Date: May 17, 2015
Bible Text: Micah 6:6–8; Matthew 22:34–40 | Guest Speaker
I have been attending Kenilworth Union Church as long as I can remember. Now, I didn’t know I was speaking until two days ago, and initially I didn’t even want to talk today. Not because I didn’t want to talk about church, etc. but I came to the conclusion that no matter what I say, I won’t do the church justice and why am I up here speaking today? But if I could talk about one thing the church has shown and taught me it would be about “faith.”
Faith is often associated with religion which I feel is important to talk about in today’s world. I want to talk about two types, both important, not exclusive, but definitely not the same. The first type is faith in God religiously. When I think about God, I feel people think safety net — something to catch, or carry on the beach. Not because they won’t need Him, but because they have more of a relationship with God — like the relationship of an orchestra and the conductor.
I’ve had some experience conducting, actually going straight to Skokie library to conduct Haydn cello concerto, but didn’t just bring up to self-promote my concert. I bring it up because when I’m conducting, I’m the only one who can hear everything and has the score. The members of the orchestra can’t see the big picture because of their location and perspective. So when I’m up there not trying to look awesome waving arms and pointing, I’m just trying to make everyone sound as good as possible and set them up for success.
I know when I play, I can only hear the clarinet to left, bassoon to right, trumpet nearby, but I have faith the conductor is setting me up for success and leading me correctly. Same with God, I can only know some stuff in the past, maybe know what’s happening a few weeks in the future, a few days if you’re as bad at planning as me, which is why I wrote this last night. But God is my conductor; He can see the road for success and leads me.
For example, in my freshman year, God is setting me up for success and leading me to where I need to go. A Retreat I didn’t want to go on —forward — instead, I wanted to slash tires with a library card. But God led me where I needed to go. Now going to NU for music camp, God made sure I didn’t have anything sharper than a library card in my pocket. And He made sure I tapped into what is one of the biggest parts of my life today.
This church and God offers amazing opportunities with Faith. No one could have known the passion the music camp provided. I never would have been able to get here by myself. I mentioned at the beginning, two types of faith. This first type of faith allowed me to experience the second type of faith, a faith that is just as important but entirely different. One of my friends always tells me that I start half of my sentences with what my dad always says…(most of you don’t hear me talk enough so this won’t annoy you) but my dad always says, “I have faith in you.” Now, I say it too. Not only faith in God, but faith in another person is just as important.
My freshman year, Lisa Bond suggested I arrange with no experience —
No experience composing or any vocal writing. This was my first experience in choir at Church, but she had faith in me. A kid with a passion for music, and she had faith that I could do more. I am forever grateful and in her debt. Lisa had faith despite my sometimes 100% wrong — or a bad arrangement. And yet, I never want to forget no matter how much I begged my dad, to take the video off YouTube.
Lisa deserves a medal for this faith she expressed in me. But also a trophy, which every little league soccer player will tell you is so much better. She had faith for four years even through last summer when a 17-year-old was asked to write and perform during the liturgical service: I worked with strings, Chancel Choir, bells, and percussion instruments. That’s faith! For that she deserves a trophy. I’m eternally grateful and in awe, that takes guts. That was one of the pieces that got me into college.
So why am I up here speaking? To thank you — thank you to the Choir community who takes an hour every Sunday to sing with me. Thank you for my recordings. I found some incredible leaders, learned to be a leader, and became best friends to the music ministry opportunities to play. I thank Barbara Falk who encouraged me to play more and be better. I thank John Bryant for being an awesome organist. I thank the Bell Choir for promising to storm NU admissions office and beat them with their bells if I didn’t get in. I thank the Congregation throughout my four years — they supported my musical growth and Lisa bond. Faith was shown through even my bad arrangements, unnecessary glissandos, and excessive percussion. Thank you for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to become who I am today.
So this is why I am standing here to thank all of you!
