This past Sunday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Catlett, VA PYM’s very own Tori Lindsey shared a sermon with her parish on her experience with PYM and Shrine Mont Summer Camps. She did a really great job painting a picture of what it is to be a PYMer and an active youth in our diocese. Please feel free to check it out and share with your parish!
“Everyone says my generation is the instantaneous, “get it now” generation. They say that we’re impatient, and can’t wait for anything. Having to turn off our phones is like cutting a life line, a punishment. This may be true of most teenagers, but I know 27 who are willing to shut down the phone, the laptop and the iPod to drive for up to 5 hours, for one short, exhausting, and hectic weekend after a week of AP homework, practice until 7, and play rehearsal. These people skip their proms and their soccer tournaments to go do this. These 27 crazy high schooler’s who give up 5 weekends and a few days a year aren’t your typical teenager, and if you ask one of them why they skipped prom, they will look at you like something’s wrong with you for not understanding and say without hesitation, “Because, PYM is more important.”
PYM is short for Parish Youth Ministries, and it’s a committee of 27 high school students who plan and lead 3 weekends and 2 days of service a year, for youth in 6th-12th grade, as well as 2 planning weekends a year just for PYMers. PYM is the ONLY youth-led committee in the diocese, and one I’m proud to say I have the privilege to be on. Our weekends include everything from kickball games to small group bible study; from dances we actually attend dressed in trash bags to calm Sunday worship. It’s a far cry from what a “church retreat” would be seen as by most, but for every kid who comes, it’s just right. Lots of fun time, and some deeper, small group time as well.
The kids who come seem to get a lot out of it, but it’s exhausting for all of us PYMers. We become leaders, organizers, janitors, counselors, friends, and referees until Sunday afternoon when we finally get home and collapse.
And yet, we keep coming back for more. We count down the days until the next weekend, even while complaining about lack of sleep taking its toll Monday after the last one. Why? Because our best friends are on that committee, and we come together from all over VA. Because the love and community that we’ve created as PYM is about as close to Jesus’s commandment, “love others as I have loved you” as you get. There’s no judgment, only acceptance and I truly believe that the cohesion, the binding love, leaks out. Every single kid who comes up to Shrine Mont for a weekend takes at least a tiny part of that love home.
PYM has changed lives and touched hearts, and I can see it. I see it inside our committee, in how close we are to each other, in how every hurt is nurtured and every victory wildly celebrated. I see it in Mike Wade, our adult leader, as he sits back and smiles, knowing he doesn’t need to intervene, that we have it covered. Most of all, I see it in the kids who come up for the weekends. I see them starting to break away from the friends they came with, reaching out to someone new. I see the huge group from Richmond paying attention and asking the shy girl by the wall to come sit with them. But what you see most is the smiles. Friday night, everyone seems nervous and unsure, and by Sunday service the most beautiful smiles in the world appear. They are the joyful smiles of someone who feels accepted and safe at a time in their life when most of their peers don’t come close to offering that environment.
PYM is a ministry that is very dear to my heart, as well as all the youth programs offered by our diocese at Shrine Mont like summer camps, Senior High Youth Conference, and Family Camp. If you have doubts about where the Episcopal Church is going with so many teenagers and kids losing interest in church and religion in general, come to Shrine Mont any day in the summer. Literally hundreds of kids 8-18 will be running around, some still campers, and others high school or college age counselors, who give up their entire summer to come help kids grow in their faith while having a great summer experience. Shrine Mont, and PYM, are two ministries we have here in the Diocese of Virginia that are virtually unequaled anywhere else. But no one will come, no one will care, if someone like you doesn’t go out and spread the word. I would not be the same person I am today, would probably not even be here in front of you speaking, if Miss Betsey Anderson, my Sunday school teacher at Grace in Casanova, hadn’t once given me a little pamphlet with SHRINEMONT SUMMER CAMPS written across the front. If not for her, I never would have gone to camp, never would have discovered PYM, and I can honestly say my life would be much worse if those things had never happened to me. So please, be a Betsey Anderson. Tell someone, anyone, about PYM. Invite them to a weekend; draw them back in to a relationship with God. You don’t have to attend a church or be Episcopal to come. No matter where you come from, we at Pym will be there with open arms and huge smiles to welcome you.
Every year, we pick a passage of scripture as a theme, and this year it was Corinthians 13:1-7.
1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
The tagline we picked for this is “Without love, I am nothing.” I have studied this passage over and over with PYM this year, and it still always makes me feel a glow of happiness, because this is the kind of love we try to foster with PYM, and this passage is the perfect message for our weekends.
I like to think by now I know more about this scripture than any kid who comes to the weekends, but I never cease to be amazed by what they say about it. My favorite comment was in response to the question “Paul gives this laundry list of what love is, but we usually don’t meet these standards with the people we love. What do you think he meant when he wrote the list?” One little girl, who hadn’t said anything the whole time, raised her hand and simply said, “When we’re in love, we strive to be all those things” PYM hands out this love by the bucket. So, you remember nothing else from all I’ve said, please remember that I am not the “future of the church,” and neither are any of the teenagers you know that go here. We ARE the church right now, and I know I fight to do all I can to spread that kind of love that Paul talks about. My favorite little girl said, “When we’re in love, we strive to be all these things”, and I’d like to add to that. When we’re in love, we strive to be all these things, for without love, we are nothing.”