I recently asked a group of our young people what they liked about St. John’s. One of them replied, “I like it that we talk about how good God is instead of just how bad we are.”
That unlimited grace of God is remarkable, isn’t it? God’s response to our sinfulness is to be even more fully good. No matter what we do, God keeps doing what only God can do. God loves us and does it in such ways that we are able to love God and each other. The Episcopal Church in general, and St. John’s in particular, proclaims that unconditional love of God so well.
Though always important for us to hear, this proclamation of unconditional love and grace is vital at certain points in our development. Our first few years are such crucial ones. There we will either gain a general sense that we are loved or we will spend the rest of our lives searching for that love. We learn this love best by being nurtured in an atmosphere of grace. If a parent, with an infant in arms, is experiencing the love of God proclaimed and exhibited in worship, that infant will soak up grace even before she can walk. And then we build on the foundation, showing the child signs of the love of Christ, appreciating her value as a child of God. If we do that, we’ve gone a long way toward making a disciple of Christ.
Another critical time of development is adolescence. Adolescents are daily experiencing vast changes in their world. Their bodies change quickly. Their minds are growing so fast. They change what they believe, what they think. Their self-image shifts so dramatically from one moment to the next. The people they thought cared for them suddenly don’t. The things they thought would always be there suddenly are gone. And to that group of developing youth, we must proclaim the unchanging yet always new love of Christ. No matter what happens inside them or around them, God is there to love them into becoming who they are meant to be.
We’ve been blessed with wonderful adult volunteers over the years. Ashlee Hooper – our Children’s Ministry Director, and Worth Stuart – our Youth Ministry Director, provide excellent programming and a nurturing presence for all our children and young people from the time they first are carried into our nursery until they graduate from high school. And the parish as a whole provides our children and youth with a wonderful atmosphere in which to grow as Christians.
We never stop learning about grace but there are times when we must make sure we are proclaiming it loud and clear. You can help us do that in some specific ways here in this next month. You can also witness it taking place and even learn a bit more about that love of Christ yourself. Come to the Children’s and Youth Banquet on Sunday, May 5, beginning at 6:00. It’s a great meal, a lively crowd, a moving video presentation, and a chance to encourage a young person face to face. Youth Sunday is another must for people of all ages. On May 19, the Day of Pentecost, at 10:30, members of our youth will lead worship. Then we have a big celebration with our annual picnic on the grounds.
Youth Ministry continues to deserve our focus, no matter what our age.
Robert Wisnewski, Jr.