I have had the opportunity to serve as a Ministry Intern with the youth group for the past two school years, and three summers. The FBCX community experienced a shift this summer back towards gathering in ways that used to feel familiar and comfortable.
This shift, of course, came after hours spent on zoom, quarantining with families, and the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. These were all shifts that I am thankful to have shared closely with this church community. I cannot begin to quantify the value of the collective lessons we as a community have learned from braving these unexpected shifts together.
Most of the lessons I experienced were closely related to the youth group. Although I love our entire church community, there will always be a special place in my heart for the youth. Over these many transitions, the youth have taught me to give up a sense of my perceived maturity and give sincere validity to the struggles they go through.
Isolation and stress led to mental health struggles globally. To me, the pandemic revealed how quickly we tend to settle into unfair and hurtful situations. The youth, like all of us, needed to be reassured that what was happening to them was unfair and undeserved.
I spent almost the entire month of July traveling to and from two youth trips sandwiched around a family vacation. The youth trips were nerve racking and exciting for everyone because the youth were going to be together in a shared space for two trips only separated by about a week.
Of course, this caused the youth to grow tired of each other from time to time which led to arguments and frustration. But they were also so relieved to be there. The youth showed joy in ways I hadn’t seen from them in a while, and they showed compassion towards each other in ways that might blow their parents’ minds. At the end of the final trip of the summer, it was clear to all of us that the youth group provides a safe space for each of the youth to be themselves in. These trips taught me that all people, not just young people, need and deserve safe spaces they can exist in.
These changes and shifts persist as confusion about the pandemic rises again, and most of us no longer have the energy to expect the unexpected. I have faith, though, that this church and the youth group will continue to learn lessons together. Our church must be a space where each of us is free to be overwhelmed and anxious.
Church is rooted in tradition, but most churches, like our own, have just recovered from the challenge of changing these traditions. We have been forced to reimagine what church is and what it means to be in a church community. As we learned early during the pandemic, the church stretches far beyond the walls of our building; my prayer for the church is that we take full advantage of the opportunity to stretch this safe space far beyond the church’s walls and traditions.
Phoebe Capps has served as our Ministry Intern for the past two years. She is a senior at Mercer University, majoring in environmental engineering.