On Saturday, October 24, 16 youth and 6 adults gathered to carve pumpkins in the parish hall of St. Laurence, Coquitlam. The participants came from four different congregations around the Tri-Cities and Burnaby: Good Shepherd Lutheran, St. Laurence Anglican, St. Stephen’s Anglican, and St. Timothy’s Anglican.
It was a new level of collaboration, with a story behind it…Over two years ago now, the church where I was hired as youth co-leader, St. Laurence, started having conversations with Good Shepherd Lutheran about collaborating. They had some youth but no youth leader, we had few youth and two leaders. It felt like a good fit. After some exploratory conversations and events, we decided to start merging our youth ministries together. The seeds for ignYte, the new name for our youth ministry, were planted!
We’d been at it a little under a year…and then COVID hit. Everything changed. But rather than despair, we “pivoted”. We started running weekly youth gatherings online, plunged into Youth Alpha, and began to reach out to other Anglican and Lutheran churches in our region. Our conversations have started to bear fruit, and we’ve been blessed to welcome a number of new youth over the past months – and some great new adult leaders, too!
For many of the youth, this pumpkin carving event was their first time being with each other in person. While this has had its challenges, my new co-leader, Rachel and I have been pleasantly surprised by the connections that have been possible. We’ve had kids share “something not worth much money but priceless to them” around their house. We’ve successfully played games of 20 Questions, Charades, or Leader of the Band. We’ve shared stories in small groups (the Zoom breakout rooms function is SO handy!), talking about things we’re afraid of, questions we get tired of being asked, or what people at school treat as important.
There’s nothing like being in person. The youth have been so hungry for it. So it was really encouraging to be together on that Saturday. Rachel and I had set up the hall the day before, making sure that tables were spaced the adequate 2m distance from each other. Then on the day, youth were encouraged to bring their own pumpkin and face mask, while we supplied the carving tools. As youth arrived, they found their seat at a table and started to carve! And while kids mostly sat with people they knew, by the end they were mingling with each other and laughing together, as they filled out BINGO sheets that would go toward one of the day’s Halloween-themed prizes.
…And the creativity! We had barfing pumpkins, pumpkins with a mask on, pumpkins with a video game character, pumpkin “Pi”, cat pumpkins, pumpkins with our youth ministry logo, and pumpkins representing all the emotions of 2020…it was so fun to see what the youth came up with.
As we finished our time, we remembered Jesus’ words that “You are the light of the world.” Amid the darkness of a pandemic that continues indefinitely, we offered each youth a candle for their pumpkin, lit it, spoke their name, and encouraged them to “Shine your light and illuminate the darkness.” Then we turned the lights off, lined all the pumpkins up, and took a picture!
Photos: Jason Wood