man facing clouds during golden time

I am still a bit shak­en. I’ve been home three days now after a long week­end, and I still have their words and sto­ries in my head and on my heart. They will prob­a­bly stick around for quite a while. 

I can only hope.

The week­end youth retreat is designed to help young peo­ple in their walk of faith and includes a num­ber of talks by the teenagers them­selves. They talk about the masks we wear in our lives pre­vent­ing our true selves to emerge, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, grace, and reli­gion, among oth­ers. The talks are fol­lowed by fur­ther dis­cus­sions in small groups, then com­mu­nal shar­ing in the large gathering. 

I was think­ing that many of these young folks would be too shy or inse­cure to tru­ly express them­selves to this many peo­ple, many of whom they’d only just met. I was proven wrong.

Stories and expe­ri­ences were shared with no holds barred – bul­ly­ing, issues of body image, vic­tim of fam­i­ly molesta­tion, can­cer sur­vivor, sud­den deaths of fam­i­ly mem­bers and close friends, dis­crim­i­na­tion, alco­holism, wor­ry about a par­ent being released from prison for murder. 

I keep think­ing these are things that no child should have to expe­ri­ence; that per­haps we can just keep them in a bub­ble for a lit­tle while longer. What these teenagers have done, though, is cre­ate such a safe space with each oth­er on a moun­tain­top camp in Lee County so as to face this life head-on and know they’ll be sup­port­ed, lift­ed up, and loved.

My son came back from col­lege to work on the staff of this retreat. Because of his own time on that moun­tain these past few years, he was able to give back a bit and share his own heart and his own soul. I give thanks for the many oppor­tu­ni­ties giv­en to these folks through­out the year to recon­nect with each oth­er, to laugh and sing and play games, and to be ever remind­ed that they’re nev­er alone in their trou­bles and in their joys.

God our Father, you see your chil­dren grow­ing up in an unsteady and con­fus­ing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that fol­low­ing you is bet­ter than chas­ing after self­ish goals. Help them to take fail­ure, not as a mea­sure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your cre­ation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 829)

  • Jim Trimble

    Jim Trimble is a priest serv­ing Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Winchester. He grew up in Louisville, grad­u­at­ed from Murray State University, and worked in a vari­ety of roles at pub­lic radio sta­tions for 12 years. After sem­i­nary and ordi­na­tion, he served church­es in Kentucky and South Carolina. Married to Nancy Gift, a Berea College pro­fes­sor, he has a son and two step-daugh­ters, along with a num­ber of dogs, cats, and chick­ens near College Park.