One Mission, Two Locations

The 2016 Hometown Missions Youth Event was a great success! For the second year running this mission-oriented event was hosted simultaneously in two separate convocations, spreading our service throughout the state.

Nine youth and seven adults gathered together in Albany to put the finishing touches on a Habitat for Humanity build. Volunteers painted siding, planted shrubs along the house, and built food-garden beds out of salvaged materials with cotton gin-compost donated by Deacon Leeann Culbreath. The youth were able to meet, worship with, and work alongside the family that will be moving into this new house next week. It was a beautiful day full of laughter, dirt, and power-drills!

Twenty-three youth and six adults worked to clear the overgrown Butler Cemetery and lay a brick paver path to the gravesite of Liverpool Hazzard, the last freed slave in McIntosh County, Georgia. Creating the path included relocating dirt by wheelbarrow to even the land out, as well as moving hundreds of brick pavers by hand.

Thanks to all the kids, adults, and to the community of St. Andrew’s and St. Cyprian’s for their support, for providing delicious meals, and for planning water games for a hot afternoon!

All together, youth and adults from around the Diocese completed over 450 hours of service in their communities. Hands-on volunteer service is not only a great way to learn more about your community, it is the best route to understanding God’s call to love and serve ourselves and our communities.

You can find more photos at the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia Youth Facebook page.


New Beginnings Connects Teens with Faith

Fifty participants and team members came together for New Beginnings #48 this past weekend. The weekend offers a time for participants to get real about their faith while away from family and their home church. Teens talking to other teens about living out their faith in Jesus Christ is the heart of a New Beginnings Retreat. While the Spiritual Directors do give talks on “God is Love” and “Who is Jesus” most of the teaching at the retreat for 7-9 graders are given by high school students. The talks on friends, family, peer pressure, and more get at the intersection of faith and our daily lives. The key points of the talk are the same for every weekend, but the teens work with the spiritual directors to shape the talks to bring out life experience and to make the talks more meaningful for all. Nick White of Christ the King, Valdosta, gives his talk in the photo above.

Allie Simpson of St. Andrew’s and St. Cyprian’s Churches in Darien was the Lead Teen for the weekend and she had especially strong support from adults in her church who served as adult participants for the weekend. Under the guidance of diocesan coordinator Maggie Bloodworth, the New Beginnings program continues to thrive. Look for announcements about the next retreat in upcoming issues of From the Field.


Allie Simpson is pictured at left helping lead music during the retreat. A full album of photos is online here: New Beginnings #48 Photos

The procession to the chapel for the closing Eucharist, which was preached by Madison Cook of St. Thomas, Thomasville, and boys try to sing loud on the male parts in a song to match the voices of the female singers. Below are the participants and staff for New Beginnings #48.


Varner to Serve as Youth Missioner

Bishop Benhase announces he is calling the Rev. Joshua Varner to serve as Diocesan Missioner for Youth while continuing part time as Vicar of St. Patrick’s, Pooler. Bishop Benhase said, “Joshua brings the right balance of skills and experience that will assist the Diocesan Youth Programs in making disciples.”

Varner will continue to serve as the Vicar of St. Patrick’s, Pooler. Since his arrival in March of 2012, the congregation has tripled its attendance and giving. While working toward that goal, the mission is not at the point of being able to compensate a full-time priest. Working on Diocesan staff will offer enough flexibility so that the growth of St. Patrick’s can continue under Varner’s leadership.

Varner grew up in Chapel Hill, NC, and is a lifelong Episcopalian. He attended Sewanee-The University of the South, majoring in religion and music, and then earned an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School and an M.Div. from Virginia Theological Seminary.

He served three years as Assistant to the Rector at St. Luke’s in Durham, NC. Then he served Holy Trinity in Greensboro, NC, for seven years. In both parishes Joshua had particular responsibility for ministry with children, youth, and their families. In the Diocese of Georgia, Varner has served as a spiritual director to summer camp sessions and led youth mission trips both in the U.S. and to our Companion Diocese of the Dominican Republic.

He met his wife, Elizabeth at Sewanee. Elizabeth grew up at Trinity Episcopal Church in Statesboro, Georgia and was active in the youth programs of the Diocese of Georgia. Married for 15 years, they have two children, Benjamin (11), and Laura (8).

Varner begins his work as Missioner for Youth on April 15, allowing for overlap with Rebekah Stewart, the Interim Missioner for Youth. Bishop Benhase said, “We are grateful to Rebekah for maintaining healthy, forward motion with our youth programs throughout the search process.”

Questions about Youth Programs still go to Rebekah Stewart through April 15th:


Youth & Young Adult Events

In the first six months of 2016, the Diocese of Georgia will offer seven events for those in sixth grade through college.

Winter Retreat
January 22-24 (Young Adults)
This winter, college students and young adults from around the Diocese will gather at Honey Creek for a winter retreat on January 22-24. In keeping with our major theme at convention, our primary focus will be on faith sharing and evangelism. This retreat will also enable younger Episcopalians to meet others from around South Georgia, while giving one another the opportunity to enjoy the beauty and peaceful retreat center of the Diocese of Georgia. Scholarships are available. Please contact the Rev. Daniel Shoemake at or (229) 242-5115.

