Sara Cardinal, UUMC Director of Children and Youth Ministry
“Unprecedented Times – Unprecedented Challenges”
October 13, 2020
***Please return pledge cards by November 1, 2020***
I’ve been asked to speak on behalf of the “Unprecedented Timed & Unprecedented Challenges Stewardship Campaign.” Allow me offer you a brief window into my home and work life as Director of Children’s & Youth Ministry during these complicated months of Covid-19.
Since March my spouse and I have both been working primarily from home, in our very modest and not very sound proofed house, along with our two elementary aged children who have been participating in distanced learning programs. Because we are both employed full time and our children are young still, we often have to step away from our work in order to provide classroom support to our kids. Which means that many times, our work days begin before the children wake up and end after they are in bed, with ‘catching up’ regularly happening on the weekends. It leaves very little down time for Mike or myself. Community resources that we would normally have relied on are not a viable option – babysitters, family help, and after school care are all sorely missed. In short, we are tired. That is true of every parent I know right now.
Youth Group and Sunday School moved to virtual learning formats in March, with many of our special events being outright cancelled. The beauty of working with flexible and tech savvy students is that this transition felt rather seamless. But have you ever tried to explain a craft via YouTube? It is not a straightforward tasks. Building and maintaining relationships over video chats is complicated, and most of the budget that would’ve been spent on pizza this year has gone to postage instead – using tangible items to help people feel connected. The truth is that our students are screen fatigued, and crave what we cannot yet have – shared space together, without the anxiety and restrictions. We are all longing for that return to normalcy, I can feel it.
Yet in the midst of so much exhaustion, fear, and unknown, I can still find gratitude. It is actually better for my mental health to SEEK gratitude. I don’t have to work from home, I get to work from home. Our family’s daily pace is slower, and more focused on one another. It’s an unanticipated gift at this phase of child rearing. Our youth worked towards a common cause this summer, and through a pile of pink flamingos, discovered the power of community & connection, raising over $2,000 for Midland Flood Relief while also delivering a lot of joy to homes all over Lansing. The children’s summer program collected nonperishable food goods and hygiene items for local food banks and migrant health kits. In the midst of a crisis, our young people still showed up as Disciples and served our communities.
This dark time often makes me think of Jesus’ Disciples, in their anxious waiting and unanswered questions between the crucifixion and the resurrection. We have the advantage of knowing the end of their story, but when I imagine their grief and fear, it seems an accurate parallel to where I find my own heart these days. There is much we cannot yet know the outcome to, and it is easy to let fear rule our thinking. In the Gospel of John, Jesus prepares his beloved Disciples with these words, “So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (16:22). This promise rings differently now. It speaks to me of a time when we will be able to gather together, and indeed there will be joy. And it serves as a reminder that God is with us, even as we are apart. The joy is coming. Have patience. Cast hope into 2021, and live faithfully to your calling as a Disciple of Jesus Christ, through the ministries here at University United Methodist Church. The building may be closed, but the Church is very much alive.
Director of Children’s & Youth Ministry
At University United Methodist Church, we affirm that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are an open and inclusive congregation and welcome all persons into full participation regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic situation, age, ability, education, background and whether single or partnered.