Within moments, tears began to drip down cheeks and turn to streams as each votive candle was taken and lit. With each candle, you could feel Love-made-flesh surround us. Crammed into our living room on this final night of House Party, Drew and I sat amidst our junior and senior class on couches and chairs surrounding our coffee table. Bodies leaned in with their faces lit only by the glow of the Christ candle in the middle of the table. As I had shared the instructions moments before, you could already sense the Spirit among us. We would go one by one taking the unlit votive candle before another in the group, light it from the center Christ candle, and then name the gifts we see in each person before sharing words of blessing for their future.
Overcome with emotion, youth struggled to find the words that could express their love for one another and their gratitude for this special community. Before us we caught a glimpse of the beautiful tapestry that time has built – lives knit together through the sacred traditions that Highland has offered them along the way through Bible study, worship, Wednesday night choirs, youth group, retreats, camps, mission trips, mentor groups, dinners, and more. They recounted the special relationship it is to be surrounded by people who have seen them through it all. Even those youth who were new to the group could not help but become swept up in the moment. Whether they had been a part of our faith community for two months or eighteen years, God’s Love was at work all the same.
That night, all across our city, Highland’s youth gathered in small groups and enacted the same ritual. Surrounded by candlelight, middle school and high school students became communities of Light as they named for one another how God is coming alive through the lives of our young people.
We spoke throughout the weekend of what it meant to follow Christ. We talked about the challenges of forgiving others when they have hurt us, of serving others who are perceived to be lower than us, and of not seeking praise for our actions. We practiced Love by loving our community on Saturday morning delivering care packages, organizing a warehouse at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, cleaning up apartments at Choices, and caring for children at Family Scholar House. We created community through the sacred ritual of our video scavenger hunt.
Throughout it all, we encountered Christ. We found God alive around us and within us – transforming us from the inside out.
May Highland always be a place where we invite youth to feel at their deepest level that sacred Love that God has for us – a love that God found was most profound and life-changing when embodied in human flesh. Following Christ, may we raise youth who know the beauty of the Light so that they may create communities of Light wherever life leads them.