It was Sunday, June 18th. I woke up at 6:00 AM wondering how I arrived at this place. How did the scheduling become so unwieldy? As the Director of Christian Education, there are some Sundays during the year when I offer input. Youth Sunday is one of them, and it was here. Together as a staff, we couldn’t have packed any more into a Sunday, save for a wedding, baptism, and confirmation!
June 18th was Father’s Day, Youth Sunday, and Teacher Appreciation.There was also the interment of ashes of a very much loved friend, father, grandfather, long-time parishioner, and college professor. This special committal would take place after worship in our Memorial Garden.
Youth Sunday is always filled with high anticipation. When working with children and youth, one never knows exactly what is going to happen. Will the teens, still recovering from the end of their school year, make it to church on time? Their adolescent faces looking like they are in need of four cups of coffee. And then there are the children, who may arrive having gone through the Sunday morning battle.
“I don’t want to go to church today! School’s out. It’s summer! I am done!”
Parents typically win. Some kids offer a furtive glance which may be interpreted, “Just you wait! Someday, I will vote with my feet!”
But the promise is to you and children.— Acts 2:39.
I scurry down the church aisle, getting the willing participants in the pews. There sits the lone and effervescent first grader who is willing to help with the New Testament reading at the last minute. Her mother received my emails, and says, “She would like to read but will need a little help.” I try not to think about the fact that we haven’t practiced together. I just pray the angels behind me can travel as fast as I am driving this car!
The processional hymn begins, and Youth Sunday, Teacher Appreciation, and Father’s Day has begun!
When sitting in the front pew, the first grader asks, “Is he over there in the blue shirt going to help me?” And I say, “Yes, he will help you with the big words.”
And during the hymn, with first grader’s hand in mine, we scurry across the church to then wait for the very familiar face behind the tech to begin his ascent to the podium. I had forgotten the step stool. But thanks be to God, there is another wooden piece of furniture that we can use! Ella steps up with confidence and waits her turn to read Romans 5:1-5. She reads what she can and is assisted when needed. Her sweet voice is heard across the church, reminding me of why am in ministry. Forty-four years helping the children and youth along the way, loving God, experiencing church, and being a part of the beloved community.
“And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”—Romans 5:3-5
Ella sits down and begins coloring the bulletin for the rest of the service. Just one child. If we can just have one child carry the gospel forward, we can touch thousands!
It is then time for the homilist. Our parish college student has returned from Illinois and this will be his third year to preach on Youth Sunday. Matthew shared how the past twelve months had not been ideal. He reminded the parish to reach out to the fathers in their lives. He lost his own father unexpectedly several years earlier. My heart is moved to make those necessary texts and phone calls in the quiet of the afternoon.
The Eucharist Prayer is said followed by the Lord’s Prayer and the invitation to communion. As if the morning wasn’t busy enough, I also volunteered to serve as a Lay Eucharistic Minister. I move forward and share the cup with those standing around the altar.
Father Shane calls all the Sunday School teachers and helpers up during the announcements. Flowers and gratitude are bestowed upon the lead Godly Play teacher. Father Shane reminds us of the Mother’s Day flowers given to the women in May. He then talks about the gifts, to be given to the men, in equity, as they exit. Chocolate cigars! The youth are delighted! No pun intended!
Our closing hymn is sung, “Seek Ye First.” Our Minister of Music was kind enough to put it in the bulletin at the last minute. I am catapulted back in time to 1977, and my own Youth Group meetings with the guitar.
Lord, you are good. Thank you for helping me get through this day!