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Faith Paper Charlie Butterworth February 2012 Fellowship is a companionship between two or more parties.

In life, the fellowship between ones self and their friends and family is the way to self-realization and growth spiritually and emotionally. Through fellowship, foundations can be built and many tasks can be accomplished. In my life the foundation built by my family and our church community at St. Johns Episcopal Church really began my conscious effort of faith in a higher power. Although I was expected to attend church, my fellow youth members and I also attended youth group on Sundays, allowing our fellowship between one another to flourish as well as a fun and exciting way to practice our faiths. After a year of attending this St. Johns youth group I attended a weekend retreat held by the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. During this retreat, with others from my youth group both leading and participating, we were taken through a process of spiritual growth. I would not have had the experience that I had without my surrounding peers helping me through the process. It was having others to relate to and walk through the process with that gave the weekend such a sense of power, which I had never witnessed before. It was at Happening that I truly found my faith. After several years I was asked to join others from my youth group to attend a mission trip to our sister church in Costa Rica. We helped with renovations while also running a Vacation Bible School for the local children. This trip helped me to move the personal development of my faith to a point where I could help others in the name of God. All the members of my youth group had a special bond that was very strong; through this bond we were able to accomplish things that many other groups could not accomplish, such as raising the most money of any participants in the 30 Hour Famine and going on retreats to deepen the spiritual bond between one another. The fellowship between ones self and friends and family allows for connections that can help one build and grow exponentially. Just like many others, as a young kid I always felt church was a burden. I often dreaded sitting through the hour and a half service. My family started at United Methodist when I was an infant, then we began to attend St. Johns Episcopal when I was about nine. This was the first time that I was actually able to comprehend and grasp the idea of church. But the thing that always got me is how can one person alone believe in a higher power and praise him even though the idea of God is not tangible. I was to soon find out that all of my parents efforts, to get me out of bed on Sundays and into the car for church, would provide me with a community where I could grow and learn with my friends and family. My parents always tried very hard to set a good example when it came to religious efforts, they may not be the most devout Christians but both sides in my family are well rooted in the Christian faith. Once I was a middle school student I joined the St. Johns youth group. This is where my faith began to develop in a fun environment and where the fellowship of my peers became my biggest support. St. Johns was blessed with a youth group of large numbers; unlike others, we had around 150 active members, providing us with the funds and support to go on many retreats like the beach, skiing, Awanita, etc. One of the most influential retreats I attended was Happening, held by the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. This retreat was a student run weekend of spiritual awakening. I came into the weekend open minded, joining me were a few other youth from Charlotte, but there were also others who participated and supported the thought of blindly attending the weekend. Each persons journey after arrival was unique but through my personal journey I thrived upon the fellowship between my peers and myself. Having others my age experiencing, learning, and bonding with one another in faith allowed for me to experience the most

powerful and moving weekend of my life. Although I had been confirmed prior to the trip, my faith was never strong until I left Happening, where I saw the Lord work through us to help one another build an undying faith that could shine for all to see. Watching the power of fellowship within this community showed me the power of a bond between peers with a common belief. I truly believe that fellowship was the backbone of the program for seven more Happening events that I attended over the course of my high school career at Myers Park High School. I found that after having such a powerful experience I wanted to help others build and grow in their faith. Many of us had worked on our own faith for some time but it was not until we helped others in this manner that we truly connected with our higher power through one another. During my junior year of high school I was presented with the opportunity to serve on a mission trip in Costa Rica. Eighteen youth from St. Johns went on the mission trip where we helped our sister church through the Episcopal Diocese of Costa Rica. Physically we were to renovate the church, which meant painting, building a steel gate, cleaning, and refinishing many of the rough walls. Meanwhile, we also held a Vacation Bible School for the children of the church and community who wanted to participate. The language barrier made it difficult, but our VBS program was based upon the one held at our own church, St. Johns. Thanks to the structure of the program we were able to translate and apply the studies, songs, and events to the group of children. We all had a great deal of fun serving in fellowship with one another, but the personal growth experienced through serving others is more powerful than anything. In my experience, faith can be the most difficult aspect of religion, many of us falter from our paths. Through fellowship, you can stay true to yourself by surrounding yourself with positive, influential people and places; I found my faith through the fellowship of my family, church, and youth group. The bonds and the relationships developed during my time as a youth have, to this day, helped in many ways but most importantly in staying true to myself in regards to my religion. Through the fellowship of friends and family with a common goal one can grow spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

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