On behalf of the St. John’s High School Youth Group, Fr. Noah, and other members of the St. John’s community, we wanted to share some exciting news with you all.
As many of you know, last February St. John’s sent 27 pilgrims (13 teens and 14 adults) to South Africa for a week to experience and learn about God and ourselves from that country’s difficult past, imperfect present and hopeful future. This trip transformed all of us, in different ways, which we tried to communicate to you through various presentations and reports last spring.
For the youth who went on this trip, one of the most powerful things we did was stay in the homes of our fellow youth from two churches in the poorer neighborhoods of Cape Town (Eternal Flame Assemblies of God and St. Martin’s Anglican Church). During those stays we made really deep, lasting connections with kids who lived totally different lives from us but who we bonded with as fellow human beings and fellow Christians.
Upon our return to America, a number of us dreamed about whether we might invite some of those youth here to stay with us so we could continue to strengthen the bonds we formed there. We are so pleased to announce that plans are in place to make that dream a reality.
With the Vestry’s unanimous approval and support, we have invited 16 youth (eight from each of our partner churches) as well as chaperones and their pastors to visit us here at St. John’s. We worked with them to find a time that works with their school vacation schedule and have settled on the week of March 31st-April 7th, 2018. This means on Easter Sunday and the week following we will have the blessing of worshiping with, meeting, learning from and breaking bread with Christians from half way across the world. While here, the South African youth will be hosted by St. John’s families and engage in various educational, spiritual, and volunteer activities. They’ll even be coming to Hingham High School where our faculty and principal are already eager to welcome them and honor their presence with us.
The goals of this trip are not just to return the hospitality that was shown so lovingly to us though we feel that is important; we want so share some of ourselves with them after they shared so much of themselves with us. But we also hope to offer those youth the kind of life-changing experience that will broaden their horizons the way ours were over there. We hope coming to America will be a kind positive culture shock that allows them to dream dreams they never imagined because of the contexts they come from. Also, we believe good, effective mission work means building relationships that can help change the perspective of the world and carry that forward to bring people together to God’s greater glory and the building of God’s kingdom. By welcoming our mission partners here, and working together to do God’s work in the world, this trip will allow the entire St. John’s community to experience the deep connection we have made with our South Africa partner churches so that we all might share in the Spirit of light, laughter and love that we got to experience last year. We also believe that we, as a community, have much to learn from our partner parishes: about how faith becomes real and visceral; about reconciliation and forgiveness in the face of deep societal division; and about how to maintain hope and cultivate joy. Now, more than ever, we believe the foundation of learning about different societies is essential for all of us, especially given how distrustful so many people are of those “different” from them.
We have a team of youth and adults who have already begun planning the logistics of this trip, but the major work over the next few months–and where we need you, our St. John’s family the most–will be in raising the money for it. We have asked both of our partner parishes to contribute as much as they are able, but knowing that they come from less well-resourced neighborhoods, we are expecting to cover the majority of the cost. We are happy to announce that the Diocese of Massachusetts has just enthusiastically awarded us a $10,000 matching grant for this trip and they are very excited at the prospect of it happening. But we need your help in matching those funds for this trip to come to fruition.
Over the next few months we will be sponsoring various fundraising events that we invite you to take part in. For example, you’ll see us selling framed photographs and note cards from pictures we took in South Africa last year both Friday evening and Saturday at the Holiday Boutique. And there will be other events in December and into the new year that we will be sure to let you know about. We invite everyone to make a contribution to the trip in any amount you feel able because we strongly believe that all of us will benefit immensely in heart, mind and soul, from this incredible opportunity. And if all of us pitch in, we will match our award grant without any problem.
We’d like to thank the St. John’s Vestry, Dr. Holly Carter, and Fr. Noah and Fr. Tim for encouraging and supporting us in this effort. And we want to thank all of you, in advance, for helping make this trip a reality for us and for our South African partners and friends.
If you have any questions or concerns, some of us will be around at Coffee Hour on Sunday, and you can always speak to Fr. Noah.
Thank you all. We feel blessed to call St. John’s our home and look forward to sharing this gift with all of you.
Jacqui Baker (’18), Will Sutton (’19), and the St. John’s High School Youth Group
From Dr. Carter:
“South Africa is a country still in transition recovering from over five decades of the most oppressive, violent form of legalized racial segregation in the world. In the twenty three years since the end of apartheid, the country has sought to bring about reconciliation, healing and growth as the three, previously separated white, colored and black racial and national groups struggle to understand what true equality means in the new South Africa.
It is not coincidental that even given this painful and traumatic past, South Africa represents, in my mind, a crucial way station on one’s spiritual journey. With the spiritual guidance of Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa learned early that only true spiritual repentance and reconciliation would lead to health and survival of the nation. How do you forgive and embrace your enemy and oppressor? How do you transform hate into love? How do you assuage national guilt to birth a socially equitable and just nation? How do you grapple with the injustice of economic disparity? I believe South Africa’s national spiritual journey is a map for one’s individual spiritual journey. The South African experience is transformational. In South Africa, one learns that transformation is an on-going process and, if embraced completely, is a spiritual way station filled with question, growth and hope.”
Participants will learn about and experience the rich history and culture of South Africa, participate in game drives, visit the townships, aid in community service activities, and much more.
Between March and June 2016, the group will have a series of lectures that introduce them both to pre-apartheid, apartheid, and contemporary post-apartheid South Africa. They will also begin their own group fund raising to both support their trip and to increase their “giving” capacity with school materials and clothing they will bring as donations to South Africa. Over the summer they will have a summer reading list to keep them focused with an email discussion group. Between September and December, the participating youth group members will work on they feel they will get spiritually and what they will give spiritually to all those they will encounter in South Africa. From January through the in-country experience, they will prepare presentations and discussions they will offer to St. John’s, at their high schools and hopefully, the greater Hingham and South Shore community. Post trip, we will have a short series of “back home” debrief sessions.
The goal of this preparatory period is to give the participating youth background knowledge on South Africa and to enhance their awareness of their own individual and group spiritual journeys. The entire series, including the in-country experience is designed to have them place themselves in the wider global community and to understand the global meaning of hope and faith.