We're thrilled this week to be able to share this post from our Choir Director, Joy Paffenroth. Joy is a choir teacher at Kaukauna High School who has been wading through the challenges of launching school for the 2020 school year. Here is a post she shared to her Facebook page a couple days after school started. We are sharing this here with her permission.
It’s been a LONG week. Although I am THRILLED to see my students again, the new reality of teaching is something like I’ve never experienced before. There are so many layers...so. many. I’m not going to lie...I’ve been letting my mind wander to other career paths. Legit. Seriously.
Today was our first “real” day of the year. No special schedules. Cohort B in person and some virtual students google meeting in while other virtual students did an asynchronous activity. (It’s a lot to manage...) 70 minutes in each class period. 4 classes. 1 prep time.
The in person activity today was a deep dive into the story that’s posted below at the end of this post. I did the same activity in all 4 classes...each with different tangents that emerged from the story thanks to open ended questions to the students. The crux of the activity was for students to reflect on 3 main ideas...what is your song? Who knows your song? Whose song do you know and how do you gently care for and safe guard that responsibility? The conversations were INCREDIBLE in every class...honestly, they were. A theme that emerged was that your song centers you and reminds you of who you really are when you need to remember it most.
"What is your song? Who knows your song? Whose song do you know and how do you gently care for and safe guard that responsibility?"
Between classes, I let my mind wander again to the difficult task at hand of teaching in this environment...is it sustainable for me mentally and emotionally? Am I really able to “be me” when teaching like this? Etc etc...
Then, after school a sophomore stopped in to chat and left me with a letter she wrote to me last night. I opened it after she left and the tears simply flowed. She so openly and honestly shared the impact I’ve had on her life...it was A LOT and I honestly had no idea. Not a single clue. I was just doing my job last year, being her choir teacher.
And then I realized, on the day I was sharing this story and discussion with my class, she was actually reminding me of my song...reminding me of my center and reminding of who I am and what I’m meant to do. Well played, universe, well played.
To all the teachers out there...you’re doing a good job. You are needed exactly where you are...even when you don’t feel like it.
Here’s the story I shared with my classes today for discussion-
When a woman in certain African tribes knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else.
When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child's song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and chants the child's song. When the child passes through the initiation into adulthood, the people again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, the person hears his or her song.
Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the person's bed, just as they did at their birth, and they sing the person to the next life.
In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.
The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.
You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn't. You may feel a little warble at the moment, but so have all the great singers. Just keep singing and you'll find your way home.
Summer 2020. It was a bit different than any other summer I have ever experienced before. Okay, let’s be real…. It was A LOT different than any other summer I had experienced before. Ever. Summer vacations, traveling, beaches, and barbeques…. OH BBQS!!! The ones with hot dogs and brats, and potato salad and grape salad… ALL THE SALADS!!! I missed those most of all! And then add on top of all the salad disappointment, we weren’t able to be in our church building worshipping with each other and building our community of faith. This summer has felt like something out of the Twilight Zone for sure.
Roll back for a moment to the beginning of summer. Susie and I were trying to figure out how we could stay connected and still help form faith for our elementary, middle, and high school students – enter summer youth group. It was set up every other week on a Thursday afternoon to whomever could make it between the ages of 4th and 8th grade. Our intent was simple – build community. The one catch of course was that we still could not meet in person; we had to do the meetings via zoom. Susie and I were unsure about how this would go, but we wanted to give it a try.
I am here to tell you that the 6 sessions that we had throughout the summer were some of the best, most Spirit lead meetings I have ever experienced. We didn’t do anything fancy. We started with highs and lows, and then we played games like Scattergories and Hangman. We NEVER ran out of things to talk about.
In the last 2 weeks, we began a project – a puppet ministry – for our child friendly service that ran on August 30th. We asked the students to come to our youth group with supplies to make sock puppets. Can I just tell you all how much FUN making sock puppets via zoom can be!? These students had some of the most creative and hilarious sock puppets. They quickly came up with names and back stories for each of their puppets that would bring the word of God to the congregation. Once the puppets were done, it was time to record the various parts of worship. The kids did NOT let us down! They rose to the challenge of filling in the various liturgies and read each and every detail with pride and excitement. The Holy Spirit came to our meetings and facilitated some awesome conversation through the weeks of summer. But I saw God’s love truly come to life in the students as they worked diligently on their puppets and presenting worship to those in the community at CtK.
Through summer youth group, I have learned that some of us are lamenting all of the things we didn’t get to do this summer, or all of the salads we didn’t get to eat. But at the end of the day we can remember to focus on what is right in front of us; that God’s love is all around us and coming to life within us and in those around us – even in unexpected places like sock puppets!
I am thankful for the reminder that God is here with us in the struggles and in the laments. But I am encouraged to remember that God is with us always in the laughs, the celebrations, and in the every day tasks as well! Thanks be to God for puppets and for ministries that have come out of summer 2020.
Director of Faith Formation: Confirmation & High School
Please enjoy this short and fun blooper reel from our time recording together!
One of the silver linings of this pandemic has been the opportunity to worship with other faith communities and leaders. We're excited to share with you this week a worship opportunity brought to us by the staff of the East Central Synod of Wisconsin. Bishop Gerald Mansholt is preaching, with synod staff assisting with worship leadership in other ways.
As for us, we'll hear our final story from our Genesis sermon series this week...we look forward to seeing you on the worship feed on Sunday!
For now...enjoy how God's love is coming to life through word and song!