contributed by Phoebe Sanders, Episcopal Collegiate School Junior & Member of Pulaski Heights UMC Youth
Having the opportunity to participate in the Hendrix Youth Institute for two weeks this summer was one of the most exciting, influential, and reassuring things I’ve ever done. Whether it was allowing myself to be vulnerable within small groups about troubles or doubts with my faith, taking classes in the morning to learn about the historic importance of each aspect of worship, or visiting churches around Arkansas and learning from their purpose and mission, HYI quickly became a place where I was able to confidently explore my faith and discern my call to ministry.
The most crucial and formational part of HYI for my faith journey was being surrounded by a community of like-minded peers who are going through the same thing I am. A lot of the time in everyday life, I focus on how to convey my faith in God through everyday actions and conversations, and how these things make the world a better place. However, HYI allowed me to make deeper connections with others while I was doing these things because everyone else had felt the warmth and presence of God’s calling in their lives, just like I had.
Because of this, a strong sense of community quickly formed within our group. We relied on each other to be vessels of God’s work in the world and push each other to new levels in our faith journeys. There is rarely a time when I am surrounded with more than 30 other like-minded individuals to nurture and support me in my faith, and how that conveys my call to work in ministry even more in the future.
Even though we are called to be leaders in the church in the future, we are also called into action right now. Planning worship services, complete with mini-sermons, was one of my favorite ways to exhibit this call. Each one of us had experienced God in our lives and yearned to work with others who feel the same way, but now we’re faced with the difficult task of creating concrete ways to make that happen.
Despite some nervous laughter, these services allowed us to open up in a way I had never gotten to before. Every person had a role in the service, whether it was praying, giving a benediction, or reading scripture. We each brought our own unique personalities and perspectives into our roles, further showcasing our distinct spiritual gifts and how they work together to make the world a better place. This, in itself, was an unforgettable experience.
HYI gave me the opportunity to open my mind while discerning my call to ministry. I’ve known for a while that I want to intertwine faith, politics, and social justice in my career, so going to Washington, D.C. to meet with senators and attend a poverty and homelessness seminar in the United Methodist Building right next to the Supreme Court building was right up my alley.
I came into HYI being absolutely set on pursuing the deacon track in the future, but now being an elder is a possible option for me as well. Even though I am less certain of what I want to do in ministry after I completing HYI this summer, I have grown to a new understanding of trusting God with my future and just trying to do the most good I can along the way.