Youth Worship Service: Transitions by Erin Kistenberg, Kolya Souvorin, and Hannah Bowman
Homily #1 “Changing Ages” by Erin Kistenberg
Scene 1: My dad and me, shortly after my sixteenth birthday. We have just spent three hours in lines at the DMV, despite getting there before it even opened, so that I can get a driver’s license. With the piece of paper granting me newfound independence in hand, I am itching to go for a drive. Before letting me do so, my dad gives me a bear hug and proclaims that “his little girl is all grown up now.”
Scene 2: My sister sits in a salon chair, having just chopped off a foot of her long brown hair. It now just brushes her shoulders in a stylish layered bob cut that adds at least three years to her appearance. My baby sister has just disappeared in front of my eyes, replaced by a trendy teenager that I can barely reconcile with the child who sat down in the chair. I think to myself, “she looks so grown up now”.
Scene 3: My nine-month old brother, in his high chair, has just demonstrated his new ability to put food in his own mouth, rather than needing to be fed. My stepmother cries, because “her baby is growing up so fast”
Scene 4: My mother looks at me in the mirror, tucking one last stray lock of hair behind my ear. We have just finished doing my hair and makeup for my last high school homecoming dance, and I barely recognize myself. The girl in the mirror who smiles back at my mom looks like she is at least twenty one, and my mom sighs as she attacks me with hairspray one more time, saying, “You’re so grown up now. Who authorized it?”
Scene 5: Me and one of my friends, on her eighteenth birthday. We are sitting in the orchestra room in school discussing her adulthood, and we swap comments. “You can vote now” “Enlist” “Get married”, and so on. I jokingly ask her, “How does it feel to be a grown-up now?” Her response? “I feel the same as I did yesterday.”
The 5 scenes above have little in common. They occurred at different ages, different life events, and to different people. The only common factor is this: people growing, learning, and accomplishing new things.
Growing up is a matter of perception. To most people, a haircut might seem like an errand to run, just one more thing on the list, but for my sister, it was a transformation, an emergence from a chrysalis. Feeding oneself is an everyday occurrence, a mundane task we normally do mindlessly, but a baby performing this act of self-sustenance for the first time is milestone worthy of celebration. These are beginnings, doors opening into to new stages of life. These doors never stop opening, and we as humans must learn to celebrate them for the possibilities they reveal.
When we are children, we see the world through a lens of imagination and potential, knowing that there are so many wonderful and exciting things that have yet to happen to us. Yet as children, we want to grow up and be like the adults that surround us. As adults, we observe the children engaged with worlds of whimsy that have long since passed us by in favour of paying bills and working a steady job. As teenagers we are caught between the idylls of the future and the responsibilities of the present. We are poised to spread our wings and fly; going to college, living on our own for the first time, making sure we feed ourselves, paying for classes and housing and books, but the whole experience is coloured by a veneer of grandeur and excitement. It’s terrifying, too, make no mistake, but that adds to the thrill of doing something so new and so life-changing.
We are growing up, but we are not grown. No one is ever “grown-up” because that implies an ending, a finish line of sorts. How could we ever believe that we have reached the end of our experiences, that we have become who we are supposed to be and that is all there is? We grow and we change and we learn, but the universe is infinite and we know so very little of it. We are all children of the universe, experiencing our exquisite reality together, growing up as one.
Homily #2 “Changing Minds” by Kolya Souvorin
What was the hardest part of being a child? While many things can cause stress to a kid, such as parents divorcing, moving to a different school, having inconsistent living situations, they all tie back to one idea: something has changed. Anyone who’s been around kids know that they hate changes, especially ones they cannot control. As we grow up, we have more control over our motion, speech and location but there is so much that remains out of our grasp. It’s tempting to just throw a temper tantrum, drag your feet, or pretend as if there isn’t some transition happening at all. When we think of transitions in this mindset, we miss out on all the good that can come of them. Transitions are a time of vulnerability for us. They are often a struggle. However, they are both rewarding and necessary to self-improvement.
