May 22, 2022, Youth Sunday
Scripture: Psalm 126
Good morning! For those of you who do not know me, my name is Hannah Faeth, and I am a senior at Stillwater Area High School. I will be attending Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter this coming fall. My plan is to pursue a career in medicine. I am honored to have been asked to share my message with you this morning.
All of us have endured some of the hardest times these past few years that we perhaps will ever have to face. The pandemic has not only changed the way the world runs, but it has changed the way in which we do almost everything. We have conquered Zoom, social distancing, long-distance learning, but most importantly, we have conquered change. Change has been the focus of a couple of recent sermons, so I thought I might offer my perspective—a young person’s perspective. I have never been a fan of change, and if you ask my family, I may not be the most fun to be around when things are quickly changed. There were even times as a child when someone would switch around the furniture in my house and I would be so distraught. Of course, it can be difficult to adapt to ongoing changes in one’s life, and it is a common trait to resist change. However, with the way the world shut down so abruptly in 2020, I had no choice but to accept the change coming my way, along with every other person in the world, and it was really difficult.
Suddenly school became completely remote and most of our teachers had no idea what they were doing. We weren’t able to meet in person for anything, see our family and friends, and know the feeling of community for quite a long time. And everyone was afraid of things they couldn’t name, because we had no idea what the word pandemic meant or what kind of destruction the Covid virus might cause. Yet, here we are, having persevered, together again (almost!), and it feels amazing. Doesn’t it? Psalm 126 says “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’” These are my exact feelings when I stand here before you, seeing the change and growth we have all faced through the pandemic.
Now, change without resilience is rare. I myself know resilience well: Having to live through a father’s death, work through multiple health issues, and navigate a pandemic before the age of 18 is too much for anyone to bear alone. And I can honestly say I would not have gotten through what I have without every person in my life. And a majority of those people are from this church community. Plymouth is a very special place, and it would not be without every single person who has shown up and contributed their gifts to this community. I have been going to church since I was six weeks old, the day I was baptized. When your mom is a minister, you don’t have a lot of choice about where you will be on Sunday morning. And the churches we were a part of before Plymouth were good places to be, but since the day my family and I arrived here 5 years ago, we have experienced nothing but welcoming and generous spirits. I was recruited to join as many things as I could, including CCYF, the Committee for Children, Youth, and Families, which I have cherished being a part of these past couple of years. After I endured extensive ankle surgery last August, I was flooded with well wishes and could feel all of the love poured my way while I was stuck in bed for multiple weeks.
Now, Nina: Nina has been the most warm and welcoming soul while I have been here. She has allowed me the opportunity to work with the youth, encouraged my leadership skills, and has done whatever possible to help me feel loved. Having the opportunity to teach Church School this year has been such a great experience and has shown me how passionate I am about educating kids and getting to see and hear their perspectives through my own eyes. And it goes without saying, the youth of Plymouth are arguably the most awesome, kind, and resilient kids I have ever met. And I could go on! Having their lives completely upturned without even understanding what was happening had to be so confusing and frustrating. I don’t think we give enough credit to the children and youth in our midst. No matter what, Plymouth kids showed up—whether on Zoom or in person—and put forth every bit of energy and kindness possible. They just showed up, and that’s all that matters. Yet they gave back to us, too: performances that made us laugh, singing for worship that brought us joy even through the computer screen. Getting back into the groove of things isn’t easy, and it can be frightening. But these kids have set an outstanding example. So please, listen to them—to us—and be open to learn, be open to change.
People tend to look down on children and not give them much credit because they don’t have a lot of experience. However, I believe that if our society just took a step back, stopped filling the world with senseless noise, and listened to our youth, we all could actually learn a lot. Children may be small, but they sure are mighty. I want to say that, if you’re young and feel dismissed for the sole reason of being young, use your voice. Don’t stop. Trust your feelings and your ideas. You may not think your one small voice will change much, but you all are strong and so incredibly brave. I see your strength each week as I watch you, teach you, and interact with you. Here at Plymouth we need to model to the world what things can look like when we let children take the lead. Then just see how much can be changed, for change—even though frightening to some (especially me)—can be a great thing. I cannot wait to see what the future of these amazing kids holds.
I have been incredibly grateful for all of my experiences here at Plymouth these last five years, and the joys I have felt here are some that will stay with me for the rest of my life, especially the joys that the youth of Plymouth have given me. My hope is that the people of Plymouth will continue to empower and nurture the youth here just as you have loved and cared for me. It makes a difference. It matters. Plymouth is a safe space where children, youth, and adults can be who God has made them to be, and there aren’t many safe spaces like this in the world. You help to foster resilience, and this community creates change-makers and justice-seekers. If a pandemic won’t stop that . . . nothing can. Thank you.
And now I say to all of you: We have had more than enough time for tears. So now let us reap laughter and harvest joy. May it be so!