Last Sunday afternoon I joined our awesome EYC leaders (Christina Kastendike and Mike Phelps), Father Philip, and about ten of our youth in the Parish Hall to discuss Outreach at St. John’s (AKA “worshiping outside the walls of church”). Most of them were familiar with some of the work we do in the community to live our faith and love our neighbor. Some of the youth shared that they have packed Backpack Buddies, baked desserts and brought them over to Hope House for the Wake Forest Community Table program or they talked about how they worked together in gardens for the Farm to Fork program that brought out many youth and young families last year for outreach.
Most of our EYC knew of a few examples of WHAT we do when it comes to outreach at St. John’s. Our discussion on Sunday evolved into HOW and WHY we live our faith outside of the church walls. These awesome kids knew what to do to help our neighbors, but we moved into a deeper conversation about why we need to love our neighbors, why these neighbors are even in need in the first place and how we should show up outside of the church walls to do this work. These kids quickly waded into the deep and messy waters of why our neighbors are in need: low wages, corporate greed, inflation, historical lending, housing and education laws that segregated races just a couple generations ago. It gave me so much hope to see that these young people were thinking, asking questions and talking about these difficult issues with their faith community. These types of discussions and gatherings are the heart and soul of Christian formation with our young people, and we are so blessed at St. John’s to have leaders and families who support this work!
At the end of our time together, I shared with the students the story of the family that St. John’s has been walking with who is currently living in a hotel with our help while they wait for approval for permanent housing. We discussed how closely linked their lives were to the children in this family (they attend the same school as several of our EYC members). We thought about how they can “worship outside of the church walls” when they encounter students who might be difficult, mean, moody, or unprepared. If they practice what we did in our discussion and consider why some kids may show up to school this way, that is a way to live their faith, that is outreach! This simple practice that they did together as a faith community on Sunday afternoon of considering the whys and evaluating how to respond to their classmates in these situations is living their faith and our teens and tweens can change the world by doing this. The youth are the church, and I left our EYC gathering with hope about the future of our church.