05 March 2011

Celebration of New Ministry

Celebrating the ministry of our new Director of Youth and Family Ministry, Rev. Elliott Siteman
3 March 2011

Preached by the Rev. Dawn Leger

Thank you for the invitation to preach. What a wonderful time we had! You really do have a lovely parish.

Here is the sermon. I'm anxious to try podcasting, but I don't have garageband. BTW, sorry I didn't turn it off when I was finished!

Here you go. Hope to see you again soon,

Thank you for the invitation to preach and be a part of this wonderful celebration as my very dear friend and mentor, Elliott, joins the ministry of St. Luke's. I bring greetings from Trinity Aurora, our rector, Dawn Davis, an old friend of Elliott's, our wardens and our youth and children's ministry there.

I have known Elliott for about 10 years now. You see, Elliott is a bit of a legend back home. A Cape Breton boy, studied at the University of King's College, once our Anglican seminary. He has vests for every liturgical season! He is a diocese renowned thurifer-servers, you are in for a treat!-and became the one many students of Atlantic School of Theology turned to when we needed a straightforward teaching of Anglican liturgy. It is the rare cleric in our diocese ordained within the past 10 years who was not taught by Elliott or taught by one of his protégés...of which I am one. Although I still make some liturgical choices that make him cringe.

Mostly, I know Elliott from our days at AST. Elliott was in his last year at AST when I was in my first. After many processions as postulants in our plain white albs at our beloved Cathedral Church of All Saints, and then twice as many pints of Peculiar at Henry House, walks through Point Pleasant Park, shaking of heads over theological professors and evenings with Wendy-Faye and good friends waiting for phone calls from bishops, Elliott became the rector in Neil's Harbour, Cape Breton, which is 30 miles away from the end of the world. Meat Cove is actually the end of the world and was also in Elliott's parish. After 4 years there, I was thrilled when Elliott, Wendy-Faye, and Magdalene moved to the parish next to mine! I was THRILLED when Elliott was named my regional dean, mostly because it meant I was not named to be HIS regional dean.

There are two themes running through our celebration tonight, two values that were exemplified in the life and legend of David of Wales: outreach and service. David built a religious community in Menevia fiercely devoted to one another and to those who were hurting in the world around them. They were salt and light.

Let's think a bit about salt. I want you to imagine a steak, perfectly aged, fresh from the butcher, all ready to be seasoned for the grill. So, you take this steak, you pat it dry. Then you take a big mixing bowl of salt and you throw that beautiful steak into it. You shake that bowl, completely coating that steak with salt, a nice coating of salt, so much salt that it is white.

Yum? Not really.

That is not how you season a steak! That is not a recipe. Don't do it! To season a steak, you shake or grind a small amount of salt, in order to keep the juices inside that steak to flow out when you cut into it.

Now, imagine that steak is our kids and that salt is us, those of us who chart the course of our Church. Yes. It would be easier if the kids would just jump right in and saturate themselves in our ways. We have a great thing here, and why wouldn't the kids just want to jump right in?

But that's not really the point. It's not about what we expect of our kids. The point is who we are as church. If we are salt, then our saltiness is only of value when we are shaken out of that shaker in order to let the steak be its best, to let our kids be their best, using their gifts as God has called them to. Salt actually doesn't determine how the steak will taste. The spices and the steak do that. The salt simply helps the spices mingle together, with the steak, to bring about a new flavour. That's youth ministry. Our job is to recognize each young person as a complete Christian, as complete as any of us, and to see the hand of God working in their lives. Are you guys hearing this? You are God's chosen disciples. You are a full member of the Christian community and of St. Luke's today, with your energy, your insights and your gifts as leaders, musicians, prophets and teachers. As salt, we bring the resources together to enhance what youth and children offer us.

(Invite Elliott to the trancept)

It is a common practice at a celebration such as this to present symbols of this new ministry. Here's the thing. The symbols of youth and children's ministry are...well...less than dignified. For example; a common symbol would be bread and wine for the Eucharist. Well, in youth ministry, you will be challenged to explain the nature of Christ's presence...in pizza. (pizza box) Get to like this stuff. You will be eating a LOT of it, and enjoying the community that goes along with it.

