by Maggie Kinton
Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them…
Middle school is hard, and high school can be even harder. Growing up brings struggles with friendship, confidence, and a search for purpose. For me, high school and middle school came with a lot of big questions, particularly of the God sort. I will never forget sitting in church at 14 and beginning to cry, because I felt so overwhelmed by my lack of understanding. I was constantly asking questions along the lines of "Is God real? What about hell and heaven?" The bible says a whole lot of stuff I don't agree with, and a whole lot of stuff that goes against what I believe, but at the same time I read so much that deeply resonates with me. What does this mean?
Questions like these formed the background of my teenage years, and they are questions I've yet to find perfect answers to. YMCo is a Christian organization, teaching youth through action and reflection what it is like to participate in the Kingdom of God, or the Kindom, as we call it. What we do at YMCo is rooted in what we find in the Bible. But what does the Kindom mean to someone who isn't sure about this whole God thing?
What I like most about the Bible, and about our curriculum at YMCo, is that you don't have to believe in God to understand what the bible's authors are saying about the society they lived in (and the one we live in now). Seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly are sacred acts that extend to the secular world. One does not have to be a member of a church, or a believer in the Word, to embody what we call holy. If we are crafted in God's image, and the home of God will be among mortals, everyone can experience God's love. We often ask each other at AYM, "Where did you see or experience God today?" When I ask this, I am putting a universal concept in sacred terms.
To change the wording, perhaps we could ask, "Where did you see justice, love, or peace today?" We might not understand the Bible, and we might not understand what this whole God thing is all about. However, what I find special about YMCo is that we provide a curriculum that is meaningful, even for someone questioning their religion. I still have many questions about my faith, but my belief in seeing and caring for those on the margins stands firm. Regardless of belief, we all have a common calling to uplift each other and to see our collective holiness and humanness. God is far too complex for us to ever comprehend. I believe God welcomes that middle school confusion, that crying in the church balcony, and the endless questions. God embraces that turmoil, and invites us to find our common ground as human beings. To look one another in the eye is to see God, is to see our purpose.
by Jordis Blackburn
Where do you go to church? As a native of the south, this question is all too familiar. Almost as common as “Where are you from?” or “What school do you go to?” asking where a person attends church tends to be part of our greeting. For so many regions, church identity has been interwoven with individual identity, and a lack of church attendance is reason to judge our fellow person. Church. This is a word many, including myself, have misdefined. Defining church as “a building for public and especially Christian worship,” Merriam-Webster has made a mistake in this case. Church is not just a fancy stone building in the middle of town nor is it defined as any one particular enclosed space. So then… what is “church”? Here are some mentions of the church through the bible:
“Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God”
“So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone; 21 in him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
“For as in one body we have many members and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another”
See what I mean? Although the word for church varies from “household of God” or “dwelling place for God” to “body in Christ”, I see each of those phrases as synonyms of church. Contrary to the typical definition, I have grown to see how church is more dependent on community and relationship than it is