Originally published in the monthly ExplorerOctober 2013 edition.

In January of 2012, Dr. Clingenpeel asked if I would return to the staff and church as Interim Minister to Students. Believing the call to ministry, especially youth ministry, was life-long, I said yes. To be honest, I was excited about the prospect of once again being involved in the lives of our youth. Besides, I had four grandchildren in the youth program. I have been privileged to watch several generations of young people grow and mature and become important leaders of our congregation. Sunday school teachers, deacons, committee and board members and even the current Chair of the Board of Deacons, were once members of our youth group. Many have married and their children now attend our Sunday school and extended care programs. I now have a new generation of youth to watch as they mature into adulthood.

Margaret and I have been privileged to work with young people for 46 years. We have watched children discover their talents through music, Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, Bible study, musicals and dramas, Christmas pageants, Mission Tours, retreats, Passport experiences and even through recreational events. We have always found great joy and personal satisfaction in watching young people discover their talents and their importance to the group.

During the past eighteen months, the youth have visited other faith traditions in order to discover what makes our church unique, they have prepared meals for CARITAS and Hospital Hospitality House, they conducted a mission roject at our church where they cleaned and painted, they attended Passport camp and have participated in Bible study and classes of self-discovery, they helped with Vacation Bible School and Trunk or Treat, and they participated in group building activities through recreation. They even re-discovered In-door Field Hockey.

Our current youth are talented, full of life, and eager to participate in the life of our church, through worship, music, and youth activities. Michael Kellett, our new Minister with Children and Youth, will find a group ready to assume its place in the larger community of faith. The core group is young – one senior, two juniors and the rest are just beginning high school or are in middle school. In a few years, Bob and Michael will have a youth group mature enough to tackle any assignment. As Margaret and I return to the pew, we will be watching with a great deal of joy.

On a personal note, the past twenty months have been an important healing process for me and my family. Events of the past have given way to a positive outlook for the future of our church. Difficult times, either for an individual or a church, can be opportunities for growth. I will always cherish the renewing of friendships and the discovery that we can work together for the betterment of our church. “Returning to the pew” does not mean that Margaret and I will no longer be involved in our church. The role we will assume in the future will be different as we seek new avenues of service, however there still may be children’s musicals that need costumes, sets, sound, and lighting. We look forward to the opportunities.