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Grace, Madison teen selected for General Convention Official Youth Presence

Meredith McKeever poses next to an booth that happens to bear her name. PHOTO COURTESY MEREDITH MCKEEVER
Nina Nicholson, Director of Communications
Meredith McKeever poses next to an booth that happens to bear her name. PHOTO COURTESY MEREDITH MCKEEVER

Meredith McKeever is one busy 17-year-old. In the fall she plays on her school soccer team. In the winter she’s on the swimming team – and in the 2024-25 school year, her senior year, she’ll be team captain. In the spring, she runs track. At Grace Church in Madison, she sings soprano in the choir. And this June, she’ll be one of just 18 young people selected to have seat and voice at the 81st General Convention as part of the Official Youth Presence.

The General Convention, which normally meets every three years, is The Episcopal Church’s governing body. It comprises the House of Deputies, with nearly 900 clergy and lay deputies elected from the church’s 108 dioceses and two area missions, and the House of Bishops, with around 140 active and retired bishops.

This year General Convention will meet June 20-28 in Louisville, KY. Among the business to be conducted is the election of the 28th Presiding Bishop for a nine-year term that begins Nov. 1 when they succeed Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

McKeever got her first taste of Episcopal Church polity serving as a youth deputy representing the Evelyn Underhill Regional Ministry Network at the 149th Diocesan Convention in Feb. 2023.

“I found that whole process really, really interesting,” McKeever says. “And I thought it was interesting that I – I would have been 15 at the time – and I had vote, and I could speak in front of the whole crowd.”

The Rev. Asa Coulson knows McKeever both through his work as co-chair of the Diocesan Youth Commission as well as his time as Associate Priest at Grace, Madison (a role that concluded this past January when he went to Grace, Nutley to serve as Priest-in-Charge). He encouraged her to apply for the Official Youth Presence when applications opened last fall to Episcopal teens ages 16 to 19, and endorsed her application by serving as the required non-family member nominator.

“I was initially impressed with Meredith during the confirmation program three years ago at Grace, Madison," says Coulson. “In our class sessions she expressed a sincere desire to know more about our faith, as well as the way our denominational organization functioned. She was keenly interested in how individuals, including youth, could play a role in governing and decision making of the church. Immediately she began to lead as an acolyte, lector, intercessor, choir member, and was active in the parish youth group.

“When she served as a youth deputy to the last Diocesan Convention Meredith showed deep intellectual curiosity during legislative sessions and leadership during conversations with other deputies, youth and adult alike. This past summer at EYE [Episcopal Youth Event] she was always among the first in our delegation to reach out to other diocesan delegations and make friends.

“In all of these instances I knew Meredith would make an excellent member of the Official Youth Presence at General Convention this summer and was both excited and honored to nominate her.”

Meredith McKeever with Bishop Hughes, 2021
Meredith McKeever with Bishop Hughes at her Confirmation in 2021.

Sixty young people applied for the 18 spots – two youth from each of The Episcopal Church’s nine provinces. The Episcopal Church Office for Youth Ministries coordinated the selection process in collaboration with the General Convention Office and the president of the House of Deputies. (Learn more about the selection criteria.)

In the Zoom interview that was part of the application process, McKeever says, “They asked me a lot about how I am active in my church and what I do in my church. And then, what change I want to see in the church, what I can do at General Convention, and then most importantly, what can I bring home from General Convention and implement into our diocese and into our parish?”

About that last question, McKeever says, “The things I'm most passionate about are creation care, especially in our area where things are so congested; and accessibility within the church, making the church a place of refuge.”

After their selection, the 18 youth traveled to Louisville in February for four days of orientation and training.

In addition to learning about parliamentary procedure – with which McKeever is already familiar from serving as a Diocesan Convention youth deputy as well as participating in the Harvard Model Congress through her school – she says they also talked about how to speak effectively at General Convention.

“On the general convention floor, you only get two minutes to speak at a time, so it's important that you speak confidently, you speak loudly, but you put it out there, you get your point across and you're done.”

The youth deputies also talked about how to comport themselves.

“As the youth, people are looking at us, so our dress, the way we speak and present ourselves will be very, very important. So we have to keep that in mind.”

Asked what she’s most looking forward to, McKeever says, “Seeing the people I met in the training session – I'm really interested in seeing my friends again.

“But I'm also really interested in just seeing how the church works. Because I don't get vote, but I get voice so I can contribute to the conversation.

“I think that the youth are quite possibly the most important voice at General Convention. And they're really the ones you should be listening to. We often get ignored. And people are like, ‘Oh, my gosh, the youth aren't coming to church anymore.’

“You should be listening to us.”