Joy and Hope Restored to This Padre

The world is a crazy place.  There are rays of hope shining brightly, but all too often it is easy to get caught up in cycles of fear and despair.  Every Sunday is a feast of the Resurrection, and as such, is filled with hope and joy and transformation.  If we aren’t experiencing hope, joy, and transformation as a result of our worship, then we  had better be wondering what isn’t connecting and why.  That could be for another blog, though.  At any rate, Sunday May 14th was filled with even greater hope, joy, and transformation as Ascension & Holy Trinity held her annual Youth Sunday worship experience.

Now to be clear, I always have sort of an issue with the title, “Youth Sunday” because our youth are encouraged to take part in leading worship in a variety of ways on a normal basis, and not just once a year.  However, Youth Sunday is focused on our youth leading all of the worship experience, and I couldn’t be any prouder of how our children led the charge to celebrating the Paschal Mystery.  Youth read the lessons beautifully.  Each Sunday School class wrote a few parts to the Prayers of the People, and then the children led the Prayers.  Our youth wrote beautiful prayers from their hearts about compassion, justice, and God’s peace.  They prayed for the lives of the poor and the needy, and they prayed for ministries like Habitat for Humanity.  Our Sunday School students are receiving excellent Christian formation as they gave witness to a God of love and mercy through their written and expressed prayers.

Our parish resident, the Rev. Maggie Foote, gave a beautiful homily about knowing the way to God through knowing Jesus, and she tied it all together sharing about her experience at Procter summer camp as a training ground for Christians.  I offered a children’s homily about knowing God through learning the stories about Jesus, Holy Baptism, Holy Eucharist, and experiencing God in each other.  The newly formed Children’s Choir sang the ever so awesome song, “Do Lord” for the Offertory Anthem.  It took all I had in me to keep from singing along with them.  Children’s Choir Director, Sarah Folsom, gave a great invitation to all the children in the parish to join in the joys of Children’s Choir next program year.  Nathaniel Miller and Natalie Glover gave a stirring take on the Lord’s Prayer.  All ages of children ushered and took up the offering and served Holy Eucharist and processed banners into the church and served as acolytes.  Two graduates were recognize with New Oxford Annotated Study Bibles to take with them on their college journeys.

As I listen to world and national news it can, indeed, be all too easy to grow disheartened, but I watch our children growing in our faith community, and I am given hope because I witness the loving teachings they receive Sunday after Sunday from our fabulous Sunday School teachers.  I watch as our acolyte leaders interact with our children each Sunday showing the children love, respect, and direction.  I see the admiration our young voices have for Sarah Folsom and Jean Panos.  I watch and listen as our altar guild and our ushers interact with our youth in kind and curious ways.  I witness the thoroughness Bridget Glover puts into the leadership of Children’s Sunday School ministries.  I am given hope because our children are being taught of a loving and compassionate God, and I couldn’t be any happier to be raising my two boys at Ascension & Holy Trinity today.

So, I encourage each and every one of my loyal readers to reach out to our youth to thank them for a meaningful and joy-filled worship experience.  Reach out to our Sunday School teachers and give them your heartfelt appreciation for all of their time and love put into teaching our children the ways of Jesus.  Stop Sarah Folsom and Jean Panos in the hallway and congratulate them on a great first years of Children’s Choir, and then stop Jeanie and John Zoller and thank them for all of their time and dedication leading our acolytes.  Give Maggie Foote an email, or just chat her up too, and thank her for her love of youth ministry and for taking the initiative to do a strategic study for the future needs of youth ministries for Ascension & Holy Trinity.  And then, once you’ve caught your breath from all of those conversations, consider becoming a Sunday School teacher for next program year.  Think about serving as Children’s Chapel leader for a Sunday this summer.  Both are meaningful ways of sharing your faith, and without sharing our faith it dwindles.

Youth Sunday 2017 was hope-filled for this rector, and I hope it was for you, too!  I’ll see you on the streets and in the pews!

In God’s Grace,

Eric L. Miller+