Youth Sunday: June 7, 2015
1 Samuel 8:4-11-20, 11:14-15 | Psalm 138 | 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 | Mark 3:20-35
Preacher: Charlotte Nash, Graduating High School Senior
Good Morning. My name is Charlotte Nash, and I’ve been a member of St. Michael’s Church since birth. Throughout my eighteen years here, I’ve seen this church change. I was here for the upgrade from the old splintery playground (an important change for me growing up), I’ve watched the youth choir music program blossom first under Rose Peachey Robinson and now Jonathan DeVries, I’ve seen the church aquire its first two female rectors. I’ve watched our parish become more welcoming and more full on Sunday mornings. Mostly, however, I’ve seen myself change because of St. Michael’s.
As a child, I explored every nook of St. Michael’s, flanked with my constant Sunday morning and Wednesday night companions: Kat Luetters, Maria Chambers, River MacLeod, Alyssa Abrash, Faith Hobson and Kathleen Lobosov to name a few. We were the best of friends, and still are, except when the part of Mary would came up in the Sunday School pageant, or when a solo was announced in Angel Choir. But still, together, we’ve gone through many obstacles, and our friendship has kept us strong. These girls are some of the first I want to share news in my life with, whether in high school group check-in, in between Jonathan’s necessary shushes during rehearsal or over facebook when we haven’t met up in a while. From experience, there are not many high schoolers as grounded and passionate as the ones St. Michael’s has gifted my life with. I know that our friendships will continue long past high school.
My most vivid memories of St. Michael’s are from the choir loft: playing tic-tac-toe while waiting for our cue to sing, leaning over the balcony during baptismals, watching as the incense curled its way up to our perch. I remember the excitement at age four of donning my red Angel Choir robe and waving to my parents, miles of pews away. As I grew up at St. Michael’s, singing became my passion. It’s now as natural as exhaling. When I sing in the choir, surrounded by voices either in unison or weaving through my own, I feel a connection as clear as a high B flat, some combined untangible energy flowing through me and those around me. When I joined the High School Choir in 8th grade, Jonathan taught me how to think about my singing. I learned to add nuances to my dynamics and to annunciate vowel tones. In the adult choir, I attempted to capture emotions; my music scores became covered with John Cantrell’s instructions of “deeper”, “hesitantly” and “Hollywood moment”.
There were times during my tween and teen years when I struggled with religion, as I’m sure most teenagers do. In freshman year English class at school we read the story of Job and I struggled to connect with what now seemed an unfair, unloving, flawed God. I still looked forward to coming to church every Sunday, however, to see and sing with my friends every week and feel that surge I experience only through music. When I told Kathy Cantrell that I struggled with connecting to the lyrics behind the glorious melodies and harmonies I came to take part in, she caused me to think more. Weren’t the melodies themselves a miracle, a gift from God to the composer, performer and audience? What else could music be but the purest form of God’s love. Over the years, from the choir loft, I’ve watched people use our music to connect to God: some raising their arms in praise and others tearing up. I realize through my many Sundays sitting with the choir that I had been doing the same.
One of the reasons I decided to become confirmed last year, was something Father Smith said. I asked him in a confirmation class what to do if you don’t believe in a certain part of the episcopal tradition: for me at the time it was the trinity. I wasn’t connecting to the metaphor and it felt wrong repeating the Niscene Creed when I didn’t believe in what I was saying. He replied, “Everyone struggles through some parts of their beliefs at some point and time, if not constantly throughout their whole life. Its something that God wants us to do to keep better connected with him instead of blindly accepting. Still, instead of not saying the parts of the service you don’t believe in, you say them, because the person next to you might feel that passage strongly. We are a community and we say the prayers as one. We are here to support one another”. The image of faith as a community effort clicked with everything St. Michael’s had taught me.
My new found acceptance of my full place in St. Michael’s community, not just as a Sunday school student or choir member but as a worshiper this past year has been life-changing. To me, God is love, and the idea of a whole community uniting to spread that love has given me hope for our future. It has helped me to be kinder to strangers to continue that chain of love, it has made me more committed to those I already cherish, and it has convinced me of the importance of my pursuit for environmental solutions so that we may spread that love out into all of God’s creation.
So thank you to you, “the crowd sitting around me, my brothers and sisters and mothers who do the will of God” as Mark so fittingly wrote today. Thank you for showing me how the whole world ought to function with collaboration and selflessness and a focus on education. Each and every one of you at St. Michael’s has impacted my life in more ways than I could ever write in a five minute speech, and have truly saved me. I love you all.