; charset=UTF-8" /> Far From The Pineapple Fields : Connecting Voices
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Far From The Pineapple Fields

by Rev. Mary Sue Brookshire

     Articulate and possessed of an engaging smile, the brown-skinned speaker was a large man (think sumo wrestler in an Hawaiian shirt).  And it was of Hawaii he spoke, the pre-statehood Hawaii of his youth.  His reminiscences entranced us, drawing us into a time and place almost forgotten. 

     Suddenly, in an aside that captured my full attention, he spoke of the church youth group of his teen years.

     “Every summer,” he recalled, “we were sent to camp.  Not for fun, mind you, but to work.  Awakened at 5:00am, we spent two hours in Bible study, nine doing stoop labor in the pineapple fields then another two in Bible study.”

     UCCLM’s youth group came to mind.  Far from the fields, I thought, far from the pineapple fields – and this article was born. 

     “Tell me about our youth group,” I said to our Associate Pastor, Mary Sue Brookshire, “What’s happening?  What’s next?“

     For starters she spoke passionately of viewing young people as a priority (the future) rather than a commodity (a labor force).  So much for pineapple fields!
     Next she described The Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project of San Francisco Theological Seminary.  Inviting those who work with young people to be “contemplatively present” to them and to “accompany them on their journey,” it sets five goals:  “When encountering young people, see, hear, be moved, show kindness and delight in them.”

“See.  Just look at the young person.  See them as they really are.  Allow yourself to be in wonder at their presence.”
“Hear.  Listen without waiting to speak…without thinking about how to respond…be present to their words…to the thoughts and emotions their words contain.”
“Be Moved.  Open your heart…What are they feeling?  Allow compassion to arise in you.”
“Show Kindness.  Respond to their needs…Love them through your actions…Let them know the Gospel without using words.”
“Delight in them…Smile at them…Laugh with them…Savor their presence…Love them…Let them know they are enjoyed and a gift to this planet.”

     And, the instructions continue, “When young people encounter you…Be seen.  Be heard.  Let them be moved.  Receive their kindness.  Let them delight in you.” 

     In other words, relate to them as Jesus related to people; “create space for the Holy Spirit to move and work.”

     She spoke, too, of an interesting phenomenon, “their fascination with ancient practices – walking the labyrinth, lectio divina and Taizé, for example.  They are drawn to them, some are obsessed with them (even wearing related symbols as tattoos).”  

     “How can we tap into that hunger?” I asked. 

     Mary Sue described a new approach to youth meetings that includes a time of meditation and reflection (the ringing of the “mindfulness bell” invites them to center themselves and enter into a time of silence, sharing and singing).

     “We’re also using a new digital curriculum service,” she related, “one drawing on the questions kids ask.  If, for example, one expresses concern about schoolyard bullying, we download a segment on anger and use it to start a conversation to explore the subject.

     She spoke, too, of opportunities for the kids to “plug into the program, to participate fully in the worship, activities and outreach of the church.  The kids connect with the idea of service, she added, citing their mission trips to Puerto Rico and Heifer Ranch and to do home repair on Native American reservations. 

     Asked how church members can support the youth, Mary Sue encouraged everyone to “talk to our kids, ask how they’re doing, listen to them, see them (not their clothes, make-up, hairstyles, etc.). 

     “Plant a seed, water it and watch it grow,” I paraphrased, “much as Pastor Félix does in encouraging every UCCLMer to find – and practice – his or her ministry.”

     “You’ve got it!”

     Far from the pineapple fields, indeed!

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