‘Teens Encounter Christ’ Church Retreat

Noah Chestler, outgoing senior

Most students at Edina High School know of TEC, or Teens Encounter Christ, as a weekend in which their friends are unavailable to hang out; but for some EHS students, TEC is an opportunity to experience religion in a whole new light.

TEC retreats happen in the fall and spring of each year at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, a site that is able to hold many young people, as long as they are game for some unconventional sleeping methods. “A lot of us sleep in the basement on blow-up mattresses, some people bring hammocks, and a brave few tough it out on the ground,” said senior Will Staunton.

To outsiders, TEC is something of a mystery. “It’s true that a lot of what goes on stays under wraps. It’s just one of those things where, ‘What happens at TEC, stays at TEC,’  but that’s not because we do any bad things. There are just a lot of people opening up and sharing personal things that shouldn’t be discussed outside of TEC,” said senior Andy Saunders.

Once at TEC, the kids are put on teams with various responsibilities such as kitchen duty and spirit team, while first-timers are given the title, “candidate.” They have no idea what to expect throughout the weekend, and are usually surprised. “When I was a candidate, I kind of freaked out. It was a pretty overwhelming and tiring weekend! It was a great experience though, and I learned a lot,” said a reminiscent Cole Harris.

Throughout the weekend, there is a healthy mixture of fun and seriousness, and definitely a shortage of sleep. “The one big thing people underestimate about TEC is how little sleep you get. We are constantly doing stuff, so we are lucky to get a few hours each night. When I get home on Sunday, I head straight for my bed for a little R and R, if ya know what I mean,” said Staunton.

In charge of the operation at TEC is a combination of adults and student leaders, called rectors. Being a head rector is no small task, and a major part of this job is giving a big talk at the end of the weekend.

While the name “Teens Encounter Christ” may seem imposing, the actual experience is nothing of the sort. The weekend is full of talking, camaraderie, and shared feelings of acceptance and joy. “TEC is a weekend filled with amazing stories, people, and is unlike any other church retreat,” said Saunders.

A fun part of TEC that the outside world gets to know about (because it happens in the outside world) is the part where everyone dresses up in fun costumes and hangs out outside the church, waving to the cars passing by at the intersection of Wooddale and 50th. Perhaps you have seen a picture or two of this event courtesy of Ty Dowda.

The bottom line is this: if you haven’t gone to TEC, don’t be so fast to judge it. Just like any moving religious experience, much of the magic of it can’t be known until it is experienced. “The friendships I have made will last a lifetime, and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” said Staunton.