This summer, I had the privilege once again of working with some of the most committed, talented, loving, and faithful youth as I served as Jeremiah Project leader for Montreat Youth Conference Week 4. The name “Jeremiah Project” stems from the call of Jeremiah found in chapter 1 of that book:
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth…”
My job as JP leader was to help the youth who applied and were selected for the group to work on presenting scripture and liturgy, drama and testimonies, liturgical movement and sign language, for both keynote (morning) and worship (evening). The best part of my job (and the true reason that being JP leader is my favorite role at Montreat) is seeing the Divine Spark that is in each of the youth I work with. And through the course of my week, I do my best to fan that spark into a blaze so that no matter where these youth-almost-adults end up, they know that they are ministers. And let’s be honest, the “fanning” is the fun part!
Participating in this group requires that the youth make a commitment to give up some of their free time (and sleep!) for rehearsals and tech checks. Our days started at 7:15 a.m. in Anderson Auditorium for keynote tech. After participating in morning keynote, we would begin the day’s work in our first small group time from 10:30-12 p.m. Following that was a break for lunch and caffeine, then back to work during small group time from 2-3:30. While other small groups let out at 3:30, we often worked until 4 or 4:30, only to return for worship tech at 6 p.m. Nine p.m. signaled the end of worship and the end of their work days.
It sounds like a lot on paper, and it is, but the work never felt burdensome. It felt like joy. (Okay, except for that time on Thursday I was a little tired and stressed…) I loved being able to present an idea to the group and let them run with it. One night, the group wrote the Call to Worship, dramatized the Prayer of Confession, enacted the scripture, and wrote and led the Prayers of the People.
It is my hope and prayer, that the 12 amazing youth I worked with are able to see what I saw in them. That they grew through play, worship, discussion, pushing their boundaries, and accepting vulnerability in front of almost 1200 of their peers. That they got a glimpse of what it means to live and move and be fully in God’s presence and blessing. That they may treasure the memories and transformation of the week. That they know they have each other in this small Presbyterian world for the rest of their lives. And I hope they know they are stuck with me for that long, too.
PS- Below is a video of our work.