Kairos, the Virginia Synod youth event for rising 8th through rising 12th graders was held, July 22nd through the 27th at the campus of Roanoke College in Salem. This year over 110 youth and adult participants engaged and witnessed the theme “Faithside Out” based on John 16:33.
The verse was presented to the Kairos community by this year’s Planning Group, made up by Emil Baggs of Epiphany, Richmond, Camden Brewer of St. Michael Blacksburg, James Eddleton of Our Saviour, Christiansburg, Sarah Furr of Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg, Lily Pingel of Grace, Waynesboro,Natalie Schaus of First, Norfolk, and Michael Sheets of Martin Luther, Bergton. The group worked with the event’s chaplain Pastor Andrew Bansemer, as well as Lizzie Campus and Alec Alderman who both served as advisors to the group. The Planning Group helped shape the week-long event, spending months in preparation before the participants arrived making sure everything was prepared, and their hard work was well recognized this year.
The most visible presence that the Planning Group takes on throughout the week is performing skits for the Kairos community, translating the week’s verse into a relatable story for participants at Kairos. This year’s planning group found themselves focused on how to respond to faith challenges, and the internal conversations they have with themselves in response to conflicts they encounter day to day. As a result, this year the Planning Group skits took inspiration from the Disney Pixar film Inside Out, which shows the internal dialogue and struggles of a girl as she grows up.
Each skit revolved around a high-schooler named Lily, her four internal voices of Logic, Discouragement, Anxiety, and Anger, as well as two of Lily’s friends who both challenge and support her in her faith journey. Throughout the week, the Kairos community got to listen in on Lily’s internal voices, learn about the different insecurities she has her life and faith, and how her internal voices respond. By the end of the week, a new voice, Peaceful Joy arrived and helped Lily and her inner voices fully realize that her faith crisis is not hopeless after all.
As participants at Kairos broke off into small groups, they got the chance to reflect on the week-long theme and verse, and relate it back to their own faith life through conversation, games, and activities. They also got the chance to work together to plan and prepare a proclamation based off of an assigned passage. These proclamations are a chance for each Kairos small groups to communicate to the community what they have discovered about their passage, and the conversation surrounding it in a way that announces the good news of God’s love to the rest of the community during the Thursday afternoon’s large group. The Kairos small groups are asked to live with the text as they work on their proclamation throughout the week, diving into it through conversation and planning to find the nuances of the word. This year small groups presented to the Kairos community an exciting variety of presentations, from humorous skits featuring elaborate handmade costumes to presenting handcrafted tokens to the Kairos community that small group members felt best reflected the meaning of their passage.
On Wednesday night it has become a tradition to hold a service called “Prayer around the Cross”. This service provides Kairos Community an opportunity to meditate, pray, and sing with others around a wooden cross laying in the center of the chapel. During this service the community is invited to write on the cross on the floor. Some of the concerns brought to the cross are visible, some kept hidden, and others only known to God. During this service the Kairos community also has the opportunity to go up to the pastors at the event for prayers and absolution.
During the week Assistant to the Bishop, The Rev. Kelly Bayer Derrick as well as Bishop Humphrey both visited the Kairos community. Pastor Kelly shared with the Kairos Community that she is a resource for those considering a call to ministry, as well as an advocate for justice with groups like Tapestry, VICPP, World Hunger, and other ELCA justice initiatives. While speaking to the youth, Bishop Humphrey lifted up the ForwardingFaith campaign which has been ongoing in congregations across the Synod. Many with many adult leaders, pastors who are present for Kairos are proof of the value of faith formation events, as they return to serve following their own valuable experiences at Virginia Synod youth events.
This year’s Kairos was filled with laughter, joy, worship, and deep conversation that encouraged participants to reflect on their faith life, daily stresses that test our faith, and the gift of God’s peace and joy in our lives. If you had youth, adult leaders, or a pastor present during Kairos, ask them about their week! They’re sure to have many stories to share about their time spent together, “Faithside Out”.