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Youth Ministry – June 9, 2019

 

Avon High School Senior and Life-Long Trinity Member Ian Stapleton shared his thoughts as he goes off to college with the parish.

 


 

Youth Sermon – Ian Stapleton

For those of you who do not know who I am, my name is Ian Stapleton and I am a senior at Avon High School. Trinity Episcopal Church has been my second home ever since my baptism here, which is to say that I have been attending this church longer than I can even remember.

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Linda to deliver the sermon on this youth Sunday and to her surprise, I said yes almost immediately. As much as I do appreciate the attention to solely be on me at any point in time, I chose to do this because I felt as though hearing a sermon from a younger voice is something most people do not frequently hear, and the service could be shaken up once in a while. I also felt as though I could offer some insight - as she suggested that I do - into my journey here at Trinity Episcopal Church.

This fall, I am headed off to college in Virginia where I will be attending William and Mary and I am looking forward to the new experiences and opportunities greatly, but I am also afraid to leave behind friends and family, and to only take memories with me. Beyond this, I am going to be moving away from the church that has been my only church for my entire life.

Typical of the attitude of a younger child being forced to get up early and go to some place I considered boring at the time; I was not the happiest camper when I entered through the church doors. I may not have been the most pleasant student in class or the most participatory because I was probably dreading the fact that I was there and to the teachers whom had me as a student, I am sorry for that. What made it worse was that I had been volunteered without my knowing to begin acolyting at this point when I was already dreading attending church. Through most of my life up until confirmation, my faith and God really were not things that meant too much to me. All I knew or at least cared to know was that I had to go this building early on weekend mornings and that was enough to instill a negative sentiment around my faith. During this period - which is the majority of my time here - I would have called myself religious, but not been able to articulate my religious values or certain principles of my faith too well.

But as confirmation neared - and I am not exactly sure why or how this happened - I felt a greater passion for God and as though my faith were more solidified. By the time I was confirmed, I felt as though my relationship with God was a whole new one. My interest in my faith and religion, which had previously been almost non-existent, was reborn, and I felt more devoted than ever to God.

Even though my faith varied over the years at this church, the community and the people have remained the same. I can imagine no better place to deem my second home than this church because the people who make up this church are some of the nicest, most genuine, and most kind-hearted people I know. Many of the members of this congregation have witnessed my growing up and I have always felt like such a welcomed member of the congregation. I have felt like such a welcomed member of this family. I would like to think of the community of this church as a large, extended family. We all look out for one another and are there to volunteer for events together. We are there to celebrate together as well as to console when other members of the church are suffering. I, certainly, have felt this being a member of this family.

Although I did not understand in the past what it meant to be a Christian or how a good Christian ought to act, it did not require great devotion to God to discover this, but by looking to all the role models around me. I was not exactly sure of what God and Jesus were commanding me to do, but I knew what to do because I witnessed the kindness that Christians are called to hold in their hearts time and time again in action at this church. I especially understood it through my teachers who were doing such a great service by being willing to put up with the children with somewhat negative attitudes, and extending the teachings of Jesus down to the children. Although it may not have clicked with me at the time, but all the teaching I did receive eventually came to fruition at the point of confirmation by means of my new understanding of and relationship with God.

Many opportunities for charity have been presented to me through Trinity and they have had a huge impact on me. The responsibility of being a waiter at Quality Street challenged me and put me under pressure but improved my communication and teamwork skills as well as patience - and it was all done for the good of the larger community. Helping the less fortunate in Hartford at Church Street Eats offered me with a new perspective on how those outside of my direct community live and knowing how much that event means to the people who receive the meal or the clothes inspires me to continue with more charity work. Or, if not charity, there are more opportunities to help me discover faith such as the retreat to St. John the Divine in New York where I felt a reconnection with God through a whole new experience.

Being a member of this family at Trinity as shaped me into a better person and always having a role model to look toward in this church provides a sure feeling of security and safety. Once I had moved past the idea of church being a “boring” place, I came to really appreciate it as a house of God full of godly people. Now, even up to this point I am not looking forward to waking up early to acolyte on Sunday mornings, but I will get through it and try to enjoy the experience. After a bad week or a poor couple of days, I know for certain that I can always come to this church and forget about what as been upsetting me and even get over those things. Trinity has provided a safe environment where I can block out of mind all the nonsense which may be bothering me that particular week or day and I can focus on my relationship with God,

In the late summer of 2017, I was asked if I would be willing to help teach the class of fifth and sixth graders hear at Trinity. I said yes - at this point being confirmed - because I felt as though I ought to do something to give back to this community which has done so much for me. For the first year, I only shadowed classes as sort of an assistant teacher, and I enjoyed it a great deal. I decided to continue it through to the 2018 school year and this past year I have taught many classes to these great kids on my own. I enjoyed listening to the perspectives of those much younger than I and whose I am very thankful that I was given this opportunity and I am grateful to the kids for being obedient enough in the classroom, as well as keeping an open mind to learn and having a better attitude than I did when I was their age.

As I move onto the next stage of my life in Virginia, I am sure to take all of the memories and lessons that I have gained from Trinity with me. It is always difficult to leave something behind or have something leave you which you care for so dearly. As I said earlier, I am afraid to be leaving behind family and friends, but I must appreciate the memories which I will take with me to college.

In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us that even though he is not physically with us, we are not alone. The Holy Spirit will always be with us to be the “advocate” of God’s will on Earth by our sides. Even when dear things are left in the past, and our entire life feels as though it has been altered, whether it be moving from one place to another or having lost a close friend or family member, what must be remembered is that God is always there with us. The Holy Spirit will never abandon us. Whether in Avon, Connecticut or Williamsburg, Virginia, I know that the Holy Spirit will be with me at all times and in any time of need, I can turn to God to seek his help and nurturing.

The memories of our lives are similar to the Holy Spirit. They are both in the abstract, but we know for certain that they are there. Whenever we look for help, and cannot turn to another individual, we turn to our memories to learn from them just as we turn to the Holy Spirit for the support of God. Memories - both good and bad - should be cherished as a testament to God’s blessing of life and should remind us to be thankful for all that we are fortunate to experience on this beautiful Earth of His. And I am certain that as I move onto college and look to create many new memories with many new people at many new places, I will always hold onto the great memories that I have created here, at Trinity Episcopal Church.

   

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