Month: June 2016

“Finding God in the Traffic” by Michelle Beers

Driving down I-240 with Top 40 radio set to a dull roar has never been my ideal time for reflection or an experience ripe with opportunities to learn how to better show love to others. I usually keep the windows rolled down, the radio up high, and my thoughts on mute—using the highway only as a necessary means to a more purposeful end. But this summer I have found myself sitting in a lot of 240 traffic—on the way to and from the office or leading groups to and from worksites—consequently with loads of time to think.

In the midst of bobbing and weaving around tourist traffic, and trying to master the skillful art of down shifting on a manual transmission in the mountains of western North Carolina, I have found myself turning down the radio and rolling up the windows— silencing out the noise—to pray.

I cannot express in words how terribly shocking and uncomfortable this development is for me. I don’t dislike prayer—in fact I often find being in the presence of prayer to be one of the most powerful evidences of the Holy Spirit moving through our world, but I don’t pray. I don’t pray by myself or in front of other people. In ministerial work there are times I have led prayer and prayed in groups with and in front of others, but those moments have always felt disingenuous and laden with self-conscious thoughts: “What if I forget a prayer request? Or get my words tangled? Or forget to say ‘in Jesus’ name’ at the end?”

In those moments my focus was rarely on what I was actually saying, who I was praying for, or whatever Divine power I was appealing to. Instead, I placed my own fears and insecurities at the center of this deeply spiritual and communal act.

But this summer, driving down 240, my prayer life and my own understanding of how I am constantly short-changing my faith by feeding my fears have been transformed. I now cherish my commute as a time to openly, messily, and freely talk to God, to lift up my fears, my hopes and passions, my family, my co-workers, and the friends and connections I’m making in Asheville this summer.

What I am learning on the road as the summer continues to unfold is that God’s loving presence has no bounds. Divine love is not confined to our pre-meditated interactions with others during ministerial and mission work. No matter how detailed a service schedule, we cannot plan to encounter God’s presence. I am finding, with a stubborn mind and humbling heart, that God’s presence is waiting, everywhere, for our open hearts to meet his love in the world. Whether I choose to see that love in a new friend I meet at Hinds Feet Farm while tie-dying t-shirts, at Manna Food Bank while bagging pasta, or in the car on a busy highway in the middle of the summer heat: no matter where I am, God is also there to embrace my fears with overwhelming, and always abiding, love.

New Perspective by Alec Powell

My few weeks in Asheville have opened my eyes to how different my hometown is to other places. I was born in Clinton, South Carolina. I grew up in Clinton, and I go to Presbyterian College, which is also in Clinton. I have never really had the chance to experience the world outside of my little bubble, AYM has given me that chance. There is no way that I would see someone walking down the streets of Clinton with a blue mohawk, or witness a scheduled drum circle in the middle of the city where people of all backgrounds are given the chance to be united through music. I needed to see and experience these things, to get a taste of the world outside of my bubble. I have been a member of the same church since birth; I have only been a part of other congregations a handful of times.  Since I have been molded in such a deliberate way for so long, it becomes difficult to imagine anything different. I have become trained to believe that the way the things are done in my church is the right way to do things. Which is not always the case.

Since I have been in Asheville, and have begun to work at our different agencies there is one that I always leave feeling spiritually aware, and that is Haywood St. Congregation. The ministry that takes place at Haywood St. can only be described as beautiful. The people represented are from all different backgrounds. On any day, half of the people in the congregation could be individuals experiencing homelessness. The others are people from the community that are compassionate and want to learn about their less fortunate neighbors by sharing in the special worship together. The congregation is an intentional refuge for people experiencing homelessness who are looking to find a Christian home that will never turn them away. The structure of the service goes like this: there is a welcome, a prayer of the people, a Bible reading and discussion, and communion is served. There are also several hymns spread throughout.

The first time I went to Haywood St. Congregation was during the AYM orientation week. I was completely awed by everything that went on. I had my mouth hanging opened for most of the service, just because I had never seen anything like this in my life. The prayers of the people, at my church in Clinton, involves the pastor going to the pulpit and reading the list of people that had been collected that may have gone to the hospital that week, or had recently passed away.

The Haywood St. Congregation does this a little bit differently. Someone from the congregation will get up and lead the prayer. They will then ask the congregation, “Who needs prayer?” and people respond with names, and stories of people that are in need of prayer. After a prayer is asked, we (the congregation) pick up noise makers, which are plastic bottles filled with dried beans, and we shake them profusely. So loud that after we stop shaking the noise makers, we can still hear an echo. When I first encountered this method I thought it was silly, and I didn’t quite understand the point. Then, I started to think about it. When my pastor announces who needs prayer, I’m not sure anyone remembers to pray outside of worship. I don’t think I have ever remembered a name that has been said during a prayers of the people at my church, which is bad, I know. At Haywood St. Congregation there is no need to remember the name of the people for later. At Haywood St. we are all praying right then, at that moment, together, and the person who offered the prayer knows how many people are lifting up their prayer by the sound of the noise makers. This participation of the congregation in the service is something I had never witnessed, and I believe it is wonderful.

My experiences at Haywood St. Congregation have really changed how I think a worship service should be. Up until this point in my life, it feels like I have been doing church wrong. At my home church we always talk about trying to be inclusive, to build a community. I felt more a part of a community in the two times I participated in worship at Haywood St. than I have felt in the last 21 years at my home church. I have heard the phrase “a thin place” where our separation from God is almost transparent, Haywood St. is one of those places.

