Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Youth Ministry

There was a big hole at the front of the church on Sunday in the area where our tweens and teens hang out before heading off for their respective Sunday School discussions. It wasn't that they were playing hookey. Fifteen of them headed away on Friday afternoon for a youth event at St. Matthew's United Church in Belleville which is the congregation of our former child and youth minister, the Rev. Cathy Russell.

We have several dedicated volunteers with our youth but Cathy's ministry in our midst put the paddles on a fading aspect of our congregation and jolted us back to life. After Cathy's departure one of those volunteers, Laura, has stepped into a paid role and has provided excellent leadership. Is this worth it financially? Well, Bay of Quinte Conference stretches from Pickering to Brockville, and north from Pembroke to Perth. While this is a huge geographical area, a third of the participants at the event were from St. Paul's. Another third were from Pickering Village UC which also has a paid youth worker.

United Church congregations have tended to pay lip service to youth but are reluctant to shell out the bucks. And it shows. Cathy and now Laura have nurtured these young people in their Christian faith, not just entertaining them. This approach hasn't scared the kids away. If anything it gives them a sense of meaning. Two of our older teens have been selected to be part of a mission/exposure trip to El Salvador next March. Congratulations to Jonathan and Madeleine.

It will be good to hear how the Belleville event unfolded.



Lori-Ann said...

Congratulations to Jonathan and Madeleine. You will certainly be in my thoughts come March!

Laura said...

A fabulous weekend with fabulous kids, truly. I know pride is a no-no but at times this gaggle of goofy, United Church kids with all their energy, antics and courage (to head off on a retreat with friends and strangers to talk about their faith) makes my heart sing.

The weekend was called Real Faith, Real Lives and the kids got to choose a stream for their workshops from Pop Goes Your Faith (pop culture based, including an infamous episode of Glee)to Where is God When Life Sucks? to Our Whole Life(sexuality and faith, for older teens only)all key issues for our youth in living their faith.

Saturday evening proved to be a huge hit. We began with a simulation game based on basti (slum) living in India, where the youth were put into random families, and circumstances and they had to survive. It was both fun and meaningful, and a bit crazy at times, when they got desperate.

The evening closed with an hour of silence.Who knew it possible? A dozen plus spiritual practice stations were set up in the sanctuary, lit by candle light, and we moved in silence through different areas with guided spiritual meditations of all kinds including movement,touch,taste, journal writing,scripture reflection,art,etc. Some youth were moved to tears and comforted by their peers,others reflected on the silence and sense of peace and safety they felt and most evaluations remarked that spiritual practices should be a part of every retreat.Life skills introduced,I believe.

There was lots of beautiful music and the youth led worship for St Matthew's congregation on Sunday AM, including one of St Paul's, senior youth Chris, who shared a God-some moment in his life with eloquence and faith-filled wisdom.

We ate lots (thank you food committee of St Matthew's Belleville), slept a little and were a little sad to see it end.

Thank you St Paul's for supporting our youth to this life-changing adventure. You'll be hearing from us.