It is no secret, and I hope never to forget, that Highland offered a home for me before I believed I deserved it. This home first came working for Carol alongside the youth community as an intern, long before I imagined I would be here in this role now. Our lectionary passage in Matthew this week reminds me of those first two summers. From Matthew 5:23-24: So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
This passage calls to mind those first few summers because it grounded an experience we shared together. People had not been treating one another as they should, as sometimes happens when you love one another, but temporarily aren’t your best self. As much happens to all of us, if we are honest. Carol reminded the youth of this passage in Matthew. We were to participate in a cherished ritual as a community, creating sacred ground together, but we simply could not before the task of reconciliation. And so the adults left the room to let the youth make amends and be reconciled where they needed to before coming to share the gift of our connectedness to one another at the altar.
For those of us who know the youth well, this much is true. If you need a reminder of what authentic, imperfect, courage-filled, of-the-earth faith, our youth are where you will find it. Things are never as we remember them, but that memory of reconciliation among our youth has stayed with me all the same. Not everyone had the same amends to make, some laughed as I sometimes do when things are serious, some risked everything in honesty with one another, all were shaped in some way by the room they shared. That is how Highland works: each according to their need is given space to find God and to be reconciled, first with themselves, and then with one another.
I am not Carol (sadly), but we among the youth community have continued the culture in much the same way as I first found was so good for me six years ago. I promise to you that today I could tell you more stories than you would expect about our young people and those who invest in them being changed as they walk together on sacred ground.
If you would like to support us in all that we are doing, one way is to attend HBC Got Skillz on February 23 at Highlands Community Ministries. Tickets are $15 and table sponsorships are $300—all of the money we raise will go directly to making our community life available to all families. We will serve you food and you will see a great show; we still need a few more acts so sign up to perform! My endless thanks to Highland for loving your youth and loving one another.