Episcopal youth gravitate toward Kentucky Night’s silent ‘Episco-disco’

By Shireen Korkzan
Posted Jun 25, 2024

The second day of the 81st General Convention June 24, 2024, ended with “Diocese of Kentucky Night,” where convention-goers could attend various events staged throughout downtown Louisville or within a two-mile radius, including a silent “Episco-disco” dance party at Christ Church Cathedral. Photo: Shireen Korkzan

[Episcopal News Service] “You can’t just say disco and not expect me to show up and dance.”

After a long day of volunteering at the 81st General Convention, Rachel Matthews, a senior youth group member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Tennessee, did just that. The second day of General Convention ended with “Diocese of Kentucky Night,” where convention-goers could attend various events staged throughout downtown Louisville or within a two-mile radius, including a silent “Episco-disco” dance party at Christ Church Cathedral, just a few blocks from the convention center.

During a silent disco, participants listen to music through wireless headphones, which, to people not wearing headphones, gives the impression that they’re dancing to nothing. General Convention’s “Episco-disco” event was a tribute to Louisville as the only city in the United States where disco balls are manufactured. Over 90% percent of all disco balls in the world are made in Louisville.

“Kentucky Night” also included live music and a lecture addressing life lessons learned from horseback riding, as well as a lecture connecting social justice with the church. An LGBTQ+ poetry and prose reading event also was offered. Food trucks were available for people wanting to try local cuisine.

Many of the youth attendees – as well as older ones – danced and sang around the cathedral’s nave during the “Episco-disco.” They could twist a knob on their headphones to switch between three different music channels. Selections ranged from the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to Usher’s “Yeah!” and One Direction’s “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful.”

“This is great. I think events like the silent disco help bring people in the community closer together and help bring lasting and strong relationships between youth and adults alike,” Buddy Jackson, one of St. Luke’s youth group members, told Episcopal News Service. “I like that it allows people to switch between a few kinds of music. If they don’t like one channel, they can switch to another one. It’s made the night enjoyable.”

Jackson and Matthews are two of the eight members of the senior youth group from St. Luke’s who have been busy volunteering as pages at General Convention. They helped set up the House of Deputies by laying out all the electronics and putting up the stanchions with diocesan names. The teenagers also have been assisting with public safety, registration, technology assistance, Virtual Binder support and providing directions. Their youth minister, Isaac Doty, told ENS that General Convention is the senior youth group’s summer mission trip.

“The 5:30 wakeup calls have been brutal – I’m not going to lie – so this is a nice break,” Will Mathews, one of St. Luke’s youth group members, told ENS. “I had never done a silent disco before, but this is really cool. I love that everybody has their own rhythm at first, but then everything intertwines and we’re all on the same wavelength and listening to the same songs, then go back to doing our own thing.”

Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Louisville hosted a silent “Episco-disco” dance party June 24, 2024, as part of the “Diocese of Kentucky Night” on the second day of the 81st General Convention. Photo: Shireen Korkzan

Silent disco parties aren’t new, but they’ve gained popularity in recent years. In February, more than 3,000 people attended a 90s-themed silent disco party at Canterbury Cathedral, England’s oldest cathedral, dating back to 597. The event, which was part of a series of silent discos held inside cathedrals and historic buildings throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, drew criticism from some people in the Church of England, who described the event as “profane.” The cathedral’s dean, the Very. Rev. David Monteith, however, defended it, telling The Guardian, “It’s always joyous to see [people] discover this incredible place anew and on their own terms.”

Back in Kentucky, Will Kelly, one of St. Luke’s youth group members, told ENS that General Convention is much bigger than he had anticipated. An estimated 10,000 people are expected to attend the convention at some point.

“It’s amazing. It’s fun being here at General Convention and seeing so many Episcopalians, and the ‘Episco-disco’ has been a blast,” he said. “It’s another opportunity to meet new people and have fun, and the large age range here is significant.”

For Matthews, it’s important for Episcopal churches to offer opportunities and events for Episcopalians of all ages, like the “Episco-disco.”

“I don’t think I would be active in the youth group at all if we had to be serious all the time, and I don’t think the relationships between members would be as strong without the downtime between the activities,” she said. “The Episcopal Church is a home base and a safe place for me. It’s a good foundation to build off in life.”

“The Episcopal Church is a huge family to me, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I love it,” Kelly said.

General Convention continues through June 28.

-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service based in northern Indiana. She can be reached at skorkzan@episcopalchurch.org.