By David Kilp
It's a feeling that cannot be put into words, but it comes very close: the moment you walk into a worship space and begin together in song with every voice raising up to God; your body is consumed by “gracebumps.” Not chills, not goosebumps, but gracebumps: an emotion or feeling you cannot control; not caused by fear, nervousness, or just being a little chilly, but an emotion or feeling that is proof of the Holy Spirit entering your body and soul and God's presence coming alive.
The Opening Eucharist at the Episcopal Youth Event two and a half years ago, with over fifteen hundred people gathered together in one space for worship was when I recognized my “gracebumps” first appearing. The moment every voice was lifted up to God in song was when my body was first consumed. It is a moment of unbelievable feeling and emotion.
I, being a cradle Episcopalian, have had many opportunities to attend many retreats, youth group activities, Vacation Bible Schools, and many, many, many meetings. All of these are very special in my heart, but for many different reasons. It wasn't until I was in 8th grade that I started getting involved with my Diocesan youth program. I was always very involved with events inside of my parish, but never beyond that. It never occurred to me that I could experience worship in a different way or in a different place than in my home parish of St. John's Episcopal Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
I attended my first Diocesan event in the winter of 2008, and I am so thankful I did. It was there that I started on a new path into a deeper, more real faith. The theme was “Defeating Doubt” and the saying for the weekend was “sometimes the questions are as important as the answers.” This sums up what we as Episcopalians deal with every day: from questions starting with, “Episcopalian?!? What's that?!?” to “Does God really exist?” we live our faith lives every day with unanswered questions. These questions can be studied, dissected, re-worded, but will we ever find the right answer? Does it really matter if we do? I live a life based around a belief in a God that has no “hard copy” proof of existence according to some people that deny that existence and others that just question the existence. So, what does it matter if I have all of the answers? That is what makes faith, faith. Believing but not seeing is what it is all about. It was then that I started to look at my life of faith as a never ending, unanswered, book of questions.
Because of that event I have had opportunities that not a lot of eighteen year olds can say they have had. I had the opportunity to go on pilgrimages to two different foreign countries, youth retreats in my Diocese and province, the Episcopal Youth Event and the opportunity to serve as a part of The General Convention Official Youth Presence. As a dorky eighth grader, did I see myself doing all of that? No!
Right now, I am working for the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania as an intern in the Family and Young Adult Ministries office. I am taking a year of discernment to figure out what it is I want to do with my life. By the end of this year will I have the answer to that question? Probably not, but does it matter? I have no idea what tomorrow brings, just like I have no idea what God's plan for me is or just like there is no “hard copy” proof of God's existence. Instead, I have “gracebumps” to prove to myself that my God exists. Would I still have gotten this proof if I never went to that retreat in eighth grade? That is yet another un-answered question. Why deny the fact that there is always room for stronger spiritual growth? Shouldn't everybody have a chance to experience “gracebumps?”
David's agency placement is with the Diocese of Pennsylvania as the Youth Ministry Assistant for EYE.