To be part of society, we will find that transition is unavoidable. Odds are every person in this room has one defining change in their life. In 1967, Psychologists Holmes and Rahe actually developed a questionnaire for identifying major stressful life events. Each one of the 43 stressful life events was awarded a Life Change Unit depending on how stressful it was felt to be by a large sample of participants. At the top, there are some very tragic moments, such as death of a partner or divorce, but there are also some very positive changes. Marriage and Retirement were both among the top 10 “stressors” but they are generally considered to have a positive impact on people. This goes to show that not all big changes are bad. Take our congregation moving, for example. We were able to take advantage of a great opportunity to really upgrade our building on our own terms. It’s important to remember that just because we can’t control the future doesn’t mean it’s all bad.
So if transition is so unavoidable, why exactly do we resist it? Comfort may be the biggest deterrent here. It is so easy to simply do nothing instead of a something. A mentor of mine once said “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.” Another factor tied into resistance to change is sentimentality. Politicians use sentimentality to steer us away from change all the time. However, memory is fickle, and human nature often distorts what our brain chooses to remember.
However, there is one primal instinct, older than civilization itself, that drives us away from change like no other: Fear. Before society and law, fear might be the only thing keeping you alive in the wild. The wild places in the world have slowly began to disappear. What once made avoiding any possible change a boon has quickly turned into a hindrance. We cannot afford to let ourselves become paralyzed by the fear of the new, for that is to be paralyzed by the inevitable. We can instead embrace transitions, charging forward with life.
Transitions are certainly one of the hardest parts of life. Their fruits are plentiful though, and we can turn them from roadblock to stepping stone on our journey. Like the narrator in the song “Blue Boat Home,” we’ve been sailing all of our life. However, we remain grounded to our home, the Earth, even in turbulent times, through our friends, family and church. With these, we can tackle any transition. (thank you)
Homily #3 “Changing Places” by Hannah Bowman
Good morning, everyone. When you all first heard the title of this service, I’m sure there was something in particular that came to everybody’s mind. I’m here to address the elephant in the room, so to speak. You may have heard that we’ve sold the building and will be moving soon. It’s something that, when we choose this worship theme, I knew needed to be covered.
This building has been where I come to church since before I can remember. I was dedicated here as a baby (and screamed through the entire ceremony), I remember going to RE classes every week, learning and playing and lighting the chalice. I remember the fun activities and the years where I thought the grown-up service was really boring. I remember OWL classes, trips to the mountain, the coming of age journey. And I remember almost every inch of this building. From the Underground, where they had the elementary kids, to the loft and it’s coveted gliding chairs. The playground, the garden, the classrooms, the creek at the end of the parking lot: all these places are chock-full of memories, nostalgic and halcyon.
One night, I had a dream of the ultimate, universal transition: death. I dreamt that I died, and found my eternal resting place: here. In the building I was fated to spend eternity, the sanctuary was my sanctuary, and it was good.
You may think that made me reluctant to leave this place, and it did. But I was one of the many who voted yes to selling our building. Why?
Because as I’ve grown, I’ve watched the congregation grow too. Watched as we pushed for more diversity, wider acceptance, trying the become the most welcoming of places. And I know that this building prevents us from reaching that goal. That’s been discussed, I won’t repeat what everyone’s heard before. Suffice to say, We have outgrown this place, it can no longer support us in all we need. Yes, it will hurt to leave. It is a bone that has been set incorrectly, and we must re-break it so it can truly heal.
It is a necessary change, the worst and best kind. It is a loss and a gain, we are losing this place, but gaining a new one. That is the nature of change. And while there is a time to mourn the loss, there is a time to let go and embrace the new.
There was something else in my dream. Something I haven’t told you about. While I walked the halls of this building in my afterlife, I was not alone. I was spending eternity with the people I had come to know over years of Sundays. The people I had grown up with. And as I walked these halls, I knew that no matter what changed, these people would be with me, support me and accompany me no matter where we were. That was something that hasn’t changed.