About two weeks ago I got an email from Katie and Silvi asking “Hey, do you want to give a speech on Senior Sunday?” In my head I thought “Oh great this will be fun”, but somehow, I responded “I would love to” in all CAPS with maybe a few too many exclamations.
My name is Michael Grant, and I have attended Kenilworth Union Church for as long as I can remember. I have many memories of different activities at Church. For example, taking my pet bunny, MoonBoots to get baptized on animal blessing Sunday, going to youth group meetings on Wednesday nights, working in the soup kitchens with my family, Sunrise services on Easter Morning’s at Elder Beach, and constructing care packages for college students; I am looking forward to mine next year.
These past few months I have been helping teach the 2nd, 6th, and 7th graders. Getting to play Kahoot with them on a Sunday morning was something I would always look forward to. Somehow the kids always won and I always lost. Church has taught me as much as any other place I know.
For example, this past summer I went to Belize with the IMPACT group and we were in involved in building a school; however, the best part was the kids in the community. The children played with us at their local church while their parents were at work. We had about 40 kids show up each day. As a group we would read and sing nursery rhymes with them. The games we played were soccer, duck duck goose, red light-green light, frisbee, and of course tag. It reminded me of my childhood again. The next day I was sore from playing with the monkeys climbing on me than from the construction we did.
The thing that really struck me was how happy the kids were even though they didn’t have much. That opened my eyes to a life lesson that you can always find happiness in life no matter what you are given. The kids said we were changing their lives by staying out of gangs and being a positive influence on them. I told them they were changing my life more than I was changing theirs. I sound pretty cliché, but if you think about it it’s all true.
Kenilworth Union Church gave me this experience and I will cherish it. It made me realize how fortunate I am to have the life I have been given. But what makes it even better is what I can do with it. Realizing this made me more generous and not take things for granted; I hope you will do the same. I am off to college in the fall and I know that Kenilworth Union will always be a second home to come back to. Thanks again for being my Church family.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. —Ecclesiastes 3:1–4
I have been coming to Kenilworth Union Church for as long as I can remember. I was baptized here, attended Sunday school here, got confirmed here, and overall, grew up here. One of my first memories is sitting on Dick Kiphart’s lap in the crib room begging for the endless crackers that he would give away.
When I was reflecting on my time spent at here at Kenilworth Union, I realized how many great times I have gotten to experience throughout the years. From running through the hallways while playing catacombs at Junior Youth Group, to completing the high ropes course at the confirmation retreat. From attending the countless potluck dinners, to teaching energetic kids at Sunday school. From welcome back Sundays, to spending every
Christmas and Easter that I can remember at this Church. I am so grateful for these memories and will always cherish them.
I am also so thankful for the opportunities that Kenilworth Union has given me.
The mission trips to Guatemala and Jamaica were life-changing experiences that have expanded my faith in ways that no other experience has before. Through serving there I have met so many amazing people and gained an appreciation for what others live through around the world.
Going and serving in Central America greatly impacted my faith. One person in particular was a man named André that we met in Jamaica. He had a mental disability and we believe he would just wander during the days. However, when we were there he would come to us everyday. One day we were moving wood from one side of the property to the other and we were really struggling. André without hesitation grabbed, way more wood then any of us could, and helped us throughout the day. He was always just so happy and so positive. I remember talking to him and he would always say how much love he has for God and how much God loved him and rest of us. Meeting André has changed my life and I constantly think back on him. Meeting people like André are what has developed my faith.
I truly believe everything happens for a reason. Because I came to Church I have met so many great people and have gotten to experience some amazing opportunities. I want to thank the congregation for the love and kindness they have shown and constantly supporting all of us. I would also like to thank Katie and Silvi for all of their leadership, the opportunities they have given all of us, and their constant compassion.
Whitney Hoban and Caroline Iserloth
We are seniors at New Trier High School and have been a part of Kenilworth Union Church for as long as we can remember.
One of our most memorable experiences at Kenilworth Union was our Confirmation trip to the Boundary Waters. We were able to form a stronger relationship with each other and with God.
The Boundary Waters posed many physical and emotional challenges to us such as carrying canoes on our shoulders, carrying everything on our backs, and making all of our food over a campfire. But to us the most difficult challenge was sitting alone with our own thoughts, reflecting on ourselves and our relationships with our peers, and with God.
We enjoyed learning from both our church and camp counselors. Our nightly prayers and discussions about our religion has helped us all to see how God is in our everyday lives and is with us.
