TERAJI: Reaching youth with garbage (pizza)

Father Terry of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Gilroy is

I met Father Terry for the first time today,

Rev. Eric Cho told me.

Oh, the pastor from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Yes, he’s a
nice guy,

I responded.

We had a really good talk,

Cho continued.

He came over on his bike.


I said.

He’s a cyclist.


Cho said, eyes wide.

He was wearing leathers. He rides a motorcycle.

“I met Father Terry for the first time today,” Rev. Eric Cho told me.

“Oh, the pastor from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Yes, he’s a nice guy,” I responded.

“We had a really good talk,” Cho continued. “He came over on his bike.”

“Oh,” I said. “He’s a cyclist.”

“No,” Cho said, eyes wide. “He was wearing leathers. He rides a motorcycle.”

I have to admit I had never pictured the graying but still youthful and energetic rector of St. Stephen’s as a man in leathers roaring up to the office of a fellow clergyman and hopping off his bike to introduce himself.

As it turns out, that was not the only surprise Father Clarence A. Burley, also known as Father Terry, had up the sleeve of the modest white robe he wears Sunday mornings.

He is working on a project to bring together the youth of three different Gilroy churches to form one collaborative youth group. He has invited Cho, of the Gilroy United Methodist Church, and Pastor Ron Koch to join him to kick off their first big event Nov. 7 when they hold a “Garbage Pizza Night” party at St. Stephen’s. Middle and high schoolers are invited to bring any topping they would like and make pizzas

“Basically, I have a real burden for youth,” Terry said of his motivation.

His resume includes working in American Camp Association summer programs for 21 years and directing a Christian camp in the Sierra Nevada area for seven years.

“I am an Episcopal priest in a small town, not surprising, since I have usually served in small churches. I am a country boy.”

St. Stephen’s started a youth program last year, but drawing more than 10 to 12 kids proved to be a challenge. Terry decided to approach the new pastor in town, Cho, as well as Koch, senior pastor of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd on Hecker Pass.

“I decided I would literally beat on some doors,” Terry said of beginning his campaign.

Koch was interested in the idea right from the get go.

“I believe it’s important to work together with smaller-sized churches to minister to the young people of our community,” Koch said. “We can do so much more together than we could alone.”

Good Shepherd will celebrate its 60th year in Gilroy in 2011.

“I have been privileged to be pastor here for over half of those years. The congregation has always been willing and happy to work ecumenically in Gilroy.”

Cho’s church had just recently begun a youth group for middle and high schoolers. About eight to nine kids have been meeting together once a month.

Cho has worked with youth at his previous churches and is used to working collaboratively. He responded to the idea favorably as well.

Terry hopes getting three smaller churches together can pool enough resources for creating the critical mass that can really be a draw.

“Gilroy has some big churches that have great programs for their youth, but smaller churches have a message too,” he said. “We just have to be creative to get it out.”

“Kids seem to do well when there is a group that is larger than just a few, but not so large that they get overwhelmed,” Koch said.

“With our three churches uniting in this effort, we hope to reach that critical number and have a good time together.”

This idea is of particular interest to me because of the youth group I was a part of when I was in high school. It gave me a separate peer group from the kids I knew at school. The values I learned there and the support I found in the leaders and other kids enabled me to resist negative peer pressure and was a lifesaver during really stressful times in my life.

“There are all sorts of possibilities,” Terry said. “I see no limits on what we can do together.’

“All middle school and high school youth are invited to Garbage Pizza Night. We will provide the dough, and the kids bring anything they are willing to eat on top of a pizza.”

For more, go to GilroyDispatch.com, click on the “News” tab and click on “Teraji: Making Connections.”

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