The Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Hailey was awarded the Hands and Heart of Jesus prize for its work with youth during overnight stays at the church on Saturday nights.
The award was given by Bishop Brian Thom of the Episcopal Diocese of Idaho at an annual convention of Episcopal churches in November.
“Saturday night church is needed for teens and ’tweens because so many students have Sunday morning ski lessons and other recreational plans,” said the Rev. Lea Colvill, the priest at Emmanuel Episcopal Church who leads the program, in a press release.
Colvill said the award has the weight of “ministry of the year” and is the only prize awarded by the diocese.
Known as “lock-ins” because youth are locked in overnight, the tradition of Episcopal Church overnight sleepovers is widespread.
Colvill described them as a “Saturday night slumber party in a church,” complete with cooking, scripture study, games and candlelight prayers before bed.
Twenty-eight students are enrolled in the program but not all students attend every lock-in. Most students are between the ages of 11 and 14. Seventy percent are new to church or attend rarely, Colvill said.
Following the sleepover, students help prepare the Sunday worship the next day. At breakfast they evaluate the success of the event and make plans for improvement.
Three or four times a year the lock-in group travels by bus to model the program for other churches and to make friends across the state. Scholarships are available for the $15 lock-in fee.
Colvill led a similar program in Montana in which 75 percent of her lock-in participants went on to become adult Episcopal Church leaders or adult Episcopal camp leaders for at least one year.
The 90-member Emmanuel Episcopal Parish in Hailey is the oldest in continuous operation in the Diocese of Idaho. It is described as a “hybrid between Catholic and Protestant traditions” in the press release, and is part of the wider Anglican tradition worldwide.
“It is a Christian church whose purpose is to foster reconciliation between God and people and then to foster reconciliation between people,” the press release states. “Lay leadership is highly valued at Emmanuel. It is the only church that offers a scholarship to Wood River Students based on character.”
For more information, go to emmanuel.episcopalidaho.org.