Messages in Bottles

One of the hardest parts of work during this time of social distancing is the sensation of repeatedly ripping your heart out and throwing it down a well, of pouring yourself out into messages in bottles that you have no idea if anyone will ever see.

This feeling that you create content, lead groups, write lessons, come up with activities, all work you did happily before, but now, instead of getting to offer it to people in person and watching them engage with it, you’re just throwing it out onto the ocean of the internet, usually with little way to know if any of it ever made a difference.

I was having a conversation with Youth Choir Director, and my good friend, Erin Ypya, about this same thing just a few weeks ago. In addition to working here, she’s a full-time choir director at Fort Worth Country Day School, and she was talking about how she feels like she doesn’t know how to create meaningful experiences for kids without them being able to sing together.

I was a choir kid, and I know what she means. There is a profound ability of singing together to connect people, and in this time when singing together is so out of the question, it can make people like Erin feel deeply discouraged and like the work she’s dedicated her life to doesn’t matter any more.

Just a few weeks ago, she recorded the senior song she wrote for the class of 2019 for our Senior Recognition Sunday. It’s a song that was supposed to be performed by the teenagers for the seniors, and although, of course, she and Peggy and Robert are great talents, I couldn’t help but miss the kids singing it. (Read the story about this unique FUMCFW tradition!)

Then a couple nights ago, Erin texted me. She had received an email from a music minister in Chicago, asking about the song, saying that one of his church members had found the recording on Youtube and wanted to perform it,

[Alex] and his twin brother have cerebral palsy and are autistic – but I can’t tell you how much they love church music. One of the brothers wants to sing this song as part of one of our virtual worship services.  Do you mind sharing any info you have on it?

Thank you in advance! I know they would be ecstatic to be able to make this little dream of their become a reality.

Erin was able to share that not only did she have info on the song but she composed it herself, and would be happy to share it. He and Erin exchanged a couple emails about the sweet origin of the song, and the long tradition of senior songs at FUMC Fort Worth. Then, a couple days ago, she received this:

Hi Erin!

I cannot thank you enough for sharing your song with us. Alex was filled with such joy doing this, as you’ll see in the video. You certainly have blessed us during these days of quarantine…

Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/ObPqhQ3qJow

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you!

I encourage you to stop everything you’re doing and watch that video, feel free to skip to where they’re singing and watch just 30 seconds of it. Pause whatever show you’re watching, mute whatever work call you’re ignoring, and watch it.

Have you watched it yet? I’ll wait.
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Are you crying? Because I sure am.

I watched a group of our kids perform this song in a church fellowship hall in New Mexico, and I wanted to watch them sing in honor of our 2020 senior class. That sweet song didn’t get the opportunity to be the blessing it was intended to be by having the kids sing it in the Sanctuary. But it wound up being a blessing to a church community several states away, to a young man who loves church music, and to a community we would have never had the opportunity to bless before.

Working like this can feel like writing messages in bottles, like you have no way of knowing if anything you do even matters because the people you made it for are separated by an ocean of screens. But today I am encouraged by the story of Erin, and Alex, and the way that a song, and an imperfect circumstance, and even a Youtube video can be powerful instruments of God’s love.

For my friends who teach, lead, minister, and live in relationship mediated by screens right now, who, like me, are constantly tempted to give up on the whole effort – may this be enough today to heave one more little bottle into the sea.

 

 

Kat Bair
Director of Youth Ministries

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