Three years ago we went to church on a Sunday in May and discovered Youth Sunday. The youth group led the entire service. It had a little bit of a camp (as in the church sleepover variety–not the literary definition) feel to it, but it was neat. I was touched when two seniors in the group each stepped into the pulpit to preach. (Yes, our church has a raised pulpit. That’s worthy of a blog post of its own at some point.) That these two young women could step into the pulpit and give the sermon was deeply moving to me.
Fast forward three years, and I find myself working with the youth group preparing youth Sunday. We have five seniors who have been active in the youth group. We decided we would let them shape the service, and preach if they chose to do so. It was difficult to get all five of them in any one place at any one time, but we worked with meetings and texts and emails, talked about what went into a worship service, gave them examples, let them divvy up the parts, and off we went. They were very careful to include all of the youth, and not make it just The Senior Show. They are a thoughtful group. They are also a kind of understated group, and this service will be fairly traditional. They are opening with “This is the Day,” a camp favorite certainly, but their other two hymns are “Here I Am” and “You are Mine.” Granted they are contemporary hymns, both out of post-Vatican II Catholic hymnody, nonetheless they are hymns we sing often in the congregation. With this particular group of kids, the music they know is the music of the congregation. We also know we are blessed to have an accomplished pianist within the group. What instruments can be played at what level makes a difference for what can be sung.
It has been my great privilege to be the person to whom the four seniors who chose to preach are sending their sermons. These kids are telling their stories, the stories of this congregation, and taking their place in the Cloud of Witnesses. They are 17 and 18. I have no false assumptions about the grandeur of these sermons, but they are thoughtful, and they are kind, and they are faithful. They are witnesses to the work of God in their lives and in this congregation they call home. What more can we ask?