On April 28th, twenty people gathered at the First Baptist Church in Essex to discern the ways in which we can support the children and youth here on the shoreline. The congregation was joined by Gail Beck and Cate Bourke from Tri-Town Youth Services and Lynn Fairfield-Sonn from Child & Family Agency. Pastor Joy Perkett began the gathering by hearkening to the church’s slogan, “Planting Seeds of God’s Love Since 1811.” Perkett explained that when she first moved to the Essex area and wanted to start a garden, her mother had reminded her that, before she planted anything, she needed to take a soil sample, which would reveal the composition and needs of the soil. Similarly, the Community Conversation and Potluck series is an opportunity for us as a congregation to understand the soil and the context in which we live so that we can better tend to the seeds and the soil in the world around us. We want not just to plant seeds but to cultivate and nourish them into seedlings and healthy plants. The First Baptist Church in Essex has a history of creative and committed work with the young people around us. We have:
- Implemented fundraisers to support scholarships to Camp Wightman (the local Baptist summer camp)
- Organized mission trips to Colorado and Vermont
- Initiated and executed a summer arts and crafts camp (included musicals that we have written)
- Hosted: magic shows, concerts, luncheons for our graduates, youth group on a boat
- Each year, we organize toy drives to provide gifts to local families.
- Each week, there are inter-generational musical opportunities via our musical group, the Joyful Noise (We have folks who sing, play piano, keyboard, guitar, etc.)
The Tri-Town Youth Service Bureau (TTYSB) has three main focuses:
- Counseling programs
- Educational programs (For example, Freshmen Transition Program)
- Youth Services (Summer co-op for middle schoolers, job and community service program)
TTYSB has a strength-based approach to youth work focused on the forty developmental assets, which includes religious communities. They have both a job and volunteer bank and are currently in the midst of a diaper drive. Each year, TTYSB focuses on a theme and this year’s theme is “The Year of the Story”. TTYSB is asking community members, “What is the hardest thing you faced as a youth? How did you overcome it?” They invited all of us to support our youth by sharing our stories. People can set up a time to meet with the storyteller by emailing Cate Bourke directly at firstname.lastname@example.org . Thank you in advance to those who share their stories and support this important effort! Child & Family Agency (CFA) has four focus areas:
- Mental health services (community -based, home-based, site-based)
- Daycare centers (New London and Groton)
- Physical healthcare (includes vaccinations and physicals)
- Educational (pro-social development, parents, etc.)
CFA has a regional office in Essex of which Cynthia Nagle is the Associate Director. The region office covers the area from Clinton to Chester to Lyme to Old Saybrook. Nagle reports that the areas of need for families include: camp scholarships, clothing and sports equipment, furniture and sliding scale fees. The area still has not fully covered from the 2007 financial crisis. Action Items:
- We are now officially the faith representative for the TTYSB coalition, which meets five times a year at 9 a.m. We are looking for a volunteer who would be willing to attend these meetings on our behalf. If you are willing and able, email Pastor Joy at email@example.com
- Participate in the storytelling project. Folks will to share their stories should email Cate Bourke at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time to meet with the story gatherer.
- FBC will submit relevant requests to the volunteer board at TTYSB
- FBC will pray for the young people of the shoreline and for discernment around the direction God is calling us to go as a church
- Cate Bourke said she would be able to provide additional information about the diaper drive.
- TTYSB and CFA noted the offer of the use of space at First Baptist. They don’t need space now but will keep an offer in mind for the future.
- FBC will follow up and have further discussion, deliberation and thought for:
- The suggestion of opening our camp scholarship funds not just to youth in our church but to youth in the community
- The problem of kids going hungry during the summer … is there more that we can do about this? We initiated this conversation at the potluck but it requires more thought and investigation.