Thursday, June 17, 2010

Family of joy

A few months ago, I received a call from a Pastor that oversees youth ministry for the Upstate and Western NY. She asked me if I would be interested in coming to Convo in Rochester to serve as Chaplin. My first response was "Chaplin?!!?" My second response was, " Am I able to do this?" and my third was, "What exactly is Convo?".

Convo is a senior-high youth gathering of the Synod area that is part retreat, part community building, part church camp culture, part service project and part education in the business and voting aspects of the Lutheran church.

Some of the responsibilities of the individual serving as "Chaplin", is to help plan the curriculum for the small group time for students, assist individuals with prayer support and a listening ear, and to be curator and tender of the prayer space used by the students and staff throughout the week.

Convo is something very unique in way of youth ministry events as it is six days long. The sheer amount of time spent together helps to form a stronger sense of community and insists that each person be devoted to living and working through the challenges of community life that would not appear if it was only for a couple of days.

Upon accepting the adventure of Convo, I was really unsure and quite honestly a little skeptical that it would work. Over the years I've been on many retreats with students and I know just how difficult it is to create and sustain this kind of environment. How would it be possible for 33 people from different church communities succeed in becoming a unique and sincere community in the pressure cooker of six days in unfamiliar territory and new relationships?

Our first day and a half in Rochester involved reading the planned curriculum, getting to know the staff, gathering supplies for upcoming activities, listening to each other and praying together. Our theme for the week was taken from Philippians 4: 4 - "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again rejoice!" This theme seemed to be particularly fitting as I strained to see how rejoicing in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES would actually come to reality. But come to reality it did.

I witnessed joy in the playing of four-square and kung-fu. I witnessed compassion as the students genuinely cared for the needs of each other. When there were problems, they were dealt with quickly. When someone needed a hug, they asked for one and it was given. We learned to work together on projects like; writing songs, singing in a group choir, working on set AND clean up, planning and carrying out worship services, creating a performing skits, praying together, receiving and giving letters of encouragement via our mailboxes, meeting with the Bishop and praying for her, hearing about the great sense of mission within the Lutheran church, eating our meals together and learning a new prayer each meal, and as I gave to others I experience others giving their support and love back to me. Convo is a very special place and gathering of people that I'm incredibly thankful for having the opportunity of witnessing first hand. I'm also thankful to Pastor Laurie for calling me on that rainy spring day just a few months ago and encouraging me to use my gifts to minister to the students attending Convo. I think she knew that I would be on the receiving end of some affirmation as well. Thanks for that.

Now that I'm on the other end of Convo 2010, I'm a little embarrassed to say I started in a place of uncertainty and doubt. Sometimes though, that is how God works. In Phillians 3:12-14, Paul speaks of pressing on in the work and grace of living a life that seeks after Christ.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold ow that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

I know that there is a great deal of pressing on ahead, but seeing the community of Convo become and be a community of Christ has given me hope and a goal to aim for back here at home. I know that this goal is not one I strive for alone, I have support from my Convo family, the students that experienced Convo, and most of all God. God showed up at Convo and God shows up here at home, it's just that sometimes we need a little help to see it.

As Christians, we are called to be a family of joy in all times and circumstances. I've seen it for myself and I know it's possible to live in this way. Now it's our job to press on and see that joyful reality becomes visible wherever we go - because God is ALWAYS with us.

The song 'Family of Joy' was a collaborative project of T. Eastman and the student members of Convo 2010 to encourage the ELCA church and it's members to carry Christ's joy with them wherever they go and in whatever circumstances they find themselves in. a special thanks to Rick Mollenkopf Grill caretaker and join organizer for Convo and the Niagara Frontier Conference for Lutheran Youth and
Pastor Laurie Carson-Nelson for introducing me to Convo and getting the ball rolling!

All the places we’ve come from. All the places we’ve been. We need a place to belong. We need a place to fit in. No matter where the road takes us, In Jesus we are kin.

We are a family of joy – Warm, welcoming and one.
Held together by the Spirit, the Father and the Son!

This day in the journey, may take us to a different place. With many twists and turns
With many steps to take. No matter where this road takes us, with Jesus we are safe.

We are a family of joy – Warm, welcoming and one.
Held together by the Spirit, the Father and the Son!

Words by T. Eastman and Convo 2010 members/Music T. Eastman

1 comment:

Amanda Monday said...

Thanks Auntie Tara!! Convo was a great experience and I am glad you enjoyed it as well. Convo means a lot to everyone, including me, and I thank you for being there with us. It is always awesome to meet a new face :)

Thanks again and God Bless :)
Love, Amanda Monday