If you ever need someone to play piano for your party or compose for your wedding or to pump out a speech the night before, I would of course do exactly that because I am forever in your debt. None of you will ever take me up on any of those offers, so I guess all I can say is a sincere,
Youth Sunday Senior Sermon Jeffrey McHugh
I’m so grateful to have grown up at Kenilworth Union Church and been a part of this community. Going here since birth, this church is set deep in the foundation of who I am as a person and it’s influenced me in many different ways. I’ve met some of my best friends through the church and I’ve formed a lot of great relationships along the way. One of the most important relationships I’ve made has been with God, and I think that going here has instilled me with a good set of values that have been very important in my life. Some of my earliest memories take place here… I still remember Mrs. Kiphart who led the kid services over in the Schmidt Chapel and used her puppet, Nadine, to tell the stories. I have a vivid memory of myself standing right there and singing “Away in a Manger” at the Christmas pageant when I was four. I remember going to the habitat every year and being fascinated with the gold coin sand sifting station, then leading that same station in fifth grade and teaching the younger kids about it. I remember earning my Bible, playing Joseph in the Christmas pageant, and I’ll never forget the time I climbed on top of the roof of the Church somehow when I was 7 and got in trouble for it, sorry for that. I also remember becoming close with all the people in my grade, being with them for so many years, and how it was great knowing them when we all ended up together at New Trier.
Through it all, I’d have to say that one of the main driving forces in my Church experience has been Silvi Pirn, the youth group leader and one of my best friend’s moms. I first met Silvi in 7th grade when I started going to youth group— until then, I had only heard about her from my older brother, who told me how fun and crazy she was and that I should just trust whatever weird thing she wanted to do that day, because her out-of-the-box activities always turned out to be a lot of fun. And on the first day of JYG, when I pulled up to the manse to see that the entire front yard had been converted to a 30 foot slip-n-slide, with giant clear tarps, buckets of soap, and a hose, it was clear that my older brother was right. She was who’s to blame for the cool, creative nature of youth group, or JYG as we called it. She was one of the nicest and most energetic adults I had ever met, and was the only parent I knew who would cook boxes of spaghetti, not to eat but to use for a game called “spaghetti hairstyles,” where we’d put handfuls of piping hot spaghetti onto our friends’ heads for fun. She was always up for trying out, or inventing, new ideas for games, like human foosball or toilet paper dodge ball, or contests to see who could blow up a balloon with their nose or duct tape each other to the wall the fastest. She was also up for activities that some authority figures “might” not have allowed, like our full-out ice cream fights in the manse. But there was a clear reason why everyone kept coming back every Wednesday night and that reason was Silvi. Being the mother of my good friend made her very present in my life outside of church as well. One moment I’ll never forget, because it sums her up so well, was the time I walked into their house to find her overjoyed, running over to me with a strange looking fruit called a “Buddha’s hand” and shouting “Jeffrey! I’m so glad you’re here! You’ve just got to try this weird foreign fruit I found!”
Although I may have made her sound a lot weirder than she actually is, she’s a great role model and youth group had a big impact on all of us 7th and 8th graders. Although each week’s activities seemed to consist only of fun, they always had some sort of meaning that she’d tie into them, usually relating to a lesson from church or a passage of scripture. After the games we’d reflect in small groups on things like our relationships with God, prayer, or Christian values. At an age where most kids viewed going to church as a chore, she was able help teach them about God and develop their faiths in a way they didn’t argue with. This is why, freshman year, I asked her to be my confirmation mentor. And of course, in Grand Silvi tradition, when all the other confirmands were doing quick meetings with their mentors at Starbucks, Silvi decided to travel to an off-the-grid Asian marketplace so that we could cook an authentic Asian meal in her kitchen.
After being confirmed I decided to become a high school helper, and I’ve been lucky for the past two years to have gotten paired up with the best group of 4 and 5 year old kids and parent teachers that I could imagine. Each kid has their own unique personality and it’s been a joy teaching them the same lessons that I learned years ago, preparing them for the same Christmas pageant I used to do, and singing all the songs I remember, like “Fishers of Men,” “Deep and Wide,” and “Father Abraham.” I also missed youth group so much that I joined CORE, the high school leadership team of JYG, and it’s been one of the highlights of my week every week for the last few years. Although I spent *most* of the time talking and hanging out with the other Core leaders, (sorry for that) it’s been a blast and I’m sad I won’t have those energetic Wednesday nights to amp up my weeks in college next year. Thank you all for impacting me in all the ways I’ve mentioned, especially Silvi, Katie Lancaster, Carolyn Raitt, Anne Faurot, all my past Sunday school teachers and all my friends from youth group and all else, I’ll miss you next year and I’ll be glad to come back when I’m home from college.
