Even the trees look excited today, their leaves shimmering in the breeze. This is one of my favorite times of the year — one of those times of transition when one thing finishes and others start. I’m a list maker and I love to check something off my list. I also enjoy adding new items, especially when the ideas have the potential to develop into interesting projects.
Here at United Churches, these ideas sometimes just pop into someone’s head, but usually they come as part of the discussion during a meeting or as we work together. Here are three examples:
• Just the other week our board of directors were discussing an anti-trafficking camp pilot program to be held in Montoursville this summer. Board members, although wanting to continue believing human trafficking doesn’t happen here, were enthusiastic in their support. We wanted to help provide as many children as possible with skills to understand that not everyone can be trusted.
Listening to the representative’s hope for more connections in our county, I realized that we could provide that too, and invited her to attend our Suicide Prevention Task Force, where many school counselors sit around the table. That morning not one counselor had difficulty seeing the need for such a program. That meeting may make it possible to have a second pilot program in another area of Lycoming County, since Williamsport is a hub for human trafficking.
• Congregations have been reaching out to people who have been impacted by the heroin epidemic, especially those in recovery, those trying to be in recovery and their family and friends. One pastor’s idea was to find a preventative action. Now that light is piercing the darkness of addiction as prevention lesson plans will positively influence young minds to steer clear of harmful drugs. There are 10 lessons covering the topics of acceptance, affirmation, appreciation, care, courage, creativity, hope, relief, safety and success.
Created from the synergy of a team of pastors from many traditions, the lessons provide reasons not to get involved in drugs. The lessons supplement drug abuse education by teaching youth about self-esteem, relaxation and natural highs, and are available free of charge. What a bright light shines each time a young person says, “I don’t need that drug, I’m already OK on my own.”
• People of faith also are beginning to gather around a new concept: healing communities. Realizing that 1 in 6 people are impacted today by the criminal justice system; congregations need to be better equipped to reach out to the accused, the prisoner, families of defendants and prisoners, victims of crime, returning citizens and their families, and the community affected by crime. A trained congregation will be better equipped to shine light into the darkness that surrounds the pain and fear of these issues.
Our world is not perfect. Yet since the beginning of time, in the midst of the darkness, God hovers and broods over all that darkness and then offers the incredible image of the light of God that shines in the darkness.
Within each of our life stories, and the stories of our human history, there are dark sides that do not go away. Yet within our stories are experiences of new life and fresh possibilities brought about by the overshadowing spirit of a loving creative force that brings order out of chaos.
Look at the leaves shimmering on the trees in the light. God’s creative force is at work in, through, and with us today as we work with each other. Amen.
— Bernstine is the executive director of the United Churches of Lycoming County.