When I first read the email from Katie asking seniors to share their stories, I was hesitant to volunteer. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if my story was interesting enough, unique enough, or even entertaining enough to share with our congregation.
Then I read the “getting started” part of the email, where Katie prompts us to think about OUR personal Kenilworth Union Church story, questions like: Were you baptized at Kenilworth Union? Did you attend Kenilworth Union Sunday School? Did your parents teach Kenilworth Union Sunday School? I realized how absolutely “COMMON” my experience at Church has been. And that’s what I’d like to speak about. We heard earlier that “No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket.” You put it on the lamp stand, and it gives light to ALL in the house. As someone who grew up here at Church, the second I hear this passage I think of one thing…“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
There’s something amazing about a simple tune resonating with an entire congregation. I think we can all agree that it brings back a strange happy nostalgia when we were all care free and young. Yes, I know I’m only 18 and talking about the good old days. But I think that this goes to show how badly we want to return to a childlike mindset, where we don’t have to worry about anything, but letting our light shine.
Some of the greatest memories I have of Church, are from the choir retreat when all the Rejoice boys, teenagers, and the beloved Tamaron Conseur would get a game of football or volleyball going. It was incredible because there were little second graders, playing football with cool, cocky, 7th graders trying to show off… like Nick Chang, and then high schoolers like myself. Nobody cared that some people weren’t exactly athletic, and trust me, it was a choir retreat…Many of the kids were not THAT athletic. But that’s what made it special. No one was worried that they were going to get made fun off or teased. If they tripped and made a fool of themselves, everyone laughed and moved on. The only other time that I’ve experienced anything like this, is at my own family gatherings.
When I think of family get togethers, I think of playing beach volleyball in South Carolina, I think of a Thanksgiving Day football game with my cousins. I think of basketball on a snowy driveway in Maryland, just struggling to dribble with my frostbitten hands. There’s a sense that no one cares how good you are and everyone unconditionally loves you. You don’t have to worry when your older cousin laughs at you when you air ball a layup, because you know that they still love you. During choir rehearsal, if a section is singing by themselves, everyone is there to support them. You don’t hear chuckles or sneering when they miss a note or have an embarrassing voice crack. No one thinks less of a soloist if they mess up.
Teenagers these days feel like they HAVE TO put up barriers and shields to protect themselves from judgement. Everyone is worried about what other people think and if they are fitting in. I have many different groups of friends. Band and Orchestra friends, Volleyball friends, Fencing friends, school friends, and church friends. The difference is that many of my other friend groups are competitive and everyone is trying to get ahead of each other. Any athlete knows that when you’re on the court or field everyone is trash talking and trying to get in the opponent’s head. We build up these barriers and shields to protect ourselves from our opponents. The problem is that these shields are like the bushel basket. They prevent us from letting our light shine.
At Kenilworth Union, everyone wants our lights to shine. When we are at church we don’t have to fill a persona we build for ourselves. So yes… I was baptized, went to Sunday school, sang in Rejoice Choir, and played in the talent show here. I have mentored younger kids and been shaped by older kids. Kenilworth Union has helped me get to a place where I don’t have to worry about my image.
Bishop Desmond Tutu famously said, “You don’t CHOOSE your family. They are God’s gift to YOU… as you are to THEM.” Family is TRULY a gift. No one has to hide their light. It’s a gift to NOT have to worry about shields, barriers, or judgment. And it’s a gift to always have a place where everyone is welcomed and loved.