Next I took on confirmation. I didn’t know what to think of confirmation at first. It was a long journey where I found my true beliefs, and where I felt open to have those beliefs be anything. This is one of the things that has had the most impact on me, how open-minded this church community is. Writing my faith statement, I knew that I could be me, feel what I needed to feel, and knowing that gave me a sense of safety and security that I had never found anywhere besides my own home. After confirmation, I joined the IMPACT youth group. I have since been on three mission trips, and am preparing to go on my fourth this summer. What stands out to me about IMPACT is not only the incredible opportunity I have to take a journey to a different state, or a different country, but the constant feeling of compassion through these trips. Nothing is off limits in IMPACT, I have learned to step way out of my comfort zone. Silvi Pirn has become a huge role model for me through the IMPACT program. I am so inspired by her openness to everyone and everything, no matter what is thrown her way. It has strengthened my faith in every way and I feel very equipped for everything that I am going to have to face later in life. I have met some of the best people in IMPACT, and I firmly believe that the best people go on these trips, and you can only become a better person from them.
As I go off to college, I’m a little scared to leave KUC. The late night “sleep-overs”, where no one would actually sleep, before departing on the mission trips, the weird and crazy games that somehow brought everyone together, are something that will stay with me forever. Leaving KUC means leaving something that has been such a constant in my life ever since I was a baby. Leaving KUC is a lot like leaving my own family. I can’t stand up here today without thanking them for everything they have done for me. Thank you to my mom, who is the most understanding and caring person I know. No matter how many times I don’t listen or don’t do something you’ve probably asked me to do about twelve times, there is still love in your voice, even when your mad. Thank you for being such an incredible role model for me to look up to. Thank you to my dad, who has somehow managed to become the best balance of funny and weird while staying grounded and strict when needed. Through you two I have learned to “work hard, play hard”. There are times for fun and there is time for hard work, and finding the right balance will lead you to a very happy life and great successes. I am so grateful to have been part of such an incredible welcoming community for my life and I am so happy to know that I will always be coming back. To my twin brother, who has always been such a support to me, and always giving it to me straight, I have yet to figure out what I am going to do without you within a few miles of me at all time. And to my baby sisters, who are clearly no longer babies, thank you for being you and loving me, even when you’re mad at me for taking your clothes without asking. I feel so blessed to have had such an incredible experience through Kenilworth Union Church. Thank you to the congregation for making me feel this welcome.
Good Morning everyone, my name is Jamey Minturn.
Seventeen years ago, I was here. My experience at Kenilworth Union Church began when I was baptized right over there. Several years later, I ran around the playground out back as a preschooler. These experiences at Church are still foggy but they were nonetheless of great importance. From a young age I was blessed to have such a great place where I could start my faith, learn, and have fun. As I continued with Sunday school, I found out more and loved Youth Group, and on Sundays I loved hearing the sermons of Doctor Bowen, some of which I carry with me to this day. Church began to take on a bit of a different role for me. I began to see how I could take my faith, and apply it to the real world. Attending fundraisers, serving at soup kitchens, packaging meals or writing letters to church members who were away at college – I found a passion for service through my faith. After being confirmed, I felt a large sense of accomplishment not just by looking back at all of the Bible songs and Psalms I had memorized the last eight years, but feeling a larger sense of accomplishment for being a part of such an amazing church. In high school, thanks to my sister Em, I joined IMPACT. Going on mission trips to Panama and the Bahamas was one of the highlights of high school. I still remember the faces of the people we helped, and the kids we played and read with. I will never forget the week itself, but I will also never forget working with all of my fellow IMPACT members. Working side by side, sharing stories in devos, I connected with others that I never would have before. I am excited for our next mission trip in June to Guatemala!
