Social media is beginning to fill up with pictures of adults (young and old) dressed in cap and gown as is typical this time of year. Graduation signs are popping up on front lawns. What is not typical is that these photos are being taken on front porches, around dining room tables, and in Zoom chats. These milestones in a person’s life still need to be marked. What are ways a faith community can lift up graduates (and their families)?
There have been plenty of articles written in the past few weeks about this topic. The Fuller Youth Institute recently posted “Reinventing Graduation: 3 ways to honor milestones in the midst of pandemic” by Hannah Lee Sandoval, offering some interesting ways to connect with graduates after school is out. And in this article from Vox, five soon-to-be graduates share how they are feeling and adapting amidst the grief and loss.
In a previous post, Ideas & Resources for Lament and Thanksgiving, I shared a curated list of prayers (laments and thanksgivings) along with processes to help (youth especially) express their grief in what many have called “being robbed” of a rite of passage due to social distancing and quarantine due to COVID-19.
“We are also beginning to grieve for the passing of a way of life, because however much we want things to go ‘back to normal’, we also recognise at some level that many of them never will. ”
The above quote is from This Too Shall Pass: Mourning Collective Loss in the Time of COVID-19, a document put together by The Collective Psychology Project, a collaborative inquiry into how psychology and politics can be brought together in new, creative ways that help us to become a “Larger Us” instead of a “Them-and-Us.” Within this document they share how to embrace and live out the following eight lessons in fuller detail. In summary, they offer this:
At this time of social distancing and the cancellation of many milestones of a young person’s life (graduation from high school or college, prom, senior activities, sports, performances, driver’s licenses, confirmation, etc.) there is a need to acknowledge such loss. The Confirmation Collaborative, a group of Christian formation leaders in The Episcopal Church who come together in person and virtually to live out its mission, recently met via Zoom to talk about the various projects we are working on. We chose instead to focus on creating a source that might assist churches and youth in this time of sadness and grief.
Below are some of the ideas that were generated. It should be noted that these should occur through individual expression and/or online gatherings (zoom, Google classroom, etc.). If at all possible, gather young people together in advance (online) for their input and creation of any liturgy or expression you may choose to construct. Invite them to offer contributions in word, image, music, or any expression they may find unique to their own personality or the group’s identity.
About six months ago I was invited to the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (western Washington state) to deliver a keynote address for their annual Better Together Christian formation event. I was asked to speak about where I saw the church heading in the future based on my 40+ years of experience in formation, drawing upon what I had seen and learned along the way. I entitled it Faith Formation in a Changing Church: Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future. My intention was to share a little history of Christian education in the church through the lens of four generations of my family. I planned to talk about my perception of how the church needed to adapt to a new reality in the twenty-first century. How would my granddaughter (a fifth generation – the Alpha generation) be formed in faith?
Little did I know that much of my preparation in talking about the “future” would become the present. A week before I was scheduled to fly to Seattle, the area became a COVID-19 hotspot. Twenty-four hours in advance, Bishop Rickel made the decision to cancel all diocesan events where more than fifty people would be present. I cancelled my flight and said a prayer.
“Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Throughout scripture, time and time again the people of God are admonished not to live in fear. As the world enters a time that most generations alive have never experienced it is a time to be wise and follow the advice of the experts. Remember that we are all held by God and are called to reach out to neighbor in time of need.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.” I John 4:18
Now is a time for prayer. Prayer for those who care for others and those who are vulnerable. Prayer for all in the medical field and those who seek to find solutions. Prayer that our leaders make wise decisions on behalf of all God’s people.
I am personal of privilege – white (Anglo-Saxon to boot); financially independent; a home owner; a graduate of high school, college, and seminary – all with honors; and I have a voice in circles of power. I am a beneficiary of the GI Bill – I have no proof of this except that my father (and two uncles) seemed to be able to marry, buy property, and build homes in the suburbs within five years of returning stateside after being in the Pacific or European theater. For this alone I can recognize I was born to succeed in America. Not something my eight-year-old “colored” friend who was bussed to my elementary school in the 1960s could ever say. This is just the tip of the iceberg to understanding how much more I need to do to help dismantle racism.
For the past several years I have been doing “personal work” regarding my privilege as a white person in America. Yes, over the years I have taken lots of “anti-racism” trainings and workshops – even so much as to be a trainer to lead workshops for others. Yes, I have consciously made decisions about not succumbing to the “white flight” of many of my young children’s friends’ parents to flee to the white suburbs . . . called many people of color my friends . . . come to grips with the racism (what I saw as bigotry) from my family members . . . and tried hard to make sure diverse voices were heard and included in the many committees, task forces, and projects I have participated in. But that isn’t enough. Continue reading More Resources for Dismantling Racism→