by Robin Mitzcavitch, Director of Religious Exploration & Education
It has been a year since we shut down our in-person Religious Exploration programming and church services due to the pandemic.
It’s kind of hard to believe!
Initially, we were going to just struggle through those next few weeks until it passed. But here we are a year later, still working remotely with the RE children and teens. Right now, I’m working with high school teens as they produce their Youth Group Sunday service. Last year we closed right before their service happened so they were unable to do it. They had it all planned! The title of their service last year was “Growing Up.”
“Growing Up” is again the title of their upcoming service, but the meaning is now much more relevant. Over the past year, we all, including these teens, have done a lot of growing up. Together, we’ve weathered all types of storms and have gone through too many changes to wrap our minds around. When you’re a child, and especially a teen in this time of massive change and chaos, it’s normal to want to try to keep things as close to the same as possible. Familiarity helps kids feel grounded. During RE, we have tried to keep things steady and reliable.
With the teens, it was so important to them that we could meet in person. So we met outside, 6 feet apart, and with masks on, until we could no longer sit out in the cold December afternoons. But, from July through December, the Youth Group arrived each and every Sunday. We’d put out our chairs, we’d yelled across the large circle to each other, it was hard to hear, those masks blurring our words. We did a check-in, sometimes with our teeth chattering, but happy to have some kind of normalcy back. It’s nice to feel sort of settled, after a week of not knowing what was going to happen. There were so many questions about remote learning, gathering numbers, mask safety, and all the other craziness.
So now, as youth again prepare a worship service entitled “Growing Up,” I look at the same teens, and know that they’ve very much matured and adapted. They’ve made good of a really tough situation, and they’ve grown. And with their new eyes, they’ve created a worship service for all of us to see on Sunday, March 21st. Who knew they’d need the skills to prepare a Zoom service? This involved technology they’ve never had to use before for Youth Group Sunday, and they really pulled together and did it well. I want to extend my gratitude to the whole group, and especially to Conrad Homan who pulled all the recorded pieces together to craft a service. Lois Divoll put together and narrated our group skit video, and Lindsey Leitko, KC Johnson Erikson, and Justin Keyo put a group song together without even having the group together …. such magic!
As you’ll realize after attending our service, “growing up” isn’t just a statement meant for teens or young kids. I believe it carries weight for adults as well. I became tearful while listening to a lyric in the group song. It’s such an age-old realism: kids crave growing up, and adults crave to be younger. When you enter into adulthood, there comes a point when you suddenly get what it means to be a grown up, and often it’s not that fun. Isn’t it interesting and ironic?
This year has been one of those times when it’s hard to be an adult. During these days when we could hardly plan a week, never mind a year, we’ve all had to grow up. We’ve had to live in the moment, moving through uncertainties and sorrow. We’ve had to watch ourselves, our friends, or our family members lose employment. We’ve had to change the way we work and parent. Some of us had to struggle with our mental and physical health. I know that people have had the experience of a loved one dying in the middle of this, not being able to be at their side, not being able to mourn in a proper way.
Growing up was critical for all of us this year because we had to face something that we’ve only ever experienced in apocalyptic movies, or read in historical or futuristic books. We had to face it and look it right in the eye, wonder how we were going to get through it, and then just plow ahead and get through it. What choice was there? We had to read, we had to listen, we had to learn, and we had to breathe…..way more than we did before. A growth spurt for many.
I’m proud of all the young people that I work with at our church. I’m stunned by how they’ve rolled with it. I am proud of all the adults, hanging in as well, and many by the tips of their fingernails. And with all that, folks still pledged to our church and showed up over Zoom every Sunday, even with all the technology blips. So many of you have worked to maintain connections, even with the sad fact that we couldn’t physically get together. I’d like to thank you for sticking it out, and for changing and growing with us. Thank you for being there for us and for each other. Thank you for being grown-up.