by Rev. Dr. Linda Hartley, Assoc. Minister (Designated Term)                   Sept 3, 2020

“And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.” (Acts 3: 7)

This passage from the book of Acts is part of the story of how Peter and John healed a lame man who was asking alms at a gate into the temple. As Peter and John pass by this man, Peter notes that he has no silver or gold, but what he has he will give him. Peter then states unequivocally, “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk” and he reaches out his hand to help the man up. For me, this gesture holds so much power because it shows the importance of reaching out to each other. It shows what can happen when we are in community with each other. It shows how sharing our diverse gifts makes our community stronger. Ultimately, it shows how we can help each other along our faith journeys.

During this time of Covid-19, of course, our abilities to come together as a community have changed. Sometimes we need to stay apart to keep everyone safe, and sometimes we can safely come together. Of course, coming together requires creativity. Fortunately, we have that in abundance here at Barrington. So many ideas were shared at a meeting Dale called last month to talk about this. And two weeks ago, Guest Blogger Nancy Arena shared some of those ideas that are now in various stages of exploration and development.

All of this is good and energizing as it offers us the opportunities to reach out to each other to support to each other in faith. As we pursue these ideas, though, we need to also pay attention to the needs of our youth. This fall, we will once again be starting a new season of our Confirmation program for young people in ninth grade or higher. This is a way for youth to come together to explore their faith in a supportive group. This is all good. But, maybe we can do more for the youth who are part of our church community.

We actually have a couple of new ideas I’d like to share here – the first is an offering from a sister church in Providence and the other is something we are working to start here at Barrington. Both of these offer our youth an opportunity to gather together with other young people to support each other and have some fun.

On Sundays, beginning September 13th, Beneficent Congregational Church, UCC in Providence will be launching an online offering of youth and young adult Bible study programs hosted by their Youth and Young Adult Educator, Joshua Maria Garcia. Joshua is hosting three different programs for three different youth and young adult groups. These programs are open to the greater Providence community and are a free offering from Beneficent’s Christian Education program. Each is designed to address contemporary issues within a biblical framework. For the time being, each group will be meeting virtually.

Middle-school youth are invited to join Josh for Explore, a program using Google Maps to explore the journey of the people of Israel both geographically and culturally. This group will meet Sundays at 11:30 a.m.. High-school youth are invited to join Josh for Encounter to examine some of the more challenging passages in the Bible and how these speak to contemporary issues such as “identity.” This group will meet Sundays at 5:00 p.m.. College-aged young people are invited to join Josh for Current to explore current news stories about social justice issues through the lens of faith. This group will meet Sundays at 6:00 p.m..

All groups will be meeting virtually (at least for now) and you will need to contact Josh for information about logging in. He can be reached at yyaeducation@beneficentchurch.org. If you would like more information before reaching out to Josh, he has created two short informative videos – one about his own faith journey and one about the programs (neither one is longer than 5 minutes) – you may want to check out. Both are available on the Beneficent YouTube channel. Also feel free to reach out to me at linda@bccucc.org if you would like more information.

We are also exploring ways we can offer programming for youth right here at Barrington. Over the summer, we have been exploring the possibility of re-starting a youth group as a place where our youth can gather together (in person, or virtually, or some creative combination of both) to have fun, to talk about what’s important to them, and to be a support for each other. In this era of Covid-19, we know that we will need to be creative to find ways to do this safely and effectively. But we do believe it can be done. It will require thinking outside the box and the willingness of interested adults to make this happen. This is where you come in because we can’t do this without you!

We know how creative you are, so we are asking you to consider how you might be able to support our youth ministry with your time and talents. Do you have ideas for an awesome virtual scavenger hunt, or for a crazy creative online talent show? Have these sparked your own creative juices with other ideas you’d like to try out? If so, I’d like to hear about them. I’d also like to hear from you if you’d like to help out our youth in some other way with your time and talents.

This truly is a new adventure for all of us to imagine what a youth group looks like now, and it will take many of us to make this happen. If you feel the call to work in the youth ministry of this community of faith, we need you. Reach out to me – let’s talk. The fact is, we can’t do it without you. So consider yourself asked, invited in, and welcomed. Let’s start something new and wonderful for our youth!