The Holy, the ordinary, and the in-between? by Erin Rugh

Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5 

I don’t like to wear shoes; they’ve never been my thing. As a child I got in trouble regularly for running around without shoes then bringing dirt into the house. If I can go barefoot, I do– parks, beaches, school, work, you name it I’m barefoot… but I never took off my shoes because I thought those places were holy.

Churches are holy. Churches are where we worship and break bread; where we celebrate and mourn; and where we go to intentionally be in relationship with God. Growing up my family and I went to church most Sundays. I was taught about the parts of the church, and the sacraments we celebrate in the church, and I was taught to respect the church… because the church is a holy place.

There are a few places I considered holy before last summer. Churches, Montreat, the labyrinth in the woods behind the church I was raised in. These were the places I saw God– the places where I was intentionally in worship, in community, and in prayer. It wasn’t that I didn’t see God in other places, but I don’t think I ever took the time to reflect on ordinary places enough to notice them as holy ground.IMG_5391

Working at Raleigh Youth Mission last summer changed that for me. It was clear from our first worksite of the summer that this organization and community were far from ordinary. That morning I was leading a group at Love Wins. Due to maintenance issues, the hospitality house had to close it’s doors for the day leaving us to work in their community garden outside. Throughout the morning we watched as people approached the building to find the doors locked, and most looked a bit lost when we told them that their community was closed for the day. What was it about this place that made people feel lost to not have it for a day?

Later on that same week, we were in Moore Square playing lawn games, making bracelets, and handing out popsicles to anyone who wanted one. Soon members of the Raleigh community were playing and laughing with us over popsicles. As I introduced myself to people I was struck by how many took an interest in me, wanting to know where I came from and what my interests were. I left the park that day feeling loved and cared for in a way I never had before because it was a love from complete strangers. What was it about a park and popsicles that made me feel so cared for?

As the summer continued I began to realize that the places I was most taken aback by were places that I considered ordinary, and that by considering those places “ordinary” I was keeping myself from experiencing God in them.

Since last summer I have continuously found places I once thought ordinary to be holy, whether it was a management professor that provided examples relating to ministry in a business course, or a friend that knew exactly when I needed a long walk or a coffee…

I have found holy places everywhere.

Coming back to Raleigh this summer, though I will keep my worksite appropriate shoes on, I am very aware that everywhere I go I am walking on holy ground. In the past year I’ve learned that the spectrum of holy to ordinary is not a long one, and that there really is no in-between. God is everywhere:

in the people you know, in the people you meet, in the people passing by… really anywhere God’s people come together: that’s a holy place.

Meet the YMCo Interns!

Group Photo

The summer interns have arrived! This week we’ve been learning the in’s and out’s of a smooth-running YMCo summer. We’ve learned policies and procedures, gone over curriculum, and met some fantastic people at some fantastic agencies. As we get ready for our first youth groups to arrive this Sunday, you can read below about who we are and where we’re coming from!

Asheville Youth Mission:

CaitlynI’m Caitlyn! I’m from Hartsville, SC, and I graduated from Presbyterian College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion in May of 2015. This year I’m serving as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) in Asheville, so I’ve been interning at AYM since January. During these last five months, I have learned so much while writing the weekly YMCo blog posts, helping with our spring groups, and sitting in on (and contributing to) curriculum-writing meetings, among so many other tasks. I’ve loved every second of it, and I’m really excited to spend this summer as the AYM Camp and Conference Intern, helping to lead groups with Montreat Mission Experience and others coming to us from camps and conference centers.

 

 

MichelleI’m Michelle Beers and I hail from the mid-Atlantic, but for the past three years I’ve called the mountains of Western North Carolina home. I am a rising Social Work senior at Warren Wilson College, and hope to continue working with young people in the Asheville community after graduation. For fun I enjoy hiking on the Parkway, binge watching Broad City, and baking pineapple upside down cake. I identify with the awkwardness of a clarinet.

 

 

 

TroyMy name is Troy Schmidt, and I’m from Raleigh, but as of June 6th, my family will be moved to Pawley’s Island, SC. I just finished my sophomore year at UNC Chapel Hill (still not ready to discuss the basketball game), where I am an Economics major with minors in History and Education. I’m an active member of the Presbyterian Campus Ministry at UNC, and will be serving on Leadership Team for my second year next year. I like sports, dogs, and have recently gotten into playing disc golf. My spirit animal would be a sea turtle.

 

 

 

AlecI’m Alec Powell. I’m a senior at Presbyterian College. I grew up in Clinton, SC. I am a Chemistry major and Christian Education minor. If I could be any of the X-Men, I would definitely be Nightcrawler. Having a tail and being able to teleport would be awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

LaurenI’m Lauren Nalley, and I’m from Asheville, NC, but go to school in North Georgia at Young Harris College. I’m really excited to be giving back to the community that provided me with so much when I was growing up here. Fun fact, I think my spirit animal is a panda.

 

 

 

 

 

Raleigh Youth Mission:

ErinI’m Erin, and I was born and raised in Cleveland, OH and I’m currently a student at Ohio University where I study Marketing and Management. This is my second summer working at Raleigh Youth Mission. Last summer was completely transformational, so I’m so glad to be doing it again; I can’t wait to see where this summer leads! In my free time, I enjoy ham mocking with my dog and eating watermelon.

 

 

 

 

JaneI’m Jane, and I am a student at UNC Chapel Hill where I am majoring in English and Religious Studies. I’ve spent most of my life in Clinton, NC, but my family recently moved to Clayton, NC and is enjoying being near the Triangle. I’m excited to spend the summer with RYM after participating as a youth for the past two years and enjoying the experience immensely. In my free time I like to cook and spend time with my cats.

 

 

 

 

We can’t wait to have these interns working with our youth participants at our summer programs in Raleigh and in Asheville!