I just got back from dropping my eldest off at college. If you are part of the Eliot Church, then you know him. You also know that the period from the beginning of the college search through to the eventual move (at least temporarily) away from home is a period of great stress for everyone in the family. It is a bit strange now with one less person at the parsonage.
But that isn't really what I wanted to write to you about. I know that you are well aware of the fact of stress. I also know that you and your parents know that I and the church are here to help. We will do whatever we can to get you to wherever you dream of making a difference. I also know you are aware of the fact that the church community will still be there for your parents when you are away.
What I wanted to mention is something else. I want to point out something that as kids you may not have noticed but that you might as you get older and hang around Eliot Church. What I hope you notice (because it is true) is that this congregation loves you.
OK, imagine Thanksgiving Sunday--the first one after graduating high school--and you go to church with your parents (actually some former youth groupers show up on their own these days). You get there at the usual time--right before we start--and the deacon at the door says your name and gives you a hug. Then when you sit down, the old woman in front of you (who you may never remember ever talking to) turns around to pat your hand and welcome you back. I may have waved to you from the chancel. Other adults come to say "hi".
Then what happens? We do church. It is just like it has always been except there are some new faces and a few people who aren't there. Maybe--now that you are a college student--you fidget a bit less. The familiar hymns sound better. Hopefully, even the sermon makes some sense. Then it all starts again at the potluck. You look around for your high school friends but it takes a while to get to them. It's those darn old people. The pastors want to talk to you and see how you are doing. Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of your time.
Please be patient with us. Whether you remember us all or not, we are the people who saw you crawl down the aisle as animals in the pageant. Since that time we have witnessed your development. We saw you reach the exalted heights of "Innkeeper". We saw you sing in the choir, or play in the Ukestra, or do readings. We even saw you when you held back. We saw you at the ski trip and the baseball game. Some folks taught your classes (we hope you remember us!). Others didn't, but they still noticed you. Your parents have kept us informed of your adventures.
I could go on. We remember when high school got busy and you couldn't make it. Some of you might feel even that you "dropped out" of church. It doesn't actually work that way. We still notice--and appreciate it--when you do make it. We are always happy to see you.
Of course, we also marveled at those of you who still kept (and keep) making time for us. We are psyched that there are so many of you who do! There is a great deal going on in your lives, yet here you are. We are so pleased to see you in our choir, on our committees, at our service and justice projects, our clubs, and our parties.
The church--particularly a small church like ours--is a kind of family. We have always seen you as a part of that family. We keep a place for you. When you return to fill that place, it brings us joy. Next year, and for a number of years after, there will be a lot of you moving on. We know that is part of the drill. I hope that wherever you go, you remember us fondly. I will remember you and so will all those other people whose lives you touched and who touched yours.
OK, that's enough of that. If you aren't in college yet, then I expect to see you soon. I am working on a curriculum for Sunday school that I hope you will breathe some life into (it is just words now). I have a D&D world pretty much ready for you to test out. As always we have the rest of the stuff too so welcome back! If you are in college, we look forward to welcoming you back whenever you can get away. We will be missing you until we see you again.
Faith and Hope,