Your youth ministry will have a soundtrack. There will be metal, techno, Gaga, Bieber...? along with Merbecke and Beethoven. Start your musical education (earbuds and iPod).

There will be tears. Thankfully, you have big shoulders and you have the hug down to an art form (teddy bear). Like this guy, you might want absorbent shoulders, too. You will use them.

You will be doing sleepovers. You are too old to sleep on the floor my friend. You will need an air mattress. (air mattress and coffee cup). Oh, and sleepover is a misnomer, because you won't sleep, so you will need some coffee, too.

You are old, my friend. So am I. That doesn't mean we are irrelevant. Your mission is to build relationships. Period. (broadband cable) Do not underestimate the importance of technology, not to be cool, but to build relationship.

You minister to everyone in St. Luke's families. Always know where to find and have quick access to toys for toddlers, diapers for infants, and a deep breath of peace and encouragement for young parents. (diaper bag)

You will pray. Light a candle (candle) for prayer:
for the parents who have been downsized and making ends meet
for the kid whose best friend is trying to sell her a joint
for the little one living with an impossible disease
for the only child on his first day of school

Games are critical. You must cultivate your skills to come up with a game or activity to suit the abilities, ages and moods of everyone gathered on a moment's notice. You will have succeeded when you create a game out of (oreos and cheez whiz).

Before I leave you tonight, I will tell you a story about the priest you have called to minister in your midst. He probably won't want me to tell this story, but speaks something very important about his character and his vocation.

As I said, Elliott was in his last year at AST when I was in my first. Near the end of that year, it was a Thursday, to make a long story short, I learned that the financial support I needed to continue on to my next year would not be available. It had nothing to do with my abilities, but with the process. I had quit a career to continue my discernment and begin this degree, and it looked like I could not return. We were a small, caring community, and word got around AST over the weekend.

I went to chapel on Monday morning and was met with great concern from friends. Mostly quiet hugs, good, gentle pastoral care. Next thing I knew, Elliott was on one side of me, Tom was on the other, they grabbed me by the arms, took me into the vestry and shut the door, saying "What the...?".

So, I burst into tears and told them what happened. In my anger and hurt, I told them maybe it was time for me to give up

Elliott looked at me. He pointed his finger. When you get this look, pay attention! He pointed his finger and said, "You are NOT giving up! You are coming back to school. If I have to send you a portion of my stipend every month so you can stay in school, I will do it! You are coming back!"


Thankfully, after a few weeks, things worked out, my process continued, I was able to return to school, and Elliott put that money to good use when Magdalene came along. But that day was pivotal in my vocation. Elliott's generosity and faith gave me the strength to trust-to trust that God loves me, that God walked with me, that God called me and continues to call me to serve the Kingdom. Four years later, Tom and Elliott presented me to be ordained as a priest in the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

I tell you this story to tell you something critical about Elliott's ministry. Elliott will walk with you through the messiest stuff in your lives. He will give all that he can, all that he has. He will strengthen you by his faith in Christ, as he embodies God's love in the sacramental and community life of St. Luke's. He will stop at nothing to express God's love to your youth and families. You will be blessed beyond measure.

Remember. This kind of self-offering can, sometimes, carry a heavy cost. Remember the words of Jesus when he washed the feet of his disciples, "I have washed your feet. You also ought to wash one another's feet."

Youth and family ministry is your ministry. And yours. And yours. In a moment you will all be commissioned to this ministry in various ways. When you go home this evening, and as you get to know Elliott more in the weeks to come, pray for this ministry, pray for Elliott, pray for Wendy-Faye and Magdalene and ask God how you are being called to minister in this new expression of ministry. How are you being shaken?

Oh. And the oreos, cheez whiz and crackers. Break the kids up into teams and instruct them to build a structure with the ingredients. Once the structures are built, tell them the first team to eat their structure wins the game.

Are you ready? On your mark, get set, GO!

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