“You just never know when the last thing is going to be the last thing.”
— Thomas Jolin, Class of 2020
This statement by graduating senior, Thomas Jolin, speaks to a truth far beyond the craziness and confusion of these pandemic times. But for the Senior Class of 2020, this truth hits home especially hard with the loss of all those landmark senior celebrations that disappeared into thin air with the outbreak of COVID-19 that shut down not only their last semester of school, but also prom, graduation, senior recognition banquets, and of course, the beloved FUMCFW tradition of Senior Recognition Sunday and our chance to hug, greet and celebrate our high school seniors in person as they take their first big step to “Go out and be God’s people in the world.”
We will, of course, still recognize these Seniors this coming Sunday in our 11:00 am online worship service (and we do have some sweet surprises planned to make this moment as special as possible under the circumstances), but it goes without saying that this year’s celebration of our seniors is bittersweet.
A senior season of ups and downs
Thomas Jolin, lifelong member of FUMCFW and member of the class of 2020 explains that graduating during this pandemic is, “Just filled with so many unknowns. I wish we would just know one way or the other how this is all going to go.” This season is filled with so many ups and downs it’s hard to know which way is up.
His mother, Jennifer Jolin, explains, “I think a part of me is mourning this experience too. He’s our only kid and we’ve always pictured his senior summer to look a certain way. All the summer activities with youth being up in the air, it’s hard.”
Thomas’ father, Brian, continues, “I was just so excited for him to start his next chapter in life with a clean slate, and now we don’t know if he will even be able to start school in the fall, but, it is what it is, I guess. We just have to mourn it and try and move on.”
As Matt Britt, Associate Director of Youth Ministries, says, “These aren’t just the Youth Ministry’s kids, these are FUMCFW’s kids. We’ve gotten to watch them grow into unique individuals. And everyone is missing out on the goodbyes this year.” He continues, “But we’re doing what we can. And these kids know just how much they mean to not just us, but to this entire faith community.”
Somethings, however, remain the same.
Think back on your own senior year in high school. Were you nervous? Excited?
Ready to wash your own laundry?
This year, the FUMCFW senior class of 2020 will, as all other senior classes of years past, embark on a grand new adventure. And although this final season of their high school career has been strange — and filled with lots of unique ups and downs, this First Church family wants them to know that we still celebrate them and all they’ve have accomplished — and we are lifting them up in prayer as they begin this next great chapter in life.
And, for all that has happened to change this senior experience for these beloved members of our faith community, what remains the same is how much we love and cherish the memories we have and the impact these kids have made on us.
Many of these seniors have grown up roaming the halls of the church, enjoying Sunday school classes, going on Mission trips and Day Camp, serving campers at Camp Barnabas, Youth Choir tours, Lyle Lodge retreats, and summers spent volunteering at VBS. And we’ve all enjoyed watching them grow up here. Lifelong friends are made at First Church, and the bonds that are created and strengthened here will follow you all the days of their lives.
This year, like every other year, a new group of FUMCFW seniors will “Go out to be God’s people in the world.” And this year, like every year, the parents, youth leaders, friends, and counselors all hope they’ve done enough to prepare and send these teenagers out into the world wrapped in the love and solid assurance of God’s love to guide and inspire their lives and their futures. And, judging by the evidence that is easy to see in how they’ve lived out this crazy reality so far, this class of 2020 has proven that they are ready for anything!
“Brilliant, resilient, compassionate models.”
If you haven’t already, please read Kat Bair, Director of FUMCFW Youth Ministries’ letter to the class of 2020. In it Kat tells the seniors, “You have taught, inspired, and challenged all the teenagers younger than you, and many of the adults older than you. You are brilliant, resilient, compassionate models of what it means to be God’s people in the world, and we are all better off for having had each and every one of you as part of this community.”
What a testament to these amazing young people.
We have been so fortunate to get to watch your journeys from afar as you’ve grown and flourished in your faith and your lives.
We are going to miss these youth more than they know. We want them to know and remember this is the place — their church home — they can always come home to, and wrapped in all our love and support, they will never walk alone.
Thomas’s observation, “You just never know when the last thing is going to be the last thing,” speaks far beyond his own experience and deeply into the hearts of all who mourn the losses the class of 2020 is experiencing and may experience going forward in to this great unknown. We never know when our last moment together is going to be our last, so it’s best to try and live each moment to the fullest.
Congratulations, Class of 2020, and thank you for all the inspiring moments and sweet memories you have provided for your church family. We can’t wait to see how far you’ll go — despite the somewhat anticlimactic fizzle of your senior celebrations. We know you will still do great things as the leaders of tomorrow who understand deeply the great truth Thomas has articulated for all of us.
First Church family, be sure to join us live online this Sunday morning in the 11:00 am Sanctuary service as we lift up this amazing group of young people for a very special Senior Recognition Sunday!