Youth Sunday 2018–Real vs Counterfeit

Youth Sunday! With sermon about Real vs Counterfeit and how to discern the REAL voice of the Good Shepherd: (look for love…that’s a big clue)!

Many thanks to all the youth who participated (and one mannequin…thanks, Esmeralda) in Youth Sunday by leading songs with gusto, chalice bearing, acolyting, ushering, greeting, imitating voices, playing instruments, announcing the Pilgrimage, and offering readings and prayers and sermons! Y’all rock!

Sermon will be posted soon!

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9 To 99 Sunday School Class “Expressions of Faith” Workshop

Many thanks to all who attended the 9 to 99 Sunday School, where parishioners ages 9 and up participated, learning ways to express their faith.  Special thanks to all who facilitated a workshop: Sylvia Campbell for Communion Bread, Nancy Piechowiak and the Knit, Crochet & ray group for “Crochet and Pray”, Beth DiGiovanni and Janis Williams for Altar Flower Arranging, Sally Ulrey for Praying in Color, and Diane Eberhart for Easter Stories!  Everyone had a great time, and it was a chance to get to know each other across generations!


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April 22 is Youth Sunday


April 22nd is Youth Sunday, where the Youth run the service, pick the music, help with the sermon, act as EMs, read the readings and lead the psalm.  It’s a great time to allow the youth to practice living into their ministries, and to offer their  services to the church  and to  God. And, even though  it may be a  little different,the energy and enthusiasm of our youth is refreshing and you might be surprised, but they have a lot to teach us older folks as well.  You can learn a lot from our youth!  Please come learn, worship and participate with us on Youth Sunday!

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Dismantling Racism Youth Retreat

Exploring the Damages caused by Racism, and Taking Steps toward Healing.

On Feb 16-18, 2018, our youth had the opportunity to take part in a retreat to begin a life-long process of learning how to dismantle racism.  They learned about the damages that racism has caused and is still causing in our society, and about steps we can take toward healing, the first of which is being willing to participate in uncomfortable conversations with an open mind and open heart, which they did with compassion and respect, an example for us all!

The Youth at St. Matthew’s are piloting this curriculum for the Diocese of Atlanta so that it can be released nationally in collaboration with the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing (formerly the Diocese of Atlanta’s Beloved Community: Commission on Dismantling Racism).


Here is what the participants had to say about their experience:


“On this weekend journey to dismantle racism, I’ve learned more about our nation’s history than at school.  But this experience wasn’t bad, nor negative.  We talked about racism in a transformative way, shining light on old wounds and finding different ways to heal them…I learned about so many different cultures and how they are all beautiful in their own way. But we were also informed about how deeply ingrained racism, oppression, and inequality is in our day to day society…This program will open up the doors to my and future generations of white children and children of color for a perfectly equal society, and knowing how to make a difference.”  ~Nadine


“This experience has really helped me realize what I can do to help this world grow and heal.  There is so much pain still in the world, and covering up our history will only prolong our sentence to that pain.  Racism is not a thing of the past, and the stories of young black girls, biased Google searches, and charted history lessons only accentuate this fact.  I now know how to respond to racism, and have the courage to confront everyday prejudice.  The entire world need to know about discriminatory messages sent to young kids that have not stopped.  We can no longer ignore our past, and I now have the tools to make my contribution to the world.  We are the generation that will change things.  We will see ALL of the beauty around us.” ~Murphy


“This weekend was very inspiring to me. I learned so many things that I didn’t even know before… There were so many instances where the brutality of the world just shocked me, and baffled me….What stuck with me the most was probably the fact that even some 3 year old girls/boys saw themselves as bad because of the subtle messages being absorbed by them from TV, and movies, and things like that.  Overall, this was one of the best experiences of my life, especially seeing love and compassion being shown through customs and traditions, and I love this group so much and I cannot wait for the next retreat.” ~Nadira


