They were (are) heard!
By Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div.‘14)
A few weeks ago, I reflected on the need to truly listen to our youth as they struggle with the inevitable changes in life and the increasing amount of drastic, and violent, measures being taken by many youth today. At the time, I was already in the process of trying to open new doors for my own youth to have open conversation about hard-hitting topics. We had begun addressing stereotypes and racism as well as the ways they can be involved in the ministries of our congregation and support those who help to make our world a safer place. The goal was to not only encourage them to think critically, but to create a space where deeper and more difficult conversations can safely occur in the future.
The Sunday following that post, we welcomed Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Global Witness. As Rev. Hawkins explained the work he does in Washington D.C., I saw my youth leaning into every word. He asked them questions about what they were most concerned about in the world and what it was like to go to school in light of recently increasing acts of gun violence. I listened to their responses and watched the faces of those who remained silent. My heart broke, but I was encouraged by their passion for making things different.
At the close of our discussion with Rev. Hawkins, I passed out index cards and asked the youth to take a moment to write one thing they wanted to pray for in this world and explained that these would end up being our “Prayer for God’s Global Vision of Compassion, Peace, and Justice” in the Youth Sunday service the following week. The room was silent as 35 youth bent over their cards and scribbled away. When it came time to compose our prayer, I expected half of the cards to contain something I could actually use in the prayer (you know how teenagers can be!)– I could not have been more wrong. Tears filled my eyes as I read their prayers that filled every single card. “These kids get it,” I thought. “These kids WILL change the world.”
Youth Sunday came way too soon this year, but it came with passion and power. Worship was led by 44 youth as they prayed and preached, sang and greeted those who came to worship. Their passion filled the sanctuary and their energy fueled the congregation. They talked about using God as a compass to find “true north” and I thanked God for putting them in my life to be my compass.
This past Sunday, the youth at Kirk of Kildaire were heard! I pray that they feel that and felt the love of the congregation embracing them. I pray that they know that they stood before a room of individuals who would do anything for them. I pray that they felt and found their place in the body of Christ, if they had not already done so.
Youth Sunday was only one small step. My one-on-one meetings with youth at the local donut shop are only a small step. Our open sanctuary in the midst of the tragedy and grief in recent weeks is only one small step. The encouragement from our youth advisors and Sunday school teachers is only a small step. All of these small steps are leading to something big, though. All of these small steps help each confused, scared, and questioning youth know that they don’t always have to have the strength to step forward because there are those who will take the step toward them when they can’t.
In case there is any question about what youth are thinking about, aside from gun violence (where youth are now leading the way!), here is the “Prayer for God’s Global Vision of Compassion, Peace, and Justice” that the Kirk of Kildaire youth wrote for our 2018 Youth Sunday –
Dear God, We give thanks for the many paths down which you guide each and every one of us. We give thanks for the passions you have helped us to find and the ways we can guide one another. Today, we especially pray for…
Marine life depletion.
Those affected by gun violence, especially those in Florida.
LGBTQIA people who face discrimination and being treated less than human for being themselves.
Those who have lost loved ones to suicide, especially the Green Hope community.
The people, especially the children, in Syria.
The people who are in danger globally or mentally.
The future of America.
For progress with immigration within this country, and those struggling to become American citizens and live in America.
For the safety and well-being of everyone, not just certain races or ages.
The safety of people in public locations like school, concerts, and theaters.
People who don’t say what they believe because of stereotypes made against them and the fear of being ostracized.
That schools will become a safer environment for students.
For the safety of those who participate in the school walk-outs and marches.
That everyone will have food to eat.
For the walls of diversity to be broken down.
For those who are experiencing homelessness.
God, there is so much on our hearts. There is so much pain in your world. We pray that you continue to be our guiding light so that we might always be able to find your way and make it to “True North.” Give us the strength to follow through with our passions and to bring your kingdom to fruition. All of this we seek, pray, and do in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.