Gabbie Munn, Interim Director of Youth Ministries. Interim, temporary, fleeting. As I walked into the Chapel of the Cross, I saw my role as just that- Interim, temporary, fleeting. I spent weeks in my office, staring at a blank sheet of paper. What was I going to do? As I reflected on my years in a youth group, I tried to pinpoint what stuck with me. What lessons did I learn that I still think about? What activities did I remember? What cool and intriguing talks did we have?
The answer- I didn’t remember. I did not remember the books we used to study the Bible, the games we played, or the long talks we heard about being “good Christians.”
Instead, I remembered feeling like I was finally part of something bigger than myself that loved me, wanted me, and respected me. I remembered making lifelong friends. I remember the feeling of meeting a stranger that would soon become my best friend.
It all came down to one thing- community. I was in community with people who saw me as their friend. In this community, I had value. In this community, I had dignity.
Entering a community for the first time can be a scary, intimidating thing. When I was in 7th grade, I went to Jr. High DOY at Camp Bratton-Green. I was there early (of course) and loaded my stuff into the first empty cabin I found. I was the only “Hattiesburg kid” and therefore, I felt oddly like an outsider in a place that normally made me feel so at home. It was then I ran into my first, long lost “camp friend,” Elizabeth Strauss. Our rekindled friendship was almost immediate. She helped me move my sleeping bag and luggage to her cabin as we talked about the week we first met in 3rd grade at Camp Bratton-Green. I was welcomed into the community.
In early high school, Elizabeth invited me on a mission trip with her church- Chapel of the Cross in Madison. I was not a member, nor did I live in Madison, but she convinced me to go anyway. We loaded into an old, dirty van and headed to the Delta to paint stripes in a parking lot and harvest watermelon in the hot, Mississippi Delta summer. I remember singing songs with farmers while throwing watermelons as hard as we could. I remember sprinting to the van before each destination to get a good spot near an air vent. I was welcomed into the community.
As I struggled to think of the perfect activity, the life-changing EYC, I realized that my goals were interim, temporary, fleeting. Sure, thought-provoking discussions are incredible and should be cherished, but I wanted something that would last. I wanted to create a space that was welcoming. I wanted to create a feeling of community among the youth at the Chapel of the Cross that would last past my time or even their time. I changed my goals. No longer did I stress about facilitating the perfect ice-breaker or the most formative activity. I focused on goals that were anything but interim. I wanted the EYC to be a community that welcomed anyone, everyone.
When the community was restless from a long week at school, we played cards. When the community was tired, we sat in the field behind the Chapel and got to know one another. When the community was energetic, we played tag and climbed on hay bales. When the community was curious, we talked about inclusivity.
We were all welcomed into the EYC community together.
As I turn off the lights in the Youth Wing for the summer and turn in my keys, I am reminded how interim, temporary, fleeting our time is here. Ten months at the Chapel of the Cross felt like ten days. Will ten years feel like ten days? If so, I want community.
Thank you, Chapel of the Cross Youth, for allowing me to be a small part in your community. It was an honor to get to know each of you. Continue to welcome others as you have been welcomed.
Gabbie Munn, Part of the Community