Celebrating Young Leaders

6/29/2016
By Debby Kirk


Thinking About Working For God (TAWFG) took on a new dimension this spring as this signature program of the Connecticut Conference branched out with an Apprenticeship program.  Five gifted young people were matched with local pastors as a way to help them explore their call to ministry.

“We have held an annual retreat for TAWFG youth for several years because we believe it is important for youth who are interested in ministry have a space to connect with one another,” said The Rev. Da Vita McCallister, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership and Vitality. “The TAWFG apprenticeship program is a new initiative that reflects our CTUCC commitment to identify, affirm, network, and equip leaders.”

In addition to the job shadow component, the youth received Racial Justice training, attended the Youth Revival, had a tour at Hartford Seminary, and met with the Rev. Michelle Hughes, Associate Conference Minister for Transitions, to hear about the various pathways to ministry.

The program culminated with a celebration on June 21 as youth shared their reflections.  They spoke with honesty, humor, and wisdom about their time working with host pastors.  Youth also created and performed an original song entitled “Still Speaking” that includes this refrain:
 

And I’m called to love all God’s people.
Yes, I’m called, but to what I can’t say
But I know that God is still speaking
And I… I am still listening
 

The TAWFG apprentices brought vitality to host pastors and congregations who took on a teaching and nurturing role.
 
“It was a gift to the church to be able to host Xavier.  His inquisitiveness invited all of us to reflect on why we do what we do. It was energizing for us,” said Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton of Saugatuck Congregational Church of Westport.

Bekah Anderson, who was placed at the Middlefield Federated Church with Pastor Dale Azevedo, reflected on the joys of ministry, “I've learned that I love preaching! I love the way it challenges me to think more deeply about scripture, and to get my thoughts together in order to share them with others. And I love feeling that when people leave the church, perhaps some part of what I've said will stay with them.”

Kathleen Brown, a parent of an apprentice from First Congregational Church of Canterbury, said:  “I appreciated all the opportunities Maddy was given to grow and stretch spiritually.  The sermon she prepared for her worship time at First Church in Mansfield was a blessing to me and a real opportunity to see her strength.”

Lauren Dube of First Church in Windsor had a rich experience at First Church of Christ, Congregational in downtown Hartford.  “I served coffee on Main Street before worship, joined in inter-faith conversation with Muslim neighbors, and even met the Mayor of Hartford,” she said.  

Another parent, Mark Hall of Cheshire wrote, “It has been a great opportunity for my daughter Phoebe to be curious about and experience the joys and challenges of ministry.  The support from the CT Conference and Rev. Peters in Roxbury was terrific.  It gave her a safe place to learn and discern.”

Youth programs like TAWFG are made possible by congregational support of Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM).  Contact Debby Kirk for information about the TAWFG Fall Retreat on October 28-30.