by Rev. Ashley
All—Peter, Carmen, Alex, Helena, Meadow, Alaina, Joaquin, Gina, Jaime, Luke, Cara, Nicholas, Martin and Alyssa—All could have been part of our youth ministry, if you think about how old the victims of the most recent mass shooting were. Even, Nikolas. And Scott, Aaron and Christopher too, if you imagine advising for the youth group. The mass shooting in Parkland, Florida leaves little to the imagination because these mass shootings are too real, too frequent, to imagine immunity.
Instead those are our youth, our neighbors. The grieving in Parkland will continue, and we'll continue to listen for ways to reach out and do more than just offer thoughts and prayers.
Our Youth—How do we give our youth the support and skills to prepare them for a flourishing, hope-filled, joyful life? I think about this daily, even before Valentine's Day.
The weekend after the shooting revealed true potential in responding to that question: Senior Pilgrim Fellowship held a Can & Bottle Drive. We arrived early to prepare, and then youth and advisors started arriving along with cans and bottles. They sorted, counted and bagged. Parents helped. Youth worked together. Youth worked with Adults. Folks dropping off bags interacted with young people. Gavin, Tyler, Abby, Dylan, Bridget, Alexandra, Hannah, Anna, Hayley, Matthew, Kyle, Sam, Mark, Pete, Craig, Jasmine, Michele, Laurel, Sue, Jeff, Pete, Mark, Peter and I worked. Piles disappeared because everyone was working. Then we had pizza before Tony pick up the haul for redemption.
Meanwhile, the Rock-A-Thon was in full swing in Fellowship Hall. Junior Pilgrim Fellowship rimmed the tables while Ruth taught them to make dog toys. Advisors orbited to support. When I returned to prepare dinner with Susan, George and Bonnie, the place was packed with supporters and evidence of love: Carvel Ice Cream Sandwiches meant that Jim had been there, Carolyn's Soup was bubbling on the stove, Channel 12 was still parked outside, etc. Adults—Sue, DJ, Lorrie, Megan, Wendy, James and Kelsey were encouraging rockers and Jen D. shared with the kids about her work as a lawyer. By Sunday morning, the halo of support had in no way diminished.
While worship transpired upstairs, rockers rocked and children explored the Noah Story and God's promise downstairs. Nina and Jenny helped with the kids' program, even on their off Sunday (They usually teach). The kids created symbols of their love. Class released. Rock-A-Thon ended. Coffee Hour happened. Many had afternoon naps. Srpf met back up in the evening, and eventually made our way to Monster Golf.
We are not so different when we are Siena's age, or Lynnea's, Drew's, Mikaela's, Nick's or Bridgets or Matthew's. Not so different. Support and love nurture our spirits and expose us to new things, new language, new perspectives, new joys. Even for those more introverted personalities, interacting in community has deep value. We learn how to communicate our needs; we witness how to care for others; we learn for to trust others; we share our unique gifts and interests; and when need arises, we know where to get help and support.
I witnessed beautiful examples of vibrant children & youth ministry over a mere 48 hours. We had around 1000 hours of youth and caring adult ministry engagement in that time. While that won't happen every weekend, it was a blessed witness to what we want for our children and youth. Our young people. Here and everywhere.
First United Church of Christ
34 West Main Street
Milford, CT 06460
All are welcome at First Church! As an inclusive community of God's children, we affirm the radical welcome and hospitality of the United Church of Christ; No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here!
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