Pentecost has quickly become my one of my favorite Holy days, maybe my very favorite. So much less pressure. So important the coming of the Spirit. We wear red and orange and yellow and throw streamers and release doves and have a day of joy and remembrance of the coming of the Spirit and the birthday of the church.
Youth Sunday, which I have taken point on the last several years, has been the first Sunday in June for the last several years, and so back in September the youth coordinator put it on the calendar that way. No one thought much about it until a couple months ago when suddenly people were disgruntled: What, no choir on Pentecost!?! What, we have to do Pentecost? But we want to do our own thing!
Since we are trying hard to honor our scheduling, we stuck with Pentecost, and the kids ran with it. In a way, for me, because our planning time was shorter this year as there was some transition in youth group leadership, I was grateful for the theme. We could take it and run with it, but not try to start from scratch (what do you want to do? I dunno, what do you want to do?).
Before we began, I asked the kids what they remembered about Pentecost, and what they might hope to include. They said they wanted to do some traditions like throwing streamers and releasing doves, and they wanted to do something new and they wanted lots of music. When we read the Pentecost story, the two things that stood out to them were the different languages–they didn’t remember that from past years, though we have sometimes had different languages spoken–and the 3000 added to their number through baptism.
Languages: The kids decided they wanted to use different languages. Several of them are fluent in Spanish, one has taken French in school, one has been learning Dutch on the computer, and one, who is a quarter Pilipino, offered to learn the Tagalog from his grandmother.
Baptism: I offered that they could do a remembrance of baptism ritual if they wanted. The two oldest had participated in one as confirmands and it had been memorable for them. Since we weren’t going to have formal sermons–they could have but didn’t want to; two are waiting for next year when they are seniors–this gave some substance to the service. They talked about what baptism meant and what it means to renew our baptismal covenant; they prayed over the water, and then they disbursed and blessed the congregation: Child of God, Remember your baptism and be thankful. (I cribbed, with attribution of course, from a Methodist service. The Methodists share their liturgies freely online and I am grateful.)
Music: We don’t have a CCLI license which is always an issue on Youth Sunday, so this year I stood my ground firmly and told them they needed to pick songs from the hymnals. There may or may not have been one exception, but we had lots of songs. The kids sang “Spirit of Gentleness” as the anthem with help from the younger kids on the refrain. It was the best anthem they have sung in years. I don’t know if it was because it was a hymn they knew or because we practiced it several times just before or because we have several kids who are involved in choirs, or because I asked a choir member to help us, probably all of the above, but it came together really well. The other songs were congregational songs, favorites of youth and grown ups, like “Lord of the Dance” and “We Are One in the Spirit” and, to add to the languages, “Cantad al Señor” with Spanish and a trumpet introduction. We closed with “As a Fire Is Meant For Burning.” And the choir did sing while we did the baptism remembrance.
It was a good Pentecost service. It was fresh and new and held on to what is dear to the congregation. Several people said, “Best Youth Sunday Service Ever,” for what that’s worth. Every year people say, “Best Youth Sunday Service Ever.” (Though a grandfather said it in front of his young adult grandson and then had to backpedal a bit.) I wouldn’t want it to become the custom to have Youth Sunday on Pentecost, because, how do you change it up? But it was lovely and meaningful and spirit-filled for this year.