Chapel at St. Paul's Academy
Two mornings a week I get to lead worship services for the students and staff at Saint Paul’s Academy, and I love it. There are three chapel services every Tuesday and Thursday, broken up by age group. The Kindergarten - 2nd grade chapel has an amazing awe and wonder to it, the 3rd - 4th grade chapel is ready to explore the world, and the Middle School chapel wants to take a long, hard look at life as it really is.
Nearly all the youth I know want to be active in a worship service.
The youth lead the liturgy. They lead the call to worship, they lead the blessing and sending, they read the scripture. We pray for the things they want to pray for, and they lead the prayers. We use language that kids use in their everyday lives, rather than using language that dost useth by thou peoples who harken asunder to ye.
Sermons are very interactive. Kids give great feedback, and they give it in real time, all the time. I can tell when I’m connecting with them; they ask great questions, their eyes light up and their bodies lean in. I can tell when I’m not connecting with them; they don’t ask questions, their eyes are somewhere else, and their bodies are improvising behavior. I know right away how I’m doing, which is helpful and a little bit scary.
The Middle School kids can ask some HARD questions, and I love it. Do you know what I do when I’m particularly stumped at answering a Middle School question? I ask it of the Kindergarten - 2nd grade chapel. I’ve asked some of the most challenging questions of the little kids (If God is all good and all powerful, why is there suffering?) and been amazed at their answers.
When it comes time for communion, I put a bunch of grapes and a blender on the altar, and the kids take turns coming forward and dropping the grapes in the blender and we make grape juice. I really enjoy making our own grape juice for communion. I pray that some day these kids might realize the symbolism of crushing grapes on the altar.
We have candles on the altar, and I have a candle snuffer, but I’ve never used it. At the end of the service I pick up a kindergartner and they blow out the candles.
So when I think about Church, I get excited when I think about cultivating worshipping communities that are active with youthful energy. I love watching kids show up to a worship service expecting to be a vital part of it. I want to learn from them, walk through life with them, and be reminded of how much Jesus loves us when I see the light of God in their eyes.