January 29-31 (10th-12th grade)
Happening is a Christian experience presented by teenagers for teenagers. It is designed for youth in grades 10 – 12 and sponsored by the Episcopal Church. Most young people have serious questions about Jesus and the Church. Happening is designed to address these questions. During a Happening weekend, participants experience the love of Christ as shown through prayer, worship, and the ministry of peers, clergy, and lay adults. The Happeners are encouraged to make their renewed faith a part of their everyday lives. Happening shows how Christianity can keep pace with the many changes in our lives and our world. Click here to register for Happening.

New Beginnings
March 4-6 (7th-9th grade)
New Beginnings is a weekend retreat for teenagers in grades 7-9 led by a team of mostly teenagers, with a few adults, and two clergy spiritual directors. The weekend takes participants through a discovery about ourselves, our friends, our families, our faith, and how to live out our faith in our daily lives.

Confirmation Retreat
April 1-3 (open to youth and adults)
Whether you are preparing for Confirmation or simply want to deepen your understanding of the Episcopal Church, we hope that you will join us for this exciting weekend! The Confirmation Retreat this year is open to both youth and adults. It will be held at Honey Creek from April 1-3, 2016. Topics covered will include Scripture, Creeds, Sacraments, Prayer, Church History, and an Instructed Eucharist. You can contact Maggie Bloodworth of St. Luke’s, Hawkinsville, with questions about this retreat

Click here to register for the Confirmation Retreat.

Hometown Missions
April 22-24 (6th-12th grade)
Hometown Missions is an opportunity to gain a better understanding of mission work on a local level by teaching our youth to give back to our Diocesan Community. This year we will host one event taking place in two locations, with one in Albany and one in Darien. Participant’s will engage in various projects that will engage them in service and conversation about various social issues. The cost for the week is $50, all inclusive. Financial Aid Available. This is a weekend the teens will never forget! Click here to register for Hometown Missions: Albany or Hometown Missions: Darien

Youth Ministry Retreat
May 13-14 (Adults who work with youth)
This is a new event for the Diocese. We invite all adults 18+ who are engaged in youth ministry to join us for this overnight retreat- hosted at Honey Creek. This is an opportunity for us to all come together to begin forming our own community and support system. By taking care of ourselves, we can better care for our youth and youth programs.

Diocesan Youth Mission Trip 
June 21-28, 2016 (9th-12th)
This coming summer, the Diocese of Georgia will sponsor a high school mission trip to the western plains of Nebraska. The trip will be led by the Rev. Joshua Varner, and will be hosted by Christ Episcopal Church in Sidney, Nebraska and their Vicar, the Rev. Tar Drazdowski. We will be working with the people of Christ Church, Sidney to help them maintain their buildings, and to reach out into the community. We will also have time to explore a different part of the U.S. and a different aspect of the Episcopal Church. More details about the trip, including our estimated cost, will be coming soon. If you would like more information, please contact the Rev. Joshua Varner at

Financial Aid is always available upon request. If you plan on seeking financial aid for any of these events, please contact Rebekah Stewart directly at


Fall Gathering: Servant of All

Fall Gathering 2015 registration is now open to all 9th through 12th graders. This event will be held at Honey Creek September 18-20th, 2015.The cost is just $100 to attend, which includes meals, snacks and a t-shirt. Participants will discuss the value of serving each other. Youth and Adult Leaders from around the Diocese will share about ways they serve their communities and how you can get involved too!

During Fall Gathering participants can expect to participate in fun team building games, to meet other young youth and adult leaders from across the diocese; to discuss the true meaning of servitude, humility and grace; to share their own servant experience; and to have fun! The weekend schedule will be a mix of structured programming and free time to forge new friendships. Invite some one from home to come with you!

Note: Though in recent years, our fall event was open for 6-12 grade. With large participation from middle school students at the Acolyte Festival and a New Beginnings, but no Happening, scheduled for this fall, Fall Gathering this year will be a 9-12 grade event.

Register Here


Acolyte Festival on St. Simons Island

The Acolyte & Youth Leadership Festival (AYLF) registration is now open to 3rd through 12th graders.

This year’s festival will be hosted by Christ Church Frederica on St. Simons Island and will be held Saturday and Sunday, August 22 & 23, 2015. The cost is just $50 to attend, which includes meals, snacks and a t-shirt. Priests will work with youth ministers in putting on this fun event. Participants should bring their own vestments (marked with a church name or participant’s name) and their home church’s banner, which will be processed during the 11:15 Sunday morning Eucharist at Christ Church.

During the Acolyte Festival, participants can expect to participate in acolyting and church leadership workshops facilitated by experienced practitioners; to meet other young acolytes and church leaders from across the diocese; to learn about other liturgical practices; to share their own church experience; and to have fun! There may be a possible field trip on Saturday to the beach, so please come prepared with bathing suits and sunscreen!

To register for this event, please follow the link below:

Register for the Acolyte Festival