I cannot say enough about the people in our Church community here at Kenilworth Union. I have been overwhelmed with support in sporting events, college decisions and numerous other things. To highlight one, I want to say thank you to my confirmation mentor Chris Joseph. Going into our projects and conversations, I expected to be talking about my own faith, and what it means to be confirmed. Sharing your own experiences with me, I was able to learn more about you and to this day I still go to you for advice. You posted a stellar attendance to home and away New Trier soccer games this fall, and I remember pointing to you after scoring a goal at one point. I am so grateful for you and all you have done for me. In a broader respect, I am so grateful to be a part of a church community that is filled with people like Chris Joseph. In addition, there are two people who I don’t thank enough for all that they do for me. First, I’d like to point out my father Corey, or “Studmuffin” as he calls himself. You and mom brought me here 17 years ago, and made sure that Church began to play a role in my life, and it truly did. You have taught me how to be a gentleman, and your advice is some of the best in the world. Thank you for always being my number one fan, but more so for keeping me in line, and always pointing me in the right direction. Next, my mom Katie. She does everything but so much of it goes unnoticed. From day one, you have made the best peanut butter and jelly’s, I swear. Thank you for always being there for the bad times, but also living the good ones to the fullest. You have epitomized putting others before yourself, and have taught me how to be compassionate. I don’t know what I will do without you two next year, and I will be eternally grateful for all that you have given and taught me. Without you, I would not be standing here, in Kenilworth Union Church today. Just as Church has done, you have taught me the importance of family.
For the last 18 years, Church has been a commitment, but even more a blessing. I would never trade a second of everything I have done at or with this church away. This church community has taught me so much, but as I said before, made me want to use what I’ve learned and pursue service. To all of you younger kids here today, take it all in. Take advantage of the amazing people and opportunities that Kenilworth Union offers, because you will never regret it. Go to youth group and IMPACT, and explore. You will meet amazing people and learn incredible things, but you will learn even more about yourself. As I leave for college in the fall, I know it’s not a goodbye, and that it is a “see you later”, because I will always be welcomed by my Kenilworth Union community, just as I have and will continue to welcome it.
Youth Sunday Senior Sermon Courtney Joseph
Hi Everyone, I’m Courtney Joseph, Bringing it home!
When I look back at the past 18 years in my life, three places I hold most dear to my heart are hovered with school, Homers, and Kenilworth Union Church. Church has been like a second home for me as I grew up in this community. I specifically remember all those chaotic Sunday mornings, that consisted of my mother quickly putting patent leather shoes on my younger sister and me, and my father trying to teach my brother how to tie his own tie, but giving up quickly and just tying it up himself. All that hurry just to get a good seat and at the chapel so we can sit and listen to Dr. Bowen speak about something I didn’t understand yet.
Those sugar cookies and lemonade definitely help make up coming back and listen. As I grew from little girl to young adult, Kenilworth Union has always been there for me. I felt comfortable and loved as I got to develop my faith through the confirmation process. I will never forget looking out at this congregation as we heard announced that we were official members at the Church and feeling the overwhelming sense of love and community that the people of Kenilworth Union exude.
IMPACT mission trips have been some of the most incredible experiences I’ve had in my life so far. I am so thankful to have the opportunity for one last trip to Guatemala this summer. I have always been the kind of person that learns best by doing and these mission trips have taught me so much about God’s love and light throughout our lives by doing good for people in need.
One specific memory I have that really solidified my faith in God’s love was last summer in the Bahamas. My group and I, who were called the Trail Blazers, were working on rebuilding a wall around the local pastor’s home. We’d only been a couple hours into the day when it began to downpour. It was raining so hard that within seconds everyone was soaking wet and we all had to take shelter under that tiny patio of the shed. We all waited for any hope of the weather passing, but time went on and it kept pouring rain. I felt so much sadness for the pastor and his family because they needed our service to make their home sturdy and safe. The rain was preventing us from doing that.
I thought about how unlucky this weather was. I was angry that this family couldn’t catch a break on any type of struggle. Then, all of a sudden, I heard a little voice begin to sing, and then another. I turned to my right to see the pastor’s two little boys singing this hymn about God’s love and how strong it is and how they love him.
Although, I don’t remember the specific words of the song now, I remember their little voices and the sound of rain coming together in perfect harmony just as the moment was yesterday. In that moment I realized just how incredible God’s love can be. Even though this family had been down on their luck for so long, they kept faith in God and knew that as long as he loves, they will be alright. I’ll keep this lesson in me as I go on to college next year and for the rest of my life as well.
Kenilworth Union Church has been such a blessing in my life. I can’t wait to come back every vacation to feel the sense of community and love again. And, of course, for the cookies too.