Returning to the Question

by Charlotte Long, Youth Ministries

In Chapel, the little children learn early on to ask "Wondering Questions" with the Bible Stories. The storyteller will say, "I wonder who you think the Good Shepherd is?" or "I wonder what your favorite part of the story is." The children get good at it quickly. It is innate in them, this way of meeting God, without pretention, without assumed understanding.

Where does this skill go, I wonder? This skill to be open and ask so that we may receive?

Questions We Discuss In Our Rite13 Class to Create an Imaginary Non-Profit to Alleviate Homelessness in Chicago:

A homeless person comes to us. What does a homeless person need tonight?

What do they need in the next few months? In the next few years?

What if this partner has a criminal record or shas erved jail time?

What problems do they face?

But wait - what if they have children or a family?

What problems might they already have run into as an impoverished family?

What about hopelessness? What if the family is going through a spiritual crisis? They wonder why God let this happen to them.

What might happens when a partner discovers they have a gift to give to the community?

Now our partners want to build a community. 

How do we connect everyone?
These are some of questions that fueled our Rite13 class preparation to embark on their first Service Day with Good News Partners in Rogers Park. Good News Partners is a non-profit designed to eliminate homelessness and hopelessness in North Chicago. I designed these questions based on what Good News already does for their community, so that we could talk about practical solutions while getting appreciate the non-profit we were about to work for. As of writing this, we have not gone on that trip yet... pictures to come in next month's newsletter!

Our High School youth group has started off strong and energy filled! Our first outing was to Laser Tag and we got sweaty and competitive! Plans for future youth groups this fall include Whirlyball, a bonfire, a study of Yom Kippur, movie night, a soup kitchen outing and contemplative sainthood reflection and much more!

Speaking of useful questions...The Rev. John Dally PhD, a family friend and great Chicago missional preacher, always says, "Wrestle with the scripture until it gives you a blessing." I love this because it keeps me from saying, "This is too hard" or "This doesn't apply to me." If I assume the Bible is a living, holy text and that every moment is an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak to me, then I better do some wrestling!

We've made an interesting change to High School Sunday School that I think is useful and challenging for adults, as well. And it's an easy way to encounter "wrestling" with text. We have something called a Talk Bowl in the middle of our room. In the bowl are a mess of quotes on different aspects of faith, scripture passages, news items, science articles and probing questions pertaining to whatever the current learning block is (Self, Society, Spirituality, Prayer respectively throughout the year). I borrowed a contemplative method of digesting text from the writer Judy Cannato, author of "Radical Amazement." She says when we get stuck reading any kind of holy text, we can always return to the Three R's:
What in this passage resonates with you? What word or idea or question really rings true and why?
What in this passage is creating resistance in you? What word or idea or statement feels false? Does something create discomfort in you or questions?
Has this passage realigned or shifted your understanding of something? Do you see something in a new light? Is the Holy Spirit working something out in you?
Our teens are thoughtful, curious and respectful, and use this tool well. Feel free to use, share and pass on! I'm so excited to see what wonders we delve into this year! 
Keep the questions coming! Charlotte