If you attended worship this morning, you may have noticed a few things. Namely, service was held in Bradford Hall and instead of our lovely new pews, you spent the service on a folding chair. But, you may have also noticed that the teens of our church were missing. One of the hallmarks of a successful “lock-in” is that the teens are just too sleep-deprived to stumble into the service. So, it looks like this lock-in can be soundly placed in the successful column.
If you have ever wondered what would possess a largely sane adult to hold a lock-in with a group of teens, rest assured it is actually a great idea. The activities we do build community, foster a sense of cohesion, and ultimately create a great evening. And the tenets of hosting a successful lock-in echo my philosophies for working with youth of all ages. We are building a strong community, a strong family, and a strong faith.
The strength of that community is summed up with the youth group’s new name. We have “named” ourselves HEART: Honoring Each, Always Rallying Together. The belief in accepting each teen for him/herself and supporting each teen through the challenges of life are what make our youth group a very strong and supportive place.
One of the first activities of the evening was viewing the movie, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” based on Mitch Albom’s novel of the same name. I wanted to share this story with our teens because of the last paragraph of the book. It is not a biblical story as much as a beautiful parable about the ripples our lives create in others’. Albom says it this way, “that each affects the other and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.”
That sense of “one-ness” is key to my understanding of Jesus’ teachings. I read the gospels of Jesus’ life as testimonies of Jesus’ quest to bring all of God’s children into one great community – a community of love, support, and generosity. If we can honor each person we meet, here on earth, then we as a people will not only find comfort in rallying together. We will find peace.
As a youth director and as a CE Coordinator, it is my hope that the community I help to create with the teens of First Congregational UCC will generate ripples that travel widely. For each youth who finds honor, acceptance, and love here at First Congregational UCC, thousands of strangers will be positively affected as well. As Albom says, “strangers are just family you have yet to come to know.”
Let us never forget that we are but one family in God.