May 17, 2023
A Note from Pastor April
Seventh grade was rough.
In the small town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, all the students in seventh through twelfth grade went to school in the same building. The older students at our school were notorious for picking on the seventh graders.
As a brainy, insecure, and extremely skinny 12-year-old girl, I was an easy target. I’ll never forget the afternoons and evenings spent crying in my bed, wishing that I could be in a body other than my own.
This is probably why I was so nervous at the start of this year when my youngest child started seventh grade. While I was relieved that the oldest students in his building would be eighth graders, I knew how cruel kids can be if you didn’t fit the mold.
As I watched my son and many of his friends navigate the challenges of middle school, I felt a combination of compassion and awe. Some of the hard parts of seventh grade were familiar, but many were new.
The addition of social media, YouTube, and TikTok (just to name a few) adds another layer to what our young people have to navigate while they are sorting through their identity. Their sense of belonging can feel different during the school day than it does after hours when they are chatting and posting online.
On top of this, they’re a generation of young people who have navigated a pandemic and all the layers of what this has meant for their own social and emotional development.
This year, we led a class of seven of our youth through the nine-month process of Confirmation. In the United Methodist church, we baptize children as early as infancy, as we claim their belovedness and belonging long before they are fully able to understand it.
Somewhere between the ages of 12-15 (when they feel ready), we invite them into a season of confirming the faith and commitments their parent(s) or guardian(s) made on their behalf, or perhaps exploring those for the first time.
I can’t tell you what a privilege it was to work with this group of youth. This is an immensely vulnerable age for young people, and I watched this group be honest, loving, and open.
They asked incredibly good and thoughtful questions. (When I showed them Rublev’s Icon of the Holy Trinity, they were still asking questions and exploring things they saw after 45 minutes!).
Saying Yes to God
This group genuinely wrestled with the questions of what it means to say yes to God in this complicated world.
As a result, two of them made the important and incredibly mature decision that they weren’t quite ready yet to make the commitments and profess their own faith. What wisdom!
The five young people who are deciding to be confirmed (including one who will also be baptized) have been more thoughtful and discerning than any group I’ve worked with in the past.
This is just a snapshot of the amazing things that have been happening within the lives of the children and youth at HUMC. During these fragile times of life, church has been a place where they can know that they are loved no matter what. They can know that they belong and are valued. They can know that in this place, their questions and insights and gifts will be honored and celebrated.
That’s what this Sunday’s service is all about.
At 10am on Sunday morning, May 21, we will gather in the parking lot in front of the playground and celebrate with our young people.
We will baptize, we will confirm, and we will give out Bibles. We will welcome our next class of 4-year-olds into Godly Play and Faith Kids, our next group of third graders into Faith Finders, and our next group of seventh graders into youth group. Toward the end of the service, it will be our honor to celebrate our high school and college graduates.
The choir will also be singing, and I will share a brief message.
The weather looks to be beautiful, so bring a camping chair or blanket to sit on. (We’ll have folding chairs available also; you can also stay in your car and listen on a dedicated FM radio station.)
In preparation for Sunday, you’ll find some Bibles in our Sanctuary this week with pictures of the seniors next to them and an invitation for you to write a message of love and encouragement. Stop by between now and Sunday (or come early on Sunday) to share a note of encouragement and a prayer in those Bibles so we can send them with all the love of HUMC! (One time the church will be open is tonight for Wednesday Community Supper.)
If you haven’t already signed up to help us with set up or hospitality on Sunday, now is the time.
Let’s love on and support our wonderful young people, as we consider how we also are growing and stretching in our own journeys of faith.
The Rev. April Blaine