Senior High Youth Group

Leader: Anne Read

In 1999 Will and Kim Messenger started a middle-school-age youth group at All Saints Church in Belmont. They graciously invited the youth of St. James's to join and almost immediately the group expanded to include St. Peters youth as well. After two years in Belmont the group moved their meeting venue to St. James's, and, as the group of kids "aged up," All Saints withdrew, choosing to concentrate on younger children for their youth ministry.

Today, the St. James's-St. Peter's Youth Group is open to all teenagers in grades 9 through 12 and meets immediately after church on the second Sunday of every month. Some kids attend very faithfully, some sporadically, but all come willingly and happily, and, best of all, several can now drive so the "back home delivery" is a breeze!

As leader of the youth group I am indebted to many generous parents, both at St. James's and St. Peters, for help with rides, food, and program ideas. I also receive support from St. Peters's seminarian, Amity Carrubba, and parishioner Maeve Witty.

The youth typically work on a single ministry project during Lent. In 2001 they cooked dinners to freeze for the All Saints "Giving Freezer." On a cold drizzly night in 2002 they pitched in with Bread and Jams to feed the homeless. In 2003 they presented the Labyrinth, a prayer and meditation path, for the two congregations and the wider community. Last year they designed, developed and presented an entire Sunday Eucharist service, including moving homilies from many of the teenagers.

This year the youth are developing a project in conjunction with Elisabeth Keller's work with two AIDS relief programs in Kenya and Tanzania. This project w ill have two parts. First is an outreach, through letters, cards and photographs, to individuals living with AIDS who feel abandoned by society in general and by the church in particular. Second is a fundraising event to send money directly to one of the programs.

These remarkable teenagers have more ideas and plans than we can keep up with, including retreats, working for Habitat for Humanity, and hosting an all-Episcopal dance. They are a vital and positive force in their congregations. But I don't want to give the impression that service is the main purpose of the group. The Youth Group's mission is to allow the kids to simply be themselves together, to tell jokes, exchange stories, express fears, eat pizza, and argue over who gets the comfy chair. Out of this fellowship, deep and abiding friendships have grown and been nurtured, and this healing love has helped many, including myself, over the rough patches in life.

As you can probably tell, I am humbled by and grateful for the opportunity to lead and be led by this group, and also for the trust placed in me by their parents and the church.