Week 6: Nurturing Our Children and Youth

May 13

Reflections from Reverend Kathleen Hepler

spiral of rainbow colored heartsWhen I first saw the packets of materials from First Parish, I knew this was a place that respected children and youth. Sam Greeley, a high school senior at the time, was a member of the Search Committee! Over the years, working with our DREs and RE Council members, First Parish has become increasingly multi-generational. Children now join us for a Sunday “Time for All Ages’ and we have added another multi-generational service. Inclusive programs have been added, like Advent Saturdays, Mystery Friends and the talent Show. I have appreciated the commitment to children and youth here from the beginning. I carry that good wisdom with me.

First Parish has one of the strongest YRUU program I have seen. Kudos to the many adults who help guide the junior and senior youth groups! And, your young people are always reaching out beyond our walls to serve others, an ethic that is in the DNA here. I will never forget the trip (led by former DRE Julie Porter) that my daughter and I  took with some of you to New Orleans to support rebuilding efforts. “Deeds not creeds!” Thank you to the youth for being so unified in your differences! Thank you for serving at the Auction every year, acting as Acolytes on Christmas Eve, and delivering the most popular worship service of the year–Youth Sunday! Thank you for the yard work you do to raise funds for First Parish! It has been great seeing you grow into the great people you are!

And to the littlest here in the community, those who not even born when I arrived here…how blessed I have been to have your hugs, your wonder, and your help on Sunday mornings with chalices lightings! I shall miss you! We often hear that children and youth are our future. Well, of course, that is true. But, for me, they are essential ingredients in the present, right here and now. I know you will continue to make room for all ages to bless each other!

Reflections from Jennifer Walton

My mom and I first came to First Parish looking for a place for our unique family to spend quality time together and be in community with like-minded people. I wanted a place where my daughter could take the time to find and follow her own voice, and a place where pressure to look and sound like her peers would take a backseat to celebrating her contributions to the community. The Religious Exploration programs did so much more than that for all of us.

I’ve been involved in RE as a teacher, council member, and youth group adviser. I intended to give back and stay engaged, but found it fed by soul and aided my spiritual growth. I’ve met more lifelong friends in RE than I can count. Some of my favorite memories are from multi-generational events like Mystery Friends, Halloween Parties, UnBirthday Parties, UnPlugged Christmas and Soup & games Nights. Growing up, many of my daughter’s favorite church friends were teachers and parishioners, not just classmates, relationships forged during these RE events.

I’ve had the privilege of guiding our middle and high school aged youth groups for many years– I can’t imagine church life without them. They bring vibrancy and energy that cannot be forced, and is both expected and unexpected. In our plugged in world of constant contact, First parish plays an important role to provide a safe space for youth to come as they are and just be.

Throughout Kathleen’s tenure, I’ve been impressed the value she places on RE programs. I’ve watched the careful work of crafting RE in to what it currently is. The truth is that RE, as it was 11 years ago, would not best serve children and families today. I am very grateful for Kathleen’s RE program guidance over these years–what a wonderful legacy!