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The Sounds of Youth

Roy Blount, Jr., was asked if he believed in infant baptism. His response: “Believe in it? I’ve seen it happen!” What does that have to do with our children, youth, Charles Wesley, gifts, fruits of the spirit, the teachings of Jesus, and General Conference?

Our children led us in worship on Sunday. The children’s choirs presented a musical on the fruit of the Spirit. They reminded us that our relationship with God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit is evident in the fruit we bear – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, and they shared it with all of the enthusiasm that only children can convey. It was a holy worship experience, and I thank all of the adults and youth who helped them to lead us – Heather O’Dell, Jo High, Lindy Thompson, Meg Manning, Elizabeth Wanczak, Mary Anne Beshears, Tom Beadles, Nick Wanczak, Jon Calvin, Cade Beadles, Jacob Thompson, and of course, Nancy Speas Hill.

Saturday evening, our youth choir presented our first annual talent show to raise money for choir tour. Our youth, as well as some children and adults, showcased their many gifts – including singing, playing the piano, sax, guitar, ukulele, flute, and drum; also, baking, painting, emceeing, organizing and promoting (thank you, Gary Minor and Stacey Hagewood!) We raised enough to help pay for our trip to North Carolina, where we will sing for (and sometimes with) at-risk children, youth in recovery, and gifted people with developmental disabilities. (If you missed the event, you can still help by sending a donation to the church, with “youth choir tour” in the memo line).

At the end of the evening, the Celebration Singers and Joyful Noise Youth Choir joined forces to sing one of our favorites, Mark Miller’s setting of Charles Wesley’s hymn “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing.” Even if you haven’t heard the name Mark Miller, you’ve certainly heard his music. Mark led us in worship the weekend we dedicated our sanctuary organ and composed an anthem to celebrate that event. The dedication on “Creation of Peace” reads: “to the Choirs of Christ United Methodist Church, and their director and my friend, Anne Hook.” (The original dedication said my “good” friend – I made the choirs pencil that in for the sake of accuracy). I am not exaggerating when I say that Mark singlehandedly saved youth choir for me and many other church musicians.

A little more about Mark: he is the son of a United Methodist bishop. He is a husband and a father. He is creative and funny and humble and cute and so Spirit-filled that you know you’ve been in the presence of God when you hear him sing or lead. He is a lay delegate to the General Conference from New Jersey. And he’s gay.

Once again our General Conference is poised to discuss our stance on human sexuality, in particular, whether those who are not heterosexual may be ordained. Last quadrennium the conference discussed adding a statement that people of good faith disagree on this issue, but ended up maintaining our past position. I have an opinion about this issue, as I’m sure many of you do. However, I am not a delegate to General Conference and I cannot vote to change or retain the current policy. What you and I can do is:

  • Pray – for our church, especially the delegates at General Conference, that we might focus on Christ’s call love God and neighbor and discuss divisive issues with grace and humility
  • Thank God – for the Holy Spirit, who continues to work within us and our church through and sometimes in spite of our brokenness
  • Celebrate – the gifts made evident in our children and youth, in patient and tireless workers with children and choirs, in courageous people like Mark who continue to proclaim God’s message of love through music even when wounded by the system
  • Worship – our God who is bigger and stronger and more powerful than anything that ever threatens to separate us.

I believe that the Spirit of God will ultimately prevail. I believe, because I’ve seen it happen.