2012 Vestry Ministry Initiative Began in Advent
by Robyn Burnett
After the Vestry named engaging our youth more fully in the life of the parish as the ministry priority for 2012, we laid the groundwork for this initiative with two listening sessions in October about youth programming for next year – one with the youth facilitated by Anne Kyle and one with parents and other adults led by Karen Winn. More than 50 people attended this event which opened with a Eucharist and ended with a meal in the parish hall. The comments shared during those sessions will be helpful in planning activities for next year.
We began the new liturgical year with two intergenerational Sunday evening Advent Eucharist services and formation programs that led to a youth-led Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Day. Through her commentary at various times in the Advent services and a more informal homily, Shariya helped all of us better understand the form and shape of the Eucharistic service. In addition, youth engaged fully in the experience by serving as lectors and lay Eucharistic ministers.
During the first program session, Shariya provided background on the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, in which the story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus is told in nine readings from Genesis, the prophetic books, and the Gospels, each followed by a hymn or Christmas carol. She explained that in the rubrics for the liturgy there is a list of lessons from which the nine are chosen. After Shariya’s remarks, the group split into two to consider which of the optional lessons they would chose and why. The two groups – youth and adults – presented their lists at the end of the session. Shariya used the youth-recommended list for the Christmas Day service. During the second Advent program, the entire group considered the selection of carols to go with the lessons chosen and had the opportunity to sing both familiar and less-well-known hymns and carols.
In all, more than 80 people attended the two Advent events and nearly a hundred people attended the Christmas Day service. On Christmas Day, the youth and Shariya led the congregation through this marvelous service. Youth members served as ushers and acolytes but also read all the lessons (except the last Gospel reading which is read by the priest), led us in the prayers of the people, and served as chalice bearers. Afterwards I heard several comments about how reverential the youth were serving at the altar and how well prepared all the readers had been. I feel sure that everyone who attended the Advent programs will have a better appreciation of the intricacy and richness of the story told in the Nine Lessons and Carols that is larger than the sum of its parts.