God created humanity in God's own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them." Genesis 1:27 CEB
Dear Ascension Family, Attendance at youth group has increased 333% since last spring (when we resumed outdoor in-person meetings). No, that's not a typo! Each week at youth group and at our special events, we've had an attendance of over ten young people. Perhaps even more inspiring is that this statistic comes three weeks into a challenging, multi-week program: These Are Our Bodies: Talking Faith & Sexuality at Church & Home. Divided into three groups (Middle School, High School, and parents), parents and youth alike are empowered to have developmentally appropriate conversations about faith and sexuality. Much of the curriculum hinges on the idea that we are created in the divine image of God and the gifts and responsibilities that idea entails.
Among the strengths of These Are Our Bodies is recognizing that parents are their children's primary educators. So what is the role of the church in all of this? A critical part of our faith is community. Starting at baptism, we collectively promise "to do all in [our] power to support [the newly baptized] in their life in Christ." By being present to one another and leaving room for difficult conversations, we build a framework for a life-long faith journey that is big enough for questions, doubts, worries, fears, hopes, dreams, or joys that people in our community may experience. All of us take in messages about our bodies, attractions, and identities every day. We receive messages about what we need to do to be accepted. These messages can distract us from what our prayers and scripture remind us: that we are already worthy of love and dignity. This past Sunday, the Middle School curriculum ended with a centering prayer:
God accepts us as we are and loves us unconditionally.
After each day of creation, God calls creation "good," but humanity created as a reflection of the divine image, God calls "very good." Through all the failures and human drama of scripture, we are reminded again and again of God's unceasing love for us. I invite you to take a moment to re-read that one-sentence prayer. Whatever messages you may hear this week, I hope this reminds you that you are enough and you are loved.
Finally, I'll ask for your prayers. The ten young people in this course, their parents, and our facilitators are in the middle of conversations that are as challenging as they are affirming. Your support, encouragement, and prayers are appreciated as we continue on this journey. I want to add a special thank you to Katie Dickinson, Doug Taber, Emily Hammons, and Jonathan March, who have volunteered to support our young people as facilitators. Your collective dedication has made this growth and support of our families possible.
Jordan Hammons Children's and Youth Leader