Theology, Community, and Worship: Texas Youth Academy Comes to Wiley College
Each year, the Texas Youth Academy, welcomes teens interested in deepening their faith to participate in a two-week theology camp. This year TYA was held on the campus of Wiley College for the first time.
Texas Youth Academy, in partnership with the Texas Annual Conference and the Lilly High School Theology Institute, offers participants the opportunity to participate in daily Bible study and various styles of worship. Artsville is another vital part of their camp experience. The program by Ken Medema is designed to help teens incorporate the arts as a spiritual practice.
Bishop Jones Shares with Students
Throughout the camp, students receive in-depth theological study from excellent teachers including Bishop Scott Jones. It is clear that TYA students are serious about their theological studies. More than one of the young women remarked that the teaching they received on Pentecost was one of their most memorable parts of the experience.
This year, students from Wiley College’s “Running with the Giants” program joined TYA students to hear the Bishop share on the history of Methodism and the importance of the Fruit of the Spirit in a life of discipleship. Dr. Solomon Waigwa, Wiley Professor of Religion and project director for “Running with the Giants,” said it was a “rare treat” for his students to join TYA students for the Bishop’s lecture. “The smiling faces in the students’ photo with the Bishop show they were honored to have had such a rich learning experience.”
The Leaders of Tomorrow
As part of the Bishop’s Emerging Leaders Initiative, TYA hopes to help high school students who are serious about their faith take the first steps in a life of service and leadership. First-time TYA mentor and FUMC Marshall pastoral intern, Kayla Thomas, says the nine young women in attendance for this year’s camp had a rich learning experience during their time in the program. “I was really surprised to see how much the students were engaged with theology,” she said, “and Artsville was an amazing experience.” According to Marylyn Green, Administrative Assistant for the Center of Congregational Excellence, TYA also gave the young women in attendance an opportunity to grow in Christian community. “As with every TYA class, they arrive as strangers but by the end of week one, there is a bond that has formed and they become a family. They prayed with one another, comforted one another, and treated each other like sisters.”
Student Kay Teekell hopes more students throughout the conference will consider attending TYA. “Definitely do it,” she said, “It’s a close community of imperfect people who will care about you and support you as you explore your beliefs.”