This article was originally published by Christ Church, Short Hills.
This July, fourteen dedicated young people from Christ Church in Short Hills, St. Stephen’s Millburn, Grace Madison and House of Prayer in Newark joined together for a mission trip to provide much-needed help in our own backyard. The group spent their days at Apostles House in Newark, installing nearly 800 feet of laminate flooring, painting, sorting dozens of trash bags full of clothing donations and helping in the Food Pantry.
At night, they stayed at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and balanced their hard work with some New York City fun – exploring Chelsea, eating at Shake Shack, and watching the dance company Momix perform at the Joyce Theater.
The need for this trip was clear. Newark is a city in which homelessness abounds and it is vital that the church care for our sisters and brothers in this city next door. Apostles’ House is a thriving social service agency founded by several Episcopal churches, including our own. Its mission is to provide comprehensive social services to homeless and at-risk families and individuals in the Newark area in an environment that encourages and enables self-sufficiency.
But the trip wasn’t only about flooring and paint. It was about building relationships with sisters and brothers in Christ. While relationship building sounds easy, in many ways it can be more work than physical labor. While on the trip, The Rev. Sheelagh Clarke, rector of St. Stephen’s, lead the group on a reflection of race and racism, an especially relevant issue, given many high-profile current events in the United States. The group practiced noticing their own discomfort with race, reaching out to others and building relationships. A takeaway for attendees is that people aren’t truly living as one if they cannot cross the invisible barriers that divide people and come to know one another.
At the end of the trip, several Christ Church parishioners worked together to host a field day and picnic at Christ Church for the residents of Apostle’s House. Together, Christ Church and Apostle’s House children played in sprinklers, threw water balloons, had their faces painted, created works of art and had a blast. Special thanks to all who made that event a reality!
Above all, this Mission Trip was a pilgrimage that deepened attendees’ relationships with God, right from the start. The trip began with a Eucharist at House of Prayer, our sister Episcopal Church up the street from Apostle’s House. It was during that service that Mother Krista of Christ Church reminded the group of baptism, and our call to be God’s hands and feet here on earth. Every day, the group ended with a Compline service and began with Morning Prayer in the Chapel at the General Theological Seminary. The group deliberately took time to listen to God’s still sweet voice, and remember that the trip was in service of God. Everyone left with a deeper sense of God in the everyday ordinary things, and the call to go out and serve in love. The group prayed this prayer for mission during the trip, and it remains the Youth Group theme moving forward.
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the
earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those
who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people
everywhere may seek after you and find you, bring the nations
into your fold, pour out your Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten
the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.
– Book of Common Prayer
Everyone on the trip recognized that our work as Christians is only just beginning. The Christ Church Youth Group, joining with teens from several other churches in the area, will continue this ministry in Newark, and pray together, growing in faith with one another throughout the 2015-2016 year.