For the six years I served as a youth pastor, I would often end our Wednesday night youth group sessions by asking the group to form a circle in order to recite some variation of this blessing: Go with the strength you have. Go simply, lightly… In search of Love. And May the Spirit go with you.
These squirrely teenagers did as they were asked (usually), and yes, I was well aware of all the eye rolling and giggles as we shared in this blessing. It was a bit awkward, but I didn’t care.
Many of these young people are now in college and others have already graduated and are now serving as youth pastors themselves. John Bergen, for example, serves at Germantown Mennonite Church. I smiled when I read this recent Facebook post from John:
Yesterday, I was tired, overwhelmed by year-end event planning, and caught up in anger and anxiety over the looming political apocalypse. As I got ready for Youth Group I was really worried that this would translate into me not being present with the young folks at church. All that faded when I picked up the first high schooler on our way out of West Philly. He climbed into the front seat and immediately began showing me some of his favorite bands. When we got to church we had a fantastic evening playing games, trading gifts, and watching Inside Out. They were cool with me crying when Joy realizes she needs Sadness to complete her mission. Last night, our youth group members gave my soul exactly what it needed. I say this so much my friends are getting tired of it – the young people at Germantown Mennonite Church are amazing. In the middle of a difficult Advent, you give me hope. Thank you to every one of you for your spirit, your honesty, and your brilliance. I’m so grateful to have the chance to work with all of you.
Another young person I mentored and baptized, Mark Kreider, will be at Rainbow this coming Sunday. (Mark happens to be the son of Western District Conference Minister, Heidi Regier Kreider. Since Heidi is bringing WDC greetings to Rainbow this Sunday, I asked if Mark could come along. Fortunately for us, he said yes.)
Mark is an environmental science major at Goshen Gollege. He is also a Conservation Photographer. In an 2016 article published at Goshen College, Mark says he dreams of “pairing the art of photography with the science of conservation to promote and inspire care for natural environments.”
I think his work is brilliant.Here is a link to his portfolio: http://markkreider.zenfolio.com/
Mark was challenged by one of his photographer mentors to keep trying out new ideas and to do meaningful work, and not just settle for what looks nice. Other mentors like Mennonite artist Bob Regier have inspired Mark to explore the beauty of everyday things. Maybe that’s why Mark’s images are so full of life, wonder, stillness, and energy.
In preparation for Sunday, I told Mark about our Advent theme, “Joyful is the Dark.” We decided to intersperse his slideshow of images with various short readings about the gifts of both darkness and light. I look forward to this artistic collaboration.
What a joy it is to see young people find and pursue what they love. What a joy it is to watch young people discover mentors, and then to become mentors themselves.