Hi, if I seem a little nervous it’s because I wrote this whole thing this morning.I’m kidding, I worked very hard this. My name is Andrew and today I’d like to talk a little bit about my faith journey and how the community here, Kenilworth Union Church has helped me along my path.
My family started attending church here not long after we had moved to Wilmette from Maryland. I was in second grade at the time, and though it was so long ago, I very clearly remember the strong feeling of nervousness I had as I walked through the church’s doors for the first time.
It was unfamiliar, I didn’t know anyone, and when my parents suggested that I join the choir—I’m quite certain that I vowed not to return to church. Of course my parents sent me anyway and I’m very grateful that they did.
For the many years that I was involved in the KUC Youth Choir, getting up early on Sundays to sing, and going on the retreats, I made some very good friendships that are still with me today.
After a few years the church began to feel like home to me. From fifth through eighth grade I went to every single youth group meeting I could to spend more time with the community.
One of my favorite memories is from the Confirmation Wilderness trip the summer before my freshman year of high school. The night before our flight left for the Olympic National Park in Washington, me and the rest of the confirmands spent the night in the church. Aside from a couple of my friends, none of us knew each other well or at all for that matter. During that first night we spent in the church, I believe we all realized what we signed up for and we were all in it together. The rest of the week we spent backpacking over treacherous terrain we spent together as friends.
The Confirmation Wilderness trip is meant to get future confirmands of the church thinking about what their beliefs are and where their faith lies. It was the first time I ever stated thinking that way and even after getting confirmed still did not have a great idea of my faith. However this is around the time that I became more and more exposed to a lot of the negativity to the news and media about how other Christians interpreted the Bible.
After seeing how people could twist the Bible’s words, I felt betrayed that the message of love and kindness that I grew up on in Sunday School wasn’t the message be preached by others. I think this is a big reason why a lot of youth like me are losing faith. During the time I felt the most disconnected with God as I ever had before I decided to sign up for the 2021 Tulsa, Oklahoma Mission trip.
We left the first week of summer before my sophomore year. I was expecting mostly hard labor in the boiling Oklahoma heat and hot sleepless nights. My expectations were accurate.
But, I had no idea of the most second meaningful part of these trips. The first being the work that we do and the second is time spent together as a team. Through the trip to Tulsa, and the more recent trip to Oahu, Hawaii, I felt a strong community with the church. I was getting dragged back into faith and I started to really realize what Kenilworth Union Church and my faith mean to me. Church teaches youth the most important lesson in the Bible.
It is not to hate and exclude but to love, be kind to others, and build community. Especially with those we have never met before, or those we have difference with, or disagree with.
The Bible recognizes the importance of kindness in over 200 instances. My favorite verse is a simple one from Matthew: "So whatever you wish that others will do to you, do also to them." (7:12) The golden rule.
I’m now a senior and my faith continues to change every day. There are days when I feel God has abandoned me and days that I feel God is right by my side. My faith journey is far from over. I feel so luck to have my church community by my side every step of the way. Thank you.