He guided us through the trip, whether it was leeches on our legs or canoeing through pouring rain. God was on our side helping us through it all.
We are truly grateful for being given the chance to have gone on this trip with our peers, Silvi, and Katie. It was an experience we will never forget and will definitely cherish.
God was with us in the same way he was with Jeremiah.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. —Jeremiah 29:11
He is my rock and my salvation. My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken —Psalm 62:2
This passage perfectly exemplifies my relationship with Kenilworth Union Church. I first became involved with this church as a preschooler at A Joyful Noise Preschool, where my days were filled with finger paint and nap time. As a weekly attendee of Sunday school classes, I learned the books of the Bible, ran the habitat room, and participated in choir; it was short lived, as I quickly learned that I am not very musically inclined. I then became an avid Middle School Youth Group attendee and then Junior High Youth Group attendee, where I spent my Wednesday nights running around the church attempting to evade the ever-terrifying GROG; the role of which was almost always filled by either Coady or Corbett, and occasionally both.
Up to this point, my life was uncomplicated. School came easily for me, friendships were solidified, everything was as it should be. Once I entered high school though, things began to change. School got harder, friendships became messier, and my responsibilities grew exponentially. But no matter how much things in my life changed, one thing never did, and that was Kenilworth Union. Every Wednesday I was there, running around the church, helping the junior high kids search for flashlight pieces to destroy the GROG before he could find us. Youth group provided me with the opportunity to build meaningful connections and spend two hours a week worrying about nothing other than whether I would get hit with a roll of toilet paper during toilet paper dodgeball.
Throughout my life, this Church has been a giant rock in the ever-changing stream of life. No matter what was going on in my world, I always knew that I had Kenilworth Union at my back supporting me through everything. That’s why although my life is going to change drastically as I go off to college and adjust to life away from home, I know that with my foundation of the Church’s rock, I will not be shaken, and I will always have my steadfast Church family looking out for me. For that, I am eternally grateful.
The summer going into 8th grade, I participated in a three night away camp with a couple friends through the Young Life organization. I’m not sure if any of you are familiar with Young Life, but it is a Christian Organization for the youth. Although I had a great couple of days at the camp filled with fun activities and meeting new people, I did not completely agree with their message.
In one of the sermons delivered to the group, a man talked about letting God into your life. But he said the ONLY way you can truly have a good relationship with God, is if you are willing to sacrifice ALL the important things in your life. He talked about losing friends and thinking about God in every decision that you make throughout the day, and only then could you have a good relationship with God. He made it seem as if there was only one route you could take to achieve this relationship.
I was only 14 and at the time this sounded quite a lot like becoming a nun, which wasn’t my agenda. It did not really resonate with me; his message felt confining and polarizing, but of course I still wanted God to be part of my life.
The following year, I started my confirmation process at Kenilworth Union Church. Confirmation is a time when you decide what role you want faith to play in your life. I knew I wanted God to be a part of my life but wasn’t sure exactly how. Kenilworth Union provided a comfortable home for me to explore my own faith with Katie and Silvi always there to answer questions and help guide me down my new path. This was important because everyone’s faith and relationship with God is different. This is what I love so much about this Church; it provides a foundation of flexibility and you can bite off as much as you can chew.
There are a range of people from just the CEO’s…Christmas and Easter only…to the people that are here every Sunday and involved with the church throughout the week. Everyone’s relationship with God and faith waxes and wanes at some point in their life, but either way, Kenilworth Union is always a place that welcomes you with open arms, regardless of where you are on your journey.
In high school I became involved in the mission trip program called IMPACT. My first trip was to Jamaica two summers ago, and then Belize last summer. These two trips have been some of the best times of my life.
During my first trip to Jamaica, I was uncomfortable the first few days, and eager to get back home. But just six days later, I never wanted to leave the place. Not just because of where we were but because of the relationships I had made with the locals and the fellow IMPACT members. We spent times laughing and crying, all while in a constant drip of sweat from the Jamaican humidity. No one cared what they looked like, and there were no phones or social media to distract anyone. Whether I was interacting with the locals, or my fellow peers and leaders, we all had our own faith journey.
While some were much more religious than others, we all still had a common bond that allowed us to connect. IMPACT has become another home for me to further my faith journey. Next month we will be going to Cuba and I could not be more excited.
