Peace and Quiet

Last month, Holy Comforter hosted for the community a viewing of the documentary "A Race to Nowhere." It is a rather bleak look at our educational system and practices which are, as the promotional materials state, "destroying our children's love of learning and feeding an epidemic of unprepared, disengaged, and unhealthy students."

Bill Haljun and I are currently leading the 7th grade Confirmation class which meets every Wednesday for twelve weeks at 5:30pm. The 8th graders completed their class last fall. Attendance each week has consistently been excellent. There are days when a student may come in dripping sweat from a basketball game. There are others who walk in with their dinner in hand, eating on the run. Some students come in with an attitude - letting us know they really don't want to be there. But most evenings they all just look tired.

One of the class lessons a few weeks ago asked the students to define the word "church." They had a hard time getting past the idea of church being a building rather than the people, so we let them go in that direction. The definition they came up with is "church is a place to come to when you need peace and quiet." After watching "Race to Nowhere", that definition has an even deeper meaning.

Several weeks ago, a 7th grade mom talked with me about her struggle with her child to get the weekly homework assignments completed. Overwhelmed with school work and outside activities, her child refused to do any more homework; frustrated and tired of the battles, she decided the best thing to do was pull her child out of the Confirmation class. I knew that wasn't the right solution because, as the students themselves acknowledged, this place - Church of the Holy Comforter - should be a refuge for our children, not a source of stress.

We see this every Sunday morning with our high school youth group. I prepare a lesson each week for WHAM, but when I walk into their meeting room and see their exhausted faces, I know not to even try. I had the crazy idea that they would enjoy journaling - to be able to read their journals years from now; but just the thought of putting pen to paper is more than they can handle on a Sunday morning. So we let them hang out and talk about what's on their minds . . . and that's what they need at that moment. Some kids curl up on the couch, barely able to stay awake; others treat themselves to the snack food that's always available; those with energy jokingly pick on each other like siblings. But they are happy, healthy, though somewhat fatigued, and they keep coming back. There is no stress here, just peace and quiet - they have found a refuge.

"Race to Nowhere" suggests that our young people arrive at college or the workplace unprepared and uninspired. I am convinced however that we - the church, the parish community, the youth leaders - are indeed preparing our youth to be young Christian adults. They may not walk out of here memorizing Bible passages, or spewing church history, but they do leave knowing we are a loving, caring community. And they, in turn, will hopefully be inspired to become loving, caring adults.

About that student I mentioned earlier who was going to pull out of the Confirmation class - we now meet for a few minutes prior to class each week to go over the homework assignment and the upcoming lesson. The student is active, involved and prepared to participate - maybe not any happier about having to be here, but certainly willing to give it a try.

Ironically, one evening the 7th graders were acting up a bit during Confirmation class, so I decided to bring them into the church, which was dark and chilly. It actually worked. They truly live into the belief that the church is a place to go when you need some peace and quiet. I'm tempted to hold every class there.