It has officially been two months as the Director of Children & Youth at St. James the Less and it has been a gift getting to know the kids and teens of our parish as well as some of their pals from the community (yes, friends are always welcome!) In such a curious, unpredictable time, they have shared all kinds of concerns at our events and online zoom calls, such as, “…I don’t know when I’m going to be able to play sports again…” or, “I miss seeing my friends.” Our youth are experiencing much of the feelings and questions that we all have during this pandemic; anger, disappointment, anxiety, and of course, “Where is God?”
It is natural for kids (and adults) to have doubts about faith when the going gets tough. Sometimes it feels like we are all alone in this, fighting the good fight without a glimmer of hope. Heck, even in our Geocaching event we were able to ask for hints to help us find the treasure! We realized as a group that we sometimes need to create our own hints to reconnect to God. The kids came up with a whole list of ideas that ranged from journaling, to taking a walk in nature, to sharing a socially –distanced meal outside with friends; all ways to connect to hopefulness which connects us to our faith in a loving God.
Similarly, our Compassion Camp kids shared what they love most about themselves as a reminder that those qualities are gifts from a God that deeply loves us. We heard affirmations like, “I’m great at volleyball,” and, “I’m really smart,” and the most confident one of all, “I like everything about me!”
God is still here, with all of us in the middle of this Coronavirus. As Reverend Lisa says at the end of worship, “…for you cannot go where God hasn’t been.” God grieves when we grieve. God hurts when we hurt. God struggles when we struggle. In addition, God’s embrace is bigger than we can ever imagine with a foundation of love that supports us through thick and thin. If we ever forget this, we can use some of the tactics that our own SJTL kids and teens came up with to invigorate our faith and keep hope alive!
We are creatively planning all kinds of options for our teens and youth with offerings that range from in-person (socially distanced) to online; respecting everyone’s comfortability while simultaneously taking advantage of beautiful weather. As our final week of Compassion Camp wraps up this Sunday—we will do a big finale with a full Family Worship on August 30 at 4:30 pm. I will usher the kids to our last camp session and Reverend Lisa will share a homily for the parents of all ages as well as the teens. Afterwards, in lieu of a Dairy Queen cart (a SJTL tradition but not so pandemic-friendly), we will dole out delicious Ice Cream Sandwiches made in-house and special for SJTL!
After Labor Day, we will begin Godly Play both in person as well as videotaped so families can count on a booster of faith for their kids every Sunday. For teens, we will have some in-person events as well as some “Whole(y) Check-ins” both in-person and via zoom. (Get it? Sounds like “Holy” yet it is also about the WHOLENESS of your teen?!)
These days are tricky and so our dedicated work at SJTL includes creating a community and environment where we can be a solid source of comfort and security for children, youth and families. We hope to be the channel—via worship, events, 1:1 conversations and zoom meetings—for our youth and teens to lean into God; a need that is now more important than ever. We look forward to seeing you and please don’t hesitate to reach out at any time firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace and safekeeping,