A MESSAGE FROM THE REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Honoring our high school seniors

So many things continue to be very different about life during the COVID-19 pandemic, even (and perhaps especially) when they also are continuing to be something very familiar at the same time.

Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the life of our students, and especially those who are later in high school. Those who are finishing the eleventh grade are still feeling all the pressures of performance in academics, sports, and activities in that crucial year for college consideration. Yet they have also had to manage that under circumstances that are hard to imagine unless you are also a student or the parent of one.

Attending classes while bouncing back and forth between remote learning and going to school in-person while wearing masks and keeping up with changing protocols, for example, or trying to practice a sport while worrying about physical distancing (or not, as the case may be), adds new layers of stress and anxiety in an already over-stressed situation.

High school seniors have it hard and even slightly more differently than that. They are continuing to carry the burdens of performance pressure while many are also going through the highly stressful college admissions process in a way very different than they ever expected. What’s more, they’re also missing a whole year of key milestones, traditions, and celebrations, or experiencing them in a very different or even curtailed fashion. What does prom or graduation look like under COVID? How do you celebrate with your friends when, for much of the year, it’s been dangerous to even gather together with your friends???

Given all that, we want to make a special effort to recognize and celebrate the high school seniors, in particular, who are connected with our congregation either through their own participation or through the relationships they have with members and friends of this church. We want to express love and support to them as they go through this crucial time of transition and transformation in their lives, finishing high school and moving on to college, or to learn a trade, or to get a job, or to travel the world in a “gap year” to help them discern where they feel their life should go next. And we want to acknowledge that they are doing all of this under very unusual and difficult circumstances, and that God is present with them in the very midst of all that, as is this congregation through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our youth ministry team is in the midst of making plans for this sort of recognition and celebration, but it needs some help from you. If you have a child or a grandchild or other family member or neighbor or friend who is a graduating senior whom you would like included in our recognition and celebrations by name, please be in touch with Pastor Lindsey either by email (LClifton@FPC-Bethlehem.org) or leaving a message on the church office phone. You can simply give their name and the name of their high school, and any direct contact information that you have for them that would be appropriate to share.

Thank you, and keep these seniors and all of our children and youth, their families and their teachers, in your continued prayers as this extraordinary school year comes to an end.

Grace and Peace,