I spent last weekend with the elementary school kids from my church. KidQuake is designed for grades one through fifth but this was the first year we took our first graders. We had an array of stuffed animals that would make Old MacDonald jealous. We had Celeste, the dog, and Pig, the pig, plus Doggie. All were welcomed since we’ve seen Anita in action when she’s lost Doggie and, believe me, nobody wanted to go through that again.
Ever been to a worship service led by a bunch of first graders? I can report that God was probably tickled to death. I was. Youth events always end with worship on Sunday morning. Two girls from my church led the scripture readings. Sarah is finishing the first grade and Lucy, the fourth. We huddled together with the adults helping them re-write the accounts of three miracles into words that the girls could read. Because, you know, some of the words in the bible are just big’ol worlds. There’s always the chance that a “Samaritan” might become a “salamander,” as it did in our case. Not to worry, as much as we practiced, when the worship service finally came, the liturgists spoke so softly that probably only God heard and I figure God knew what they meant.
I’ve lost count of how many youth events I’ve been to but I think my first one was almost 20 years ago. Energizers, one of the best things about these retreats, weren’t even invented when I started. I love Energizers. But my first problem here is to explain them to folks who have never seen one. Silly dances. With moves like the “lawn sprinkler” or the “cat-dog”; the “Tarzan” or the “alligator,” it’s hard to pin down the exact moves.
The first time I saw an energizer I was with our new Director of Christian Education. Melanie had just graduated from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education with a master's degree. I’m sure learning silly dances was one of the required classes so I didn’t feel too stupid that she knew how to do the dances and I didn’t. She had a master’s degree in them, after all. But, as many times as I’ve seen them, I’ve given up on knowing how to do them perfectly. I’ve learned, instead, how to enjoy them. And, this, I now realize is the whole point of how we are to live our lives. Maybe not perfectly, but with good intentions and joy in the attempt.
Nobody does them alike. The Istanbul energizer is known to every Presbyterian youth in the nation but the kids in Maryland do them different from the kids in Texas. The differences are slight and inconsequential. Because the beauty, the insane delight, is that you don’t have to do them like everybody else. This is a godsend to someone like me who is uncoordinated. The whole point of an energizer is to just get out there and move your body.
As the years have gone by, I find that my appreciation of this gift is greater even when my ability to celebrate it may have decreased. It was a little like using body language but in a foreign language. We had over a hundred people crowded into one room designed for maybe sixty, flopping their feet, arms akimbo, jumping up and down, ostensibly in one accord with the others.
When we got to Camp Gilmont, the weather predicted rain and it did indeed, rain buckets that night and the next morning. The folks who run these events just quietly moved to Plan B with no fanfare or fuss. We had bible study, crafts, music, energizers, kid-friendly food and even nap time. When the weather changed and the sun came out we roamed all over the camp, climbing Mount Gilmont to check the cross at the top, and down to the lake to check what the beavers had done.
For me, personally, the best part was sharing it with my youngest daughter, Emily, and her two daughters. We had three generations together celebrating God’s love for us and our love for God. It doesn’t get any better. The future of the church is in good hands. In the hands of people who now understand miracles even if they may think the Good Samaritan is a salamander.