Crucis, 35 miles southwest of Fort Worth. For the next seven days, they were part of an "intentional community of prayer, support, and education" designed to "form young Christians to be witnesses to the world of the Saving Power of Jesus Christ." Here is what they had to share about that experience:
Brooke - Counselor:
More than just a typical “camp," St Michael’s is a youth conference focused on Christian formation. Within the rhythm of praying, praising, and reading the Scriptures throughout the day (i.e. the daily office—morning prayer, evensong, and compline), the conferees also engage in classes and discussion groups that bolster their faith and strengthen their intellect. Questions are encouraged…so much so that the faculty are there and ready to discuss it over lunch. (Meals are shared with mixed boys and girls, counselors, and faculty at each table.)
One of my favorite aspects is the deep sense of community that develops over the course of the week (or even more deeply, for those returning over the course of several years). From swim and movie nights, square dancing, and a talent show (where even the clergy participate)…to the support and encouragement for one another to purify our hearts through the sacrament of Confession, the conferees walk away with not only heightened theological knowledge, but also a deeper sense of what it is like to live in Christian community. The friends made last beyond just the course of the week.
Choosing to spend a week of summer in deep fellowship with God and the body of Christ cannot help but be transformative. It builds habits that will be engrained for a lifetime. My hope is that the Christ Church Waco community at St Michael’s will continue to grow!
Abby - Camper:
St. Michael’s is different from a typical youth camp because it focuses heavily on spiritual growth and a deeper knowledge of topics ranging from church history to the Blessed Virgin Mary to the very existence of God Himself. As Father Cantrell reminds us, we don’t attend to have fun (though we always do—there’s sports, square dancing, a talent show, and lots more!), but to grow deeper in love with Christ. Daily participation in the mass, classes led by priests, thoughtful discussion groups on relevant topics, and so much more offer cultivation of a deeper relationship with and understanding of God than can be found at a regular church camp. Personally, I return from St. Michael’s spiritually and emotionally refreshed and stronger in my walk with the Lord every year, without fail. To any youth considering signing up, I highly encourage you to do so and can almost guarantee that you will love it!
Jill - Camper:
I’ve been attending Saint Michael’s conference for four years now (at 12 yrs old, 13, 14, and 17), and I plan to go back for my fifth year next year. It is so refreshing to be in an environment full of other people that are your age, have Anglo-catholic beliefs, and are growing in the understanding of the faith alongside you. I experienced the presence of Christ through the Eucharist each day at morning mass. I learned about church history, why we do the things we do in mass, how to write a confession, how to pray to God, and so much more. I analyzed books like the Screwtape Letters and G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. There were also so many fun things, though, like square dancing, sports, choir and music, a talent show, and swimming. But most importantly, I grew in my relationship with God.
The camp setting is a holy place, and as one of the camp leaders put it, “it is because, every year, so many children come here to pray.” Everywhere you look there is someone willing to listen to you and pray with you, whether that’s a counsellor or a priest. They take your phones and any electronic devices for the week, so each day you are fully present in what you’re doing. To me it feels like a “real vacation” where I can be at peace and strive to connect with God because I have an excuse to be disconnected from the world. I have made so many amazing friendships over the years that have given me a community of people I know I can call anytime. The easiest way to put it, is that it is a week full of God’s love and so much good. I am forever grateful for my experiences there, and I hope any youth at Christ Church can go back with me next year.
Moira - Camper:
“You are not here to have fun… But you might.”
These are words every Michaelite knows. On the first evening of St. Michael’s Conference Southwest, when everyone has joyfully reunited with old friends and thrown their luggage onto their bunks, we file into St. John's Chapel and hear Father Director’s yearly speech. For the past 16 years, this speech has remained mostly the same.
I think this is a very important thing to remember when deciding to attend St. Mike’s. You shouldn't go for the typical Christian summer camp experience, because that's not what you’re going to get. You go to morning prayer and Mass every morning, then Evensong and Compline before bed. You take three classes every day, taught by the priests (and one nun). To me, it feels more like a monastic experience.
You WILL have fun though. The classes are incredibly engaging, and you learn to truly love prayers and the Mass as time goes on. The after-dinner discussion groups are often incredibly entertaining. Of course, there’s always the sports area and the pool, as well as the evening activities.
The people there are truly wonderful. I met my best friend there when I was twelve, and have made many more since then. It is a deeply positive environment. There’s an incredible outpouring of support and love there, which is why I would tell anyone they should go.
Debbie - Parent: St Michael’s conference has been a gift to our family for several years now. When we first learned about it, I wasn’t sure that it would be a fit for our kids, and, quite frankly, I was nervous about sending them off to a camp/conference where we didn’t know anyone. Will and Lauren attended first, and returned home glowing with more love for Jesus as they shared their experience of worship, discipleship, and making friends with other young people who took their faith seriously. Soon, Renee and Jill joined their siblings and experienced this same renewal. In fact, they came home each year and taught me several things about liturgy, faith, relationship with the Trinity and the saints, which humbled and blessed me. I am grateful for the ways in which the Father has used these experiences in our lives, and would be happy to visit with anyone about this conference. To learn more about St. Michael's Youth Conference Southwest, visit their website or Facebook page. Photography by a&a creative.