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Youth retreat at Christ Church Jebel Ali

Youth leaders Marc Joseph and Taryn Powys organised a youth retreat at Christ Church Jebel Ali on 16 March 2024, exploring the discovering of spiritual gifts, dealing with stress, and peer pressure.

Marc and Taryn invited young people to join in considering the questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose?

“We hope that you will come away with a better understanding of who you are,” they said, “and how you can discern how God is calling you to serve.”

Supported by parish priest the Reverend Jim Young and his wife Sheryl, the retreat offered a particular focus on prayer.

“The emphasis was not simply on reading scripture but engraving the words on their heart,” he said. “As a church, we want them to know they are valued, loved, and treasured by the God who loves them deeply and passionately. They are not alone.”

Fr Jim gave the teens a prayer bracelet (aka prayer beads) and shared the basics of breath prayers: “For example, breathe in (‘The Lord is my Shepherd’), breathe out (‘I shall not want’).”

“We placed a heavy emphasis on trusting in God, living in the eternal present with the eternal presence, if you will,” said Fr Jim. “Too often we are haunted by our past or longing for the future, and don’t value the sacredness of the present moment.”

One teen participant reflected on the difference between praying the words and feeling the words in their heart. Sheryl encouraged him to “sit with the words to feel the meaning. It may not come overnight,” she said, “but the practice of sitting with God is transformative.”

“It was an incredible experience,” said Fr Jim. “They are searching and longing for God. Here I am at the twilight of my ministry, engaged in perhaps the most important work of my calling as a priest.”

Fr Jim recently completed a Certificate in Youth and Theology through the Institute for Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary—an eight-month online programme that draws on videos, readings, discussions, and contextual assignments to help participants “think theologically about youth ministry”.