“The retreat was an eye opener. We tackled the complicated issue of racism.  Even though slavery and segregation have stopped, racism, as a whole, has not.  It does not affect me that much in everyday life, it was both interesting and devastating to realize how it affected people of different races.  Although I will never know exactly how it feels, I now realize how it really affects some people. What is one to do about it? Dedication and teamwork.  People need to work together to solve this problem, no matter what race.  Realization [that it’s an issue] is half the battle.  Without this retreat, I wouldn’t have known what I know now. I wouldn’t have made friends of people from all different cultures or backgrounds.  The retreat was amazing, and I will do all I can to fix this problem.” ~Liz


“This has been very transformative.  I learned that racism is still common today.  We need to bring these issues to the light.  Our community can’t turn a blind eye to the injustices around us.  I’ve learned that I need to look for the truth and stand up for what is right, even if it is “not my problem.” God made everyone in His image; discriminating against one race would be an insult to God.  We just need to love our neighbor as ourselves.”  ~Katie


“Over the course of this weekend, I experience so much learning, and I heard personal stories that were powerful and painful.  I also gained a lot of knowledge about systems that have been set up and maintained for decades to disadvantage people of color.  From now on, I will be able to recognize these systems and identify any personal prejudices I have myself.” ~CJ


“During this retreat I have learned how much racism still affects society today and that society is feeding us so many messages affecting us even if we don’t realize. I will try now to go against society and follow my own morals/beliefs. I also won’t give in to internalized oppression.” ~Nailah


“I came to, mostly, hang out with my friends, but I came out realizing how much a problem this actually is  According to a study we saw, about 72% of [young] black kids believe that being white is better.  Because I learned facts like these, I’m going to look for opportunities to educate/inform people about the severity of the situation and sharing my knowledge on how to deal with it!” ~Derek


“On Friday, we made a covenant to God which is basically a promise.  In our covenant, we thought up ways to show love to God, others, and ourselves.  Making this covenant has helped me learn more about the people around me and myself. I have learned that not everything is my fault and it’s ok to mess up as long as you have good intentions.  I will no longer put so much pressure on myself.” ~Neema


“My experience of this weekend was full of friendship, laughs and learning. At the start of this weekend, I was hesitant about how it would go; after all, this is as sensitive topic.  As the first day progressed, I learned about how people of color had been cheated since the beginning, and how stereotyping has not helped their case.  This has convinced me to try to be open and accepting of everyone, and ignoring initial assumptions, and try to get to know them.  At the close of this weekend, I feel I have a better sense of myself and the world, and what I need to do to help.” ~Andrew


“This weekend I was a part of a Dismantling Racism Youth Retreat. We sat and talked about some really hard/ painful topics such as internalized oppression, white privilege, systematic oppression, what it means to be white in America, what it means to be a person of color in America (just to name a few). We looked at how the church has often been on the wrong side of this issue and how as the church of today we are to be a part of the Beloved Community! We created a safe place to share and be heard, it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever been a part of. Everyone spoke to each other with dignity and respect. We laughed, cried, hugged each other a little tighter than usual, and we left empowered! I feel hopeful for our future, because we have young ambassadors going out into the world informed and ready to right the wrongs of a broken history. We choose to walk in compassion and not fear. We choose to love as Jesus loves and fight for social justice. We choose to be kind to everyone, no matter the consequences. We choose to walk in the Truth and do it in the name of Love. I am grateful we serve a God who is a reconciler and calls us all to be reconcilers wherever we go. So, take notes from these inspiring middle and high schoolers willing to have these conversations, so that we can be the change. Thank you Sally for creating an awesome curriculum that I fully believe will change the world.” ~Crystal (Leader)

The chains represented all the damages caused by racism, but our youth took steps to break chains. “A little child will lead them”

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The Fall Youth Retreat–“Wholly Devoted”

We took 25 people, more than 10 bins of food and supplies, 5 vehicles and lots of SPIRIT on the Fall Youth Retreat to Camp Tugalo in Toccoa on Aug 11-13th for a weekend of laughing and learning.