This past school year as a senior at New Trier, I began the whole college process. Balancing regular school work, applying to schools, maintaining a social life, and still having time to spend with family was very difficult at times. At points it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But as my grandmother, Mumsy says, “To worry is to not have faith.” I learned that sometimes you just have to take it one day at a time and trust that things will work out. They may not work out as you imagined, but it always does end up being okay.
Before I wrap up, this is a quote I’d like to share that was given to me after confirmation and has been sitting next to my bed since.
If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.
Happy moments, praise God.
Difficult moments, seek God.
Quiet moments, worship God.
Painful moments, trust God.
Every moment, thank God.
Good Morning. I don’t want to take too much of your time, because I know there is a post church brunch waiting.
When Katie asked if I would be willing to give a sermon today, I was eager to speak, but not sure what I would say. My dad encouraged me to share some thoughts on what it meant to me to be a high school helper. I wasn’t sure. Throughout the weeks leading up to today I kept thinking about this question. Maybe I was going through something and I needed a way to take off the pressure of school. Maybe I wanted to be involved in something outside of school. But I think I just really like helping others.
I like working with the kids because I believe I might be able to make a difference and it makes me feel good about myself. For the last three years, I have been a Sunday school helper for the 3rd grade class. I don’t remember much about what I learned in 3rd grade, but after helping every Sunday for three years, I do now. I helped the 3rd graders memorize the 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, the books of the Bible, and the Ten Commandments. The memory work was “enough to test the patience of a saint” (this is a quote from the books of the bible song). I will always remember watching videos with rowdy 3rd graders learning the Lord’s Prayer step by step. I wonder what they will be like when they reached my age.
I want to thank Chris Johnson for being my mentor through Confirmation. That year, Mr. Johnson asked me to read a Bible verse at a Children’s Chapel service. It meant a lot to me that he asked for my help. He was one of those unique people you don’t often meet; both kind and charismatic. I would also like to thank Kenilworth Union Church for giving me the opportunities to help others.
I would like to end with:
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:6–7
Sarah Hayes and Niki Urban
When thinking back upon our experiences at Kenilworth Union Church, Niki and I only found it fitting to speak together, as our experiences at Kenilworth Union began together and have followed similar paths. Niki and I met while attending A Joyful Noise Preschool. It was an instant friendship. Kenilworth Union not only began the friendship but fostered it through several faith related activities. We started to become Sunday school and youth group regulars as we loved every moment of them. But, what I think has changed both of our lives the most is the IMPACT program here at Church. This year Niki and I stand as the co-chairs of the IMPACT Junior Board and this summer will be our fourth mission trip. We couldn’t be more excited about all the work the program has done so far this year and the change we all are going to be able to make down in Cuba. The IMPACT program will forever be something that changes lives. You make connections with people you would have never imagined while helping those truly in need.
Mission Trips have been such an amazing experience for both Sarah and me. Although it does look great on a college application, shockingly that was not the reason that we signed up freshman year. It’s hard for me to explain what an impact these trips have had on me, but I’ll try to cram three mission trips into two minutes.
It was my third mission trip and this time we were in the Cayo District of Belize. I knew what the hard work in the beating sun felt like, but on this trip my group was building a house for a local family, smaller than the size of an average Winnetka bedroom. During previous trips I had built a wall, worked in local schools, built a playground, but never built a house from scratch. There were some locals that worked alongside us while building. One of them was named Fred and throughout the week, we got to know each other. One of the last days of building the house, I climbed up a ladder that looked like it was going to fall apart any second. I kept looking down and was clearly no help to Fred with securing the roof. So, Fred kept repeating to look up and not at the ground. He distracted me from the shaky ladder with stories of his childhood and his dad’s fearless attitude.
Our last night in Belize with this family, we threw a barbeque with the family receiving the house and everyone who helped. With a car’s headlights giving us the light we needed to cook, we had an amazing barbeque filled with laughter over the week. The parents cried tears of absolute joy and the kids followed by a dance party with us in their new house. As we got ready to say goodbye, Fred smiled and said, “Remember, if you keep looking up, the sky is the limit.” This cliché stuck with me to not only get over my fear of shaky ladders, but to show the kind of warmth and love that surrounds this church and those we touch. From preschool to my senior year of high school, I have felt nothing but love as I walk into this church and have been honored to spread that down the street and across the world.
We both know that God has watched over us through all our experiences in and out of Kenilworth Union. The relationship that we have both formed with God have been tested and ultimately strengthened through this Church in the best way possible. We’ll leave you with a scripture:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. —1 Peter 4:8