There is this idea that going to church every Sunday is no longer practical for young people. But my recent experience at my friend’s church showed me something I didn’t expect.
My grandmother, who is one of my main influences in the Catholic faith, is often asking whether me and my family are going to church. For my friend, who isn’t Catholic, going to church is a really important part of her life. Her church has a program for teenagers every Sunday. Therefore I wanted to get to know a little bit more about her experiences. I was curious to find out how she found this community that was focused on celebrating faith.
‘Well my mum kinda forced me to join’, she says. ‘I knew nothing about church and I didn’t really understand what role God played in my life. My mum wanted me to join a youth group, but we ended up at a church service which was really weird at that time. I wasn’t used to live singing and people playing instruments.
‘I don’t know what it was, but I was really gripped by a presence. After the service we went into the “guest lounge” and we talked with the youth leader and he basically explained what youth group was.
‘I was really reluctant to go at first. After like a few months I just decided to rock up to the youth group, not knowing anyone there. I just said to myself, you know, what’s there to lose?’
I asked her what it was that made her church different from others.
‘The atmosphere is really different. It’s much more modern...and also, it’s not about following a religion or following strict rules, it’s about saying yes to Christ and having a personal relationship with Him.’
When I first walked into the building with my friend to join her for the service there was a loud buzzing of noise. There was a basketball game with people watching, and groups congregating together talking and taking photos. Anyone who saw this walking past not knowing why this large group of teenagers were together would think it was just any ordinary function. Everyone was comfortable with each other and the amount of kind people who greeted me when I walked in was almost overwhelming. The positivity and uplifting energy were infectious and you couldn’t help but feel welcomed.
The service there involved a lot of singing and dancing, and even games. When it got to the point of the service where now the youth group leader was speaking I felt comfortable and truly welcomed. I could see just how easy and natural it was for my friend to join the youth group and feel totally comfortable doing so.
‘The people at youth are the ones who make me want to come’, my friend says. ‘They are one of the nicest and whole hearted [groups of] people I have ever met. Also, the things we do are amazing.
‘Some people assume that if you follow Christ, your life is boring and you’re not living life to the fullest. No way! This is literally living life.’
I feel privileged to have gotten to see the way that these young people connect with their faith and to have my preconceived ideas about church and faith challenged. This tight-knit community who all share the same values allows for a place where you can feel comfortable, create many new relationships while still also celebrating your faith in a modern way.
Francesca Tomasiello is a student at Our Lady of Mercy College, Heidelberg.