I have loved being an intern with this congregation! I have learned more already than I ever expected and have been a part of several great opportunities. Some of these opportunities have been in my work with the youth of GPPC. Right after I started my internship, several older youth shared that they wished the middle and high school youth could be separate for Sunday school. By listening to what the youth desired for their time at church, I had the opportunity to explore what kind of topics the high school youth would like to cover. Turns out that they wanted to discuss current events and how they connected to their faith. Awesome! Truly, I didn’t expect it to be as challenging as it has been to create a lesson around current events, mainly because each time I plan one, something happens in the world that begs me to change course and talk with the youth about what is happening in our world right now, rather than the not-so-urgent lesson I had been working on.
Another great opportunity has been the hospitality the youth, and the church, have shown me in allowing me to bring my highly energetic, adorable border collie mutt to youth group some weeks. We live in an apartment and some days he does not get quite the exercise he wants, which is hard on both of us. I am learning how to balance school and church work with caring for myself and my pet. My dog Tov loves people more than life itself and needs as much exposure as I can find for him as part of his training. He has come incredibly far in these last months, especially in his ability to let me do something around him that doesn’t involve him, like say eat, or do my homework, or support Essie as she leads the lesson. AND, I’ve noticed that the youth get something out of playing with Tov, too. Not only do they seem to greatly enjoy it, but they are nicer to each other on the weeks I bring him. I’m not sure why, but I am glad the benefits of time with Tov are not one sided.
With that being said, so far the best opportunity has been to help the youth be more engaged in worship. For the last few weeks the youth have been practicing with a worship interpretation project that we planned to implement during Advent. The youth were invited to find one thing during the service that inspired, moved, was meaningful to them or caused them to think. For the weeks we practiced, they were handed paper with an empty box printed on it. The box was to simulate the canvas tile they would be given during Advent. They also had the opportunity to color in mandalas as a kinesethic activity to help them focus and engage with worship. (I had noticed that during Sunday school they all wanted something to do with their hands and when given something like playdough, paid a lot more attention!) These ideas about the tiles were suggested by Essie – something that Union is doing this year, too. The mandalas were Carla’s idea because we had the opportunity to access newly created mandalas with an advent theme. I loved both ideas and ran with them! And there have been incredible but not surprising results. Some of the youth appeared in previous weeks to be playing games or writing notes during worship, but they have definitely been paying attention and truly engaging in our worship since we started practicing for the advent interpretation. Last week, Advent week 1, the youth used the canvas tiles for the first time. AND they turned out GREAT! It is not surprising because these incredible youth continue to exceed expectations others set on them.
During this advent season of waiting, where we find hope, joy, and love, these youth are the ones who offer all of these to me. They have shown me love by welcoming both me and my current family, my dog. They bring me joy when they share about themselves and their faith, and they press me and our other teachers to engage the world around them in their faith. They give me hope by continually and consistently exceeding expectations. They are our future but they are also engaged right now, and bring much more to the table than even they expect.
My name is Elizabeth Eason and I have just begun my third year at Union Presbyterian Seminary. I am working on my Master of Divinity and am an Inquirer in the Charleston-Atlantic Presbytery. I grew up outside of Charleston, SC and my parents still live there. I attended Presbyterian College for undergrad and double-majored in Religion and Christian Education. Half of my heart currently resides in England because my fiancé, Tom Nix, lives there. We have a highly energetic dog named Tov (the Hebrew word for good) who loves to run, play tug of war, and steal food from our plates. It has been a blessing to be a part of the Ginter Park family during my time in seminary by singing in the choir, and I am greatly enjoying having joined you as an intern this year!