This week, I have had the opportunity reflect on our youth at Highland and how they each live into this core value we share: “We value all people, not in spite of, but precisely because of all that makes each one unique.” One of my favorite things to experience is a church member discovering the youth for who they are for the first time. We are isolated from the rest of the congregation in a variety of ways, from our physical space tucked away upstairs, to our full schedule each week (especially in pre-pandemic times). Every so often, though, by accident or invitation, a church member will experience the energizing delight that comes from the realization that the youth are many in number, unique and diverse in myriad ways, and fully rooted within Highland in more ways than one. Put another way, our youth are Highland when they gather within our walls and out, and far more often than not the church would be proud to know how our youth reflect our congregation.
Our youth celebrate one another’s differences. Among our youth community are included a variety of family backgrounds, ages, life stages, experiences, personalities, interests, learning differences, passions, neurodiversity, and more. Naturally, is quite the task for me to figure out how to effectively teach such a group. But, it is a miracle again and again to see such a group love one another. This is because in celebrating one another, the youth actually care for one another in profound, authentic ways during ordinary times and in extraordinary times. We are a community that is for one another in all seasons. It is hard to describe what this all looks like, of course. In truth, the only way to get a real glimpse is to spend some intentional time in our midst.
But all of these things are true of many youth organizations and communities throughout the country. I know because I have seen and heard them. What makes us different, or rather, distinguishes us from a transformative, secular youth organization, is that our youth’s love for one another and celebration of one another is rooted in the theological truth (small t) we find woven throughout our scriptures, embedded in our traditions, and incarnate in our lives: it was God who first loved and celebrated us in this way and much more. If God loves and celebrates us precisely for all that makes us unique, how can we not live into that love and celebration for one another?
In this time of pandemic, it is difficult to be reminded that we cannot gather together in our usual rhythms. This is true for our youth and it is true for the rest of our congregation, too. But, the relationships we have invested in and the connection of faith we share continue to grow and shape our lives even and especially as every square inch of our lives has been disrupted in this season. Know, too, that we among the youth community are still here and still seeking to live into the liberation of Christian faith we have found together as part of our home at Highland.