The theme of the retreat was “Wholly Devoted.” Through exploring the Levitical sacrifices, we learned about God’s sacrificial love for us, and how we can sacrificially love God and others.  Youth enjoyed Team Building events, spent time bonding with each other, and spent some time with God, too. There were small groups, sports, games, s’mores, singing and more!

We also went hiking at “Little Falls” at Toccoa Falls College, and enjoyed a visit to the historic Toccoa Falls (pictured below).


On the retreat, we welcomed a several newcomers to the Youth Program as well! We all had a blast!






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Youth Service Retreat–“Seek and Serve”

June 15-18 was our youth service retreat, fulfilling our Baptismal vows to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our (local) neighbors as ourselves”. We sought to see Christ in all people from all different walks of life. We responded to three major issues: hunger, refugees, and homelessness.

Youth Service Retreat “Seek & Serve”


The first day, we learned about hunger, both globally and in our local area, then responded by serving at the Southeast Gwinnett Food Cooperative ministry. Some of our youth served in the pantry, filling orders and loading up clients’ cars. Some of our youth played outside with the children of clients while they got their food. Our youth experienced so much joy playing there!


Next, we focused on refugees. We headed down to Clarkston to learn about several ministries with refugees, including Intertwined Candles, which provides jobs to mothers who need to work from home so they can also care for their children. We attended a rally at Refuge Coffee Company (which helps provide job skills to refugees by training them as servers and baristas). The rally was in celebration of World Refugee Day, where many different nations were represented. We heard the stories of resettlement of two refugees, one from Syria and one from Congo. Our youth were inspired with ideas for how we can serve the needs of refugees in our own area.


Finally, we learned about the issue of homelessness. On Sunday, we were joined by another youth group from St. Mark’s in Jacksonville (their youth minister is a childhood friend of our youth minister). Together, our youth groups packed lunches for the Church of the Common Ground, an Episcopal community which worships in Woodruff Park, largely attended by the homeless in that area. Thanks to the generosity of St. Matthew’s, we were also able to provide them with TONS of socks for their foot care clinic.


Each day, we reflected on how we had seen Christ in each person. The youth saw Christ in so many ways…in the delight of the children playing with bubbles or hula hoops, in the delight of their parents watching them play, in the creativity of a street performer at the Refugee Day rally, in the bright blue eyes of a soft-spoken man we met on the street, who attended church with us, in all our brothers and sisters in Christ that we met for the first time, and when we passed the peace, and the barriers seemed to come down. It was an incredible and amazing experience! If you get a chance, ask one of the youth to tell you what was meaningful to them! They will have so much to say, and they’d be happy to share!


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Vacation Bible School July 10-14

A special thank you to the church and all the lovely volunteers for their help during this summer’s Hero Central VBS. We had around 100 kids on campus and they had a blast! From Charmaine helping me with the color printer to ensure the perfect name tags to Oscar, Sylvia and the youth moving the Fellowship Hall dividers to the sanctuary to create our “cityscape”, VBS has truly been a work of love. Through this week, I’ve watched the volunteers holding hands and comfort crying kids as well as helping them create art and explore what it means to be a true hero in God. For me, it was easy to see what a hero was because any group of people who give up time–our most important non-renewable resource–to help foster God’s love in our youth are heroes in the truest sense of the word. A heartfelt thank you to all of you, especially the center leads who spent many hours preparing their center – VBS would be nothing without you. You are all heroes!

Kira Coats

VBS Director



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2017 Youth Sunday!

Youth Sunday was April 23, 2017.  The Youth led all parts of the service, including helping to give the sermon, which was on Doubt from the story of Doubting Thomas.  Youth used personal stories to illustrate times when doubt served to strengthen their faith.

Read the text of the sermon here. If you’d like to listen to the sermon, click here and scroll down to Sermons.

Thanks be to God for all our wonderfully vibrant young leaders!


Youth (and soon-to-be Youth) on Youth Sunday 2017


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