As the date to produce a piece for this blog approached, I whined to the blog’s curator (who is incidentally my dad) that I did not want to write anything. For one thing, I had pledged to use the last of my summer break doing as little as possible, but more importantly I had no idea what to say. I had read a few of the fantastic submissions from other GPPC members about their many interesting and varied experiences, and I was not sure if I had material like that to offer. I decided to do my best to describe what my church experience has meant to me.
From the beginning of my childhood memories, church was just a part of my weekly routine, like school or eating dinner. Every Sunday, the Walker family got up, ate breakfast, and arrived for Sunday School or worship approximately three minutes late. I participated in Wednesday afternoon choir and games, and later, youth group. Many of my friends are at GPPC, and so is my adopted family. Though I was vaguely aware of these gifts of the church community, I began to appreciate them more as I involved myself more in activities in and through GPPC.
A youth group introduced me to RISC (Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Community), a members-led organization that strives to promote and advocate for justice in the greater Richmond area with the help of religious communities. At the annual Nehemiah Action, an assembled congregation of those supporting RISC call for school district leaders and healthcare administrators to do justice. The attendance at the rally depends on the work of members, who are asked to bring three people with them to the rally. This has been a chance for me to grow. Usually I avoid extrovert-like behavior at all costs, and reaching out to adults does not make the prospect any more appealing for me. Despite these qualms, the task has allowed me to make more connections in the church community and appreciate all that GPPC can support. RISC is a grouping of different denominations and faiths, and to see different beliefs unite behind a common mission is very inspiring to me.
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in the youth group trip to Haiti. The experience was indescribably amazing, and throughout I was incredibly grateful to our chaperones and GPPC for making it happen. Leslie and Evan’s blogs are great accounts of the trip, and I thought I would add one of my favorite moments.
The morning our group returned from the island of la Gonave, Haitians were preparing for a World Cup game, Brazil vs. Mexico. Many Haitians feel a close connection to Brazil, and many fans claim the Brazilian national soccer team as their own. Driving into the capital of Port au Prince, the atmosphere for a round-of-16 game was like the Super Bowl here, except exponentially more exciting. There was gold and green everywhere, and everyone seemed to be near a TV or radio. We were going to a history museum the same time as the game, and our group was a little disappointed. As a rabid sports fan in a family of musicians and artists, I am familiar with the feeling of missing sporting events, so I was resigned to the fact that we might miss the action.
The museum distracted me from thoughts of sports with amazing displays (there was an anchor from one of Columbus’ ships – wow!) and our group had a great time there. When we exited the building, we realized that the game was still in progress. With the help of some basic Creole words, we learned from some folks with a radio that the favored team, Brazil, was leading 1-0. To further our excitement, we heard the restaurant where we would eat might have a TV. As we walked towards our lunch destination, we heard what could only be described as a surround-sound roar!
It was seconds later we saw on the restaurant TV that Brazil had put the game away with a second goal. It was magical. I am pretty sure I jumped around in a circle, I was so excited. Post-game, the channel cut to live interviews with Haitians in the streets of Port au Prince, and you would have thought their own team had just won the World Cup with the size of the crowd.
Besides being a sports fan’s dream, the moment displayed just how close a community like those in Port au Prince were that day and the amazing gifts GPPC has given me. I look forward to being a part of moments like that, and making them happen, in the future with this community.
Christopher Walker is a high school junior, recently elected to a one year term on our Session. The incoming elders are sharing reflections in this space.