by Susan Vickery-Mercer, Youth Minister, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Greenville, North Carolina

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church high school students savor the annual opportunity for Kanuga’s Winterlight Youth Conference, held this year December 28-January 1, to connect and reconnect with students from Episcopal churches across the Southeast, while exploring avenues for personal and spiritual growth. The impacts on their lives are immeasurable. All of our high school participants who recently attended reported a meaningful, fun, and inspiring week. Below are some of the highlights and reflections in their own words:

  • Small group times with in-depth discussions where we can easily be our true selves and make friends from other paths of life
  • Deepening and expanding friendship circles
  • Sharing high and lows of the day and evening prayers together in our cabins
  • Having daily, beautiful worship services in the Kanuga Chapel with singing and dancing. The healing service was a favorite.
  • “Winterlight was the best experience of my life! I feel much closer to God now.”
  • Fun events like the crazy fashion show, Variety Show, and New Year’s Eve party with high energy dance, karaoke, glow sticks, prayer for seniors, and New Year’s countdown
  • “It’s a place where I feel wonderfully connected to others. I don’t experience cliques at Kanuga.”
  • “At Kanuga, I learned how to ‘brush off’ my hardships so that it doesn’t affect my relationship with God.”
  • Enjoying the beauty of God’s creation and seeing the sparkle of the water on Kanuga Lake. 
  • “I left Kanuga feeling more confident in my relationship to others.”
  • “One of the most powerful moments for me was seeing the posters hanging in the chapel that we’d made in our small groups. They expressed things for which we’re grateful, our prayers, concerns, and affirmations about ourselves.”
  • “Kanuga helps me think about things in a different way.”
  • “This time at Kanuga helped me ‘come to grasp’ with what’s happened the last couple of years with covid because we spent time processing it together.”

We appreciate Kangua’s exceptional job on planning and executing the Winterlight experience for all youth attending. We’re also grateful for Kanuga’s navigation of extra safety measures, while creating such an amazing and meaningful experience for the young people. None of our youth reported getting sick during or after the event!

All eight of our high school students who attended said they LOVED Winterlight and that it was very meaningful to their spiritual and personal lives. One of our youth had limited overnight camp experience and was nervous before arriving. He said he quickly felt welcomed and integrated, leaving with an added sense of confidence in his ability to have relationships with peers.  

We are grateful to our church for its generosity, financially and otherwise, that made this opportunity possible.

Having our youth attend Youth Week and Winterlight, and knowing the huge influence these conferences have on their lives, has been a top highlight of my youth ministry work over the last decade.  

Pictured: St. Paul’s youth at Kanuga in 2019