In our Spiritual Community, we approach children and youth a little differently from many other churches. For the most part, United Church families are healthy families. We want our church to operate like our families….every age together, enjoying, respecting and helping one another.
We have a Sunday school, the first half of most services engages our children and youth in worship with us…complete with bands, action songs, skits, etc. The children and youth enjoy worship and feel a part of it. We think that’s important. Often they leave halfway through the service and go to classes or workshops. These are provided by a talented and motivated mix of volunteers and post secondary students. The paid staff ensure that we don’t overload our wonderful volunteers and can vary the program enough to keep the experience fresh. Some Sundays we stay together for the whole service and worship interactively rather than a sermon.
We also have kind, loving people who help parents with babies and toddlers. Although we have a nursery, often the young ones stay in worship and sometimes play at the back or in the nursery if they prefer. Our goal is to support parents so they can have a meaningful worship experience and to support children so they can be engaged in worship as much as possible without becoming bored and unhappy. We keep talking with the parents, figuring this out, discovering how best to be the church together with our children.
- Safe, supportive community throughout all the stages and experiences of life.
- Stories of wisdom and inspiration from our ancestors that remind us who we are.
- Connection with a higher power, the Mystery and Magic of Creation we call God.
- Toddlers on the Move
- Early Adventure Class (ages 3 -5)
- Camp style workshops for mixed ages
- Youth Forum Leadership Group
- A Chasing After the Wind
The search for a meaningful life is certainly a worthy goal for all of us but it can be a particularly elusive quest for young people growing up in these materialistic and often spiritually challenged times.
This year at Trinity United Church we have chosen to build our senior Sunday school program around the Paradoxical Commandments, which were first written by a 19-year-old Harvard student in 1968 as part of a youth ministry handbook. The paradoxical commandments quickly were shared between spiritual communities worldwide and translated into numerous languages. Mother Teresa thought that the paradoxical commandments were important enough that she had them posted on a sign at Shishu Bhavan, a children’s home in Calcutta.
The ten paradoxical commandments were based on an observation by their author Kent Keith that the central paradox of Christianity is that it asks its followers to act in ways that will often cause a person adversity in the secular and commercial world but which will also provide personal meaning and true happiness. Each of the commandments notes that by leading a meaningful, spiritually rewarding life, a person will likely pay a price, but that it is a price worth paying. One of the commandments is “Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.” The commandment concludes “Give the world the best you have anyway.”
The message of the paradoxical commandments is echoed in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, which is about a man who through hard work and diligence acquired every material possession imaginable in third century B.C., but found that everything he had obtained ultimately was meaningless, “a chasing after the wind.” Instead, Ecclesiastes realized that true happiness and deep satisfaction come from meaningful relationships with others and by the doing of good for those in one’s community.
Recently, myself and Fanshawe student Macey Seguin, with whom I am leading the senior Sunday school program, asked the young people at Trinity to list things that they wanted and also to list things or events that had recently made them happy. Their list of current wants included a new laptop, a driver’s license, a new video game, new clothes and attendance at a professional football game, which are all reasonable requests.
But for things that had made them happy, the young people listed their recent participation in team sporting events or in charitable activities, gatherings with their friends or positive developments in their current relationships. Rather than provide the ‘moral of the story’ we asked the young people what they thought the significance of their answers had been. It did not take them long to determine that while most of the things they wanted could be bought at a store or paid for with a credit card, the things that made them truly happy were not items that can be purchased, and it was these activities and events that were actually the most meaningful in their lives.
Trinity is blessed by an amazing group of young people who take time from their busy lives to participate in our church community. They are just beginning their journeys and will no doubt face challenges and personal trials in the years ahead, but I am hopeful that their involvement in the Trinity family will help them choose life paths that while at times leading them into adversity will ultimately provide them with deeply meaningful lives and true happiness.
- Youth Impact @ Trinity
Plans are well underway for an exciting season of children and youth opportunities. Developing friendships, sharing gifts, a safe place to engage thoughts and feelings and a good time all combine to deepen spirituality and strengthen community.
Sunday youth times will include youth forum for those in grade 8 and high school. Rocky Moretti will be inviting the group to look at the “paradoxical commandments”. Marion Allan and Verna Gardiner will be helping the infants and toddlers to feel welcomed. There will also be two groups for the kindergarten to grade 7 students. Damion Lumley and Jackson Browning have been counseling children at camp all summer and are looking forward to bringing their camping skills to the children of these ages.
We also have some new talented young adults coming to help us! Sharlini Arasaratnam is coming to the nursing program at Western. Her parents are United church ministers and she has experience working with children and youth. Nancy Seguin is coming to Fanshawe to take the youth worker program. She was the program director at Gesstwood United Church Camp in Windsor this past summer. They will be helping out with youth programs and on Sundays as needed.
If you would like to help out with Sunday programs or provide logistical support for our retreats, sleepovers, and Friday Fun nights, please let me know. Trinity is also looking at starting a Argyle youth activity night at the new Children’s Services Offices at the Nelson school.
The Green Team with its leader Cat Hall-Oaker is also a vital part of our youth community and provides intergenerational opportunities to have fun and make a difference. Together we are happier and together we are stronger….together our lives have a powerful and positive impact