A YOUTH LEADER FROM FLEET was one of eight young Anglicans from across the world to take part in the first Anglican World Youth Encounter (AWYE) which ran alongside the legendary international Catholic youth conference World Youth Day (WYD) in Brazil this July.
AWYE was born out of a conversation between the parish priest of Rioâ€™s City of God, Fr Nicholas Wheeler, with Guildfordâ€™s Bishop Christopher during a meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission held in Rio this spring.
Bishop Christopher and Fr Nicholas were keen for Anglican young adults across the globe to be part of the WYD celebration, and invitations were sent to dioceses in Brazil, UK, Italy, Africa, America, Canada and Australia.
"Sisters and brothers"
Bishop Christopher said: â€œThe idea arose in a casual conversation with Fr Nicholas as we walked round his â€˜parishâ€™, the â€˜favelaâ€™, shanty-town of the City of God on the outskirts of Rio.
â€œOur baptism makes us all adopted children of God, so we are all sisters and brothers the world over â€“ not least of Copacabana Beach!
â€œThat lesson is a joy to learn, as those who took part in AWYE found out.â€
Existing as little more than an idea in May, by July a group of eight were ready to adventure forth in Rio with Revds Nicholas Wheeler and Daniel Cabral from the Diocese of Rio de Janeiro, and the support of Diocesan Bishop Filadelfo Oliveira.
Amongst them, representing the UK and the Diocese of Guildford was Helen Wolstencroft, youth leader at The Church on the Heath in Fleet.
She said: â€œIt was such an honour and a miracle to be asked to go, I was so excited and really nervous.
â€œThe young people there were just completely elated at the thought of participating in something so big and worshipping God in new ways with so many other young people from all over the world.
â€œThey were clapping and waving their hands in the air, and doing things they wouldnâ€™t usually do in their own churches â€“ including a flash mob during Sunday morning mass on Copacabana Beach with three-and-a-half million people!â€
As well as attending the conference, the group got to know other young Christians from around the world, saw various projects in Rio and explored what it means to be a young Christian today.
Helen said: â€œItâ€™s completely changed me in a new way - Iâ€™ve never done anything like it before.
â€œIâ€™m going to try and get my young people to go on a pilgrimage and inspire them to do something similar.
â€œItâ€™s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but hopefully not!â€