Here’s something you may not know about me – I homeschooled my three children from K- 12th grade. And, ya’ know, they all turned out ok! When my younger son Noah began his senior year in our homeschool high school, he was pretty sure he knew exactly what he wanted to do. He had selected the college he was really passionate about attending so we arranged a visit. It looked like a pretty good choice for him. A month later, Noah and I had the opportunity to visit his older brother who was a junior in college. That visit to Joel’s campus changed everything! Noah fell in love with Joel’s campus, Joel’s friends, the faculty he met, and the opportunities available. At this point in the year, we were a bit too late to get in an application and I wanted to be sure that this was the right decision so Noah decided to take a “gap year.”
The “gap year” turned out to play a very important part of Noah’s road to adulthood. First, he traveled to Oman for 4 weeks with a mission group where he worked with a team to build a home for a local Christian pastor. When he arrived back in the States, he got a full-time job to save some money for his upcoming college experience and learned a bit more about budgeting. In addition, Noah decided he wanted to take the training to become an EMT which provided another opportunity to serve, this time for our community. I can’t speak highly enough about the “gap year” experience for Noah and our family.
I tell that story to introduce this week’s resolution from General Convention 2018 which presents an opportunity for our Episcopal young adults to experience their own “gap year”:
D061: Develop Episcopal Gap Year Program
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church direct the staff of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, especially the Office of Global Partnership and the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministries, to conduct a pilot development of an Episcopal Gap Year Program in international mission for young adults, ages 18-23, who are between high school and other educational or vocational pursuits; and be it further
Resolved, That the program be guided by innovative models of such programs, including but not limited to the Young Adult Service Corps, and that it ensure accessibility to racial and ethnic minorities, to persons from non-U.S.-domestic dioceses, and to persons of limited financial means; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention encourage dioceses and congregations to recruit young adults to participate in the Gap Year Program and to support them with fund-raising assistance; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance consider a budget allocation of $90,000 for the 2019-2021 triennium in order to develop the Episcopal Gap Year Program.
Not knowing anything about this resolution, I searched to find the explanation written by the presenters:
It is widely recognized that short periods of international service have lasting impacts on the world views, global engagement and vocational choices of young people. For instance, a large percentage of missioners in the Young Adult Service Corps, the program established by the 2000 General Convention that involves persons after college graduation, have gone on to ordained ministry and to other service vocations.
The proposed Episcopal Gap Year Program would focus on young people who have completed high school and who are ages 18-23, which is the universally accepted age range for post-high school young adults discerning their path from high school to other vocational routes, which may or may not involve higher education. Given that some participants may be teenagers, supervision and monitoring requirements would be especially high. The Global Partnerships and Youth Ministries units of the Episcopal Church Center would collaborate in administering the program.
The resolve concerning accessibility is prompted by the fact that the gap year option has been a tradition of affluent college-bound youth with a capacity to acquire a passport and travel visas. The Episcopal Church must also welcome those lacking affluence and documentation, as well as those discerning a path that may lead to vocations and employment sooner than higher education.
After full project development, the program would be instituted on a pilot basis, with a probable enrollment of about six young people during the 2019-21 triennium.
The substance of this resolution was included in Resolution A174 at the 2015 General Convention; it was passed by both houses, but funding was not included in the 2016-18 budget. This resolution is endorsed by the Board of Directors of the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN).
Since the resolution mentions a few offices and organization that will support the gap year, I have included links to their websites: Office of Global Partnership and the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministries You can also learn about the Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) on their site where you will find applications for service, answers to frequently asked questions, and very inspiring stories from some of the YASC’ers who have served with the mission program.
Since much of this information was new to me, I also checked out the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) who pledged their support for this resolution. Here’s what I found:
The Global Episcopal Mission Network (or GEMN) is people working together to discern God’s call to be the face of Christ in the world. GEMN began in 1995 as a consortium of Episcopal dioceses interested in fostering and maintaining a strong missional presence in the Episcopal Church. In recent years, membership has been opened to invite any individual, congregation, seminary, diocese or organization with a passion for mission, within or beyond the Episcopal Church.
GEMN exists to equip and encourage global mission in the Episcopal Church. We create a space for people to exchange ideas and best practices, offer global mission education, and provide resources to those who are exploring their call to engage in mission. GEMN’s major initiatives include:
- An annual Global Mission Conference, including high-quality keynote speakers, insights from experienced missioners, opportunities for networking, workshops, site visits, mission organization presentations, and other resources to the mission community;
- Global Mission Training, including our Global Mission Formation Program for Global Mission Agents, designed for those engaged in or thinking about engaging in mission, and for those who would like to bring global mission training to their own local area; and
- Global Mission Resources that include mission planning materials, bibliographies, mission financing strategies and more.
- Global Mission Advocacy and Networking to keep global mission at the forefront of our church’s dialogue and to connect those seeking a way to live out God’s call to mission engagement.
Our annual Global Mission Conference (formerly called the “Mission Education Institute”) has been a core initiative of GEMN since 1996, creating a dedicated space for gathering mission-minded dioceses, church members and mission organizations to learn, discern and exchange best practices for global mission engagement. Recently, we have been committed to holding some of our conferences (every third year) outside of the continental US, including Colombia, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic
Finally, I checked out the opportunity for the funding mentioned in this resolution and found that The Episcopal Church has a grant and scholarship program which includes resources for the Gap Year Program under the “Third Mark of Mission: to respond to human need by loving service.”
Let me encourage you to check out these resources and then share the possibilities with the young adults in your congregations. Perhaps someone you know might find the gap year to be a blessing as did my son Noah.
Let us pray –
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council