Connor Engage Youth Event

More than 140 young people from parishes across Connor Diocese came together for a night of praise, fellowship and fun at The Event on Saturday March 29.  Organised by Engage, the new diocesan youth council, the gathering was held in the parish hall at St Patrick’s Ballymena. The young people were accompanied by 30 youth leaders, and several clergy were also present at what proved to be a wonderful evening.

The Mark Ferguson Band provided the music and the young people raised the roof with their enthusiastic praise. Andrew Frame of the Church of Ireland Youth Department interviewed some young people on the part God plays in their lives, and the Rev Simon Genoe, Vicar at Lisburn Cathedral, gave an engaging and inspiring talk the theme of Following Jesus and Being a Disciple.

There were moving moments of quiet prayer and a chance for the young people to receive personal prayer. Around the hall were beautifully designed prayer points which invited thoughts and inspired reflection.  Of course there was lots of fun and friendship and plenty of goodies to enjoy, including oodles of pizza and a chocolate fountain.

The Rev Peter Ferguson, who is heading up Engage, said it had been a fantastic evening. “It was a team effort and we are all pulling together and in the right direction,” he said of the Engage team.
He added: “One memory was looking around and seeing so many young people fully engaged in prayer, praise and taking it all in.”

The Engage team comprises Peter, Zara Genoe from Lisburn Cathedral; Sharon Hamill, Church of the Resurrection at Queen’s University; Alistair Nelson from Portglenone and Ryan Galway, youth worker in St Patrick’s Coleraine. They are supported by Parish Development Officer Trevor Douglas, the Rev Barry Forde of Connor Vision Strategy Implementation Committee and Jill Hamilton, Connor Children’s Ministry Project Worker.

Sharon Hamill said the Event had been ‘a positive experience on many levels,’ adding that the young people had been engaging and responsive.
“Most certainly felt The Lord and his spirit upon and among us,” she said. “The message was relevant and communicated so well. Simon’s message and delivery was great. The praise was so great, MFB did so good at facilitating this. I am so thankful to God for weaving all this together.”  Sharon added: “There is a good team who ultimately care deeply for the spiritual and other needs of young people across our diocese and care for the leaders who are walking alongside them.”

The Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, welcomed young people and their leaders at the start of the night. “One of the important things tonight is that we come together as part of a bigger family in Connor,” Bishop Alan said.  “Part of the power of coming together is that we will share stories of what God is doing in our parishes, villages and towns. As young people you have so much potential and so much to offer not just to your own age group but to the wider church. Tonight,” the Bishop added, “is the beginning of something very special.”

The Event is one of a number of activities planned by Engage. Other events to look forward to include the annual Summer Madness camp in Glenarm where the Youth Council have promised toi proved free meals, a youth weekend at Castlewellan Castle, Co Down, from September 5–7, a day at St Jude’s Muckamore on October 4 entitled ‘Reveal’ looking at how God can be real in our lives, and a Christmas special event on Saturday December 13.