#BmoreTogether: July 23

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As I walk onto the Gunpowder bay beach the hot sun beats down on me, instantly burning my pale complexion. At a first glance the small beach seems over crowded, and filled with screaming children. But like anything in life, there was much more than screaming children and scary white women laying in the sweltering sun.  Today was filled with joy, laughter, and sadness as we said goodbye to our Acts4Youth friends. It has only been three days since Second Presbyterian has been working with Acts4Youth, but it feels like I have been friends with these boys for much longer. On Tuesday, the first day of volunteering, SecondPres and Acts4Youth were clearly separated. It is apart of human nature to stay with people we know and trust. It is up to us to make ourselves vulnerable and fight back against mother nature’s blessing, and curse. Now the reason I refer to this as a curse is because it causes us to create barriers; similar to the divide racially and socioeconomically in Baltimore. Over our three days of working with the Acts4Youth boys we were able to sledgehammer the glass barrier we had, staying with people we know and are similar to. Today, in the energizing bay water, SecondPres and the Acts4Youth boys became one, a family. We were all swimming, playing, splashing, and throwing sand at each other together. But the reason we became truly one today, is because we didn’t think and make an effort about who we were interacting with, it was natural. In order to learn and make new friends, and be a somewhat decent human being for this service activity (and it wasn’t as much as a service activity as it was fun) we had to make ourselves vulnerable; in a place of being rejected. But in the end that vulnerability is what made the Acts4Youth and SecondPres kids so close. We can only grow and learn if we put ourselves out there. We may fail a little, or a lot; but the things we gain from trusting each other are far greater than anything else.

Sophie Elisseeff, a youth at Second Presbyterian, is will a high school senior this fall.  She was a co-leader of one of the four groups that worked at Walter P Carter Elementary/Middle School.

#BmoreTogether: July 22

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Coming into today I wasn’t too excited to get down and dirty, or bake in the extreme heat, but as much fun as I had Tuesday, I knew it would be fun.

This morning I arrived at Walter P. Carter school I was ready to work! My group, along with another group had the task of weeding, picking up trash, and beautifying the bushes along the parking lot. The task looked extremely difficult considering that the bushes looked like they hadn’t been taken care of in a pretty long time. Although it was hard we ended up getting everything done, and it looked so much better than it did before. I don’t think we would have been able to get it done if it wasn’t for everyone working together as a team and communicating effectively. Each person had their own job that they used to contribute to make everything so much easier for all of us. My whole group from the youngest boys to the oldest helped out doing everything they could. We also had the amazing help from the Baltimore City Public Schools grounds crew, who were so helpful to us in our clean up.

I was astonished today when I found out  that there were 17 only grounds crew for the 180 Baltimore City schools. We were so grateful for their help, compassion, and time they gave us to help. Today I saw a huge difference in the front of the school that made it look so much prettier, and it was all because we worked together as a team. I couldn’t ask for a better experience and opportunity than working with Acts4Youth to make this school a better environment for everybody!

Olivia Risser, a Second Presbyterian youth, is a rising freshman.  She is a co-leader of one of the four teams working this week in Wilson Park (a neighborhood on the east side of Baltimore city). 

#BmoreTogether


IMG_2231#BmoreTogether: July 21st
It’s Pretty Ironic
by Shelby Herndon

It’s pretty ironic, but mainly pathetic how I had so many preconceived notions about what I was walking into today. The truly pathetic part is that I have very little basis as I am literally within walking distance of the Walter P. Carter School. But like with everything that isn’t given a fair shake, the cure is always open-mindedness, time, and the willingness to take the plunge.

Although I got smacked in the head twice today by dodge ball balls, the high-energy game turned out to be the best introduction to what I hope this experience will become; working together in a fun way with boatloads of enthusiasm…and sweat.

Wonderful personalities surrounded me all day. Maybe I got lucky with the group I was assigned, but I think the more likely reason is that a lot of these kids have amazing interest and respect. From this girl’s humble opinion, I was impressed. I had five boys in my group, along with a new friend, Helene. There was the other team captain Marquese, who is a natural leader…except for at lunch when he plays with Raquan, the youngest and cutest member of our group. I think Josh is the most socialof the group; he was our group’s most supportive cheerleader when we went bowling. Shrylon is a little quieter, but he got more excited after getting his first strike amidst a bowling game devoid of strikes or spares. The last member is Brick whose name fascinates me as there is literally no reason for it, I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHY?!?!?

There are other cool kids there too; I just haven’t gotten around to meeting them yet. But I’m excited mainly because they are all excited. The kids are really the best part of this program, but there are other awesome things happening. We spent most of the morning sprucing up the school campus and there may be a possible mural in the works. But stay tuned for all of that colorful commentary☺

Shelby Herndon, a member of Second Presbyterian Church, will be a freshman in college this fall.  She was chosen to be a co-team leader for one of the 4 small groups working together this week at Walter P Carter, a elementary/middle school in Baltimore City.

Lent is here..

Lent is finally here.  I must admit that it feels like it has been Lent for quite some time now.  Lent has been on my mind for weeks now.  Weeks of figuring out what we will be doing as a worshiping community at Second Pres and lots of brainstorming sessions about what The Slate Project will do as digital discipline.  And then there is what I want to do draw myself closer my Beloved (I’m talking about God and not the hubby).

I always joke that I give up sex with strangers.  So last night as the hubby turned to say goodnight, he said, “Are you giving up sex with strangers again this year?”  I said, “Of course.”  All joking aside, Lent doesn’t mean much if you don’t give up or take up something that brings you closer to God or to God’s beloved children.  So, this year my major commitment is to pray for and write a short note to the members Second Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, MD.  It isn’t an easy task.  It means praying for 4.7 families and writing cards to each one every day. (Probably about an hour’s worth of time between praying and writing.) I’m not quite sure what I will say in these notes.  To be honest, there are people on our active rolls that I have never met. (Crazy, as I’ve been at the church for almost 9 years.)

I do hope the notes will be a reminder that they are loved by God. I also hope these notes will remind folks that others are thinking and praying for them. I don’t expect folks to come to church more often after getting the note or for those I have never met to magically appear.  Handwritten notes aren’t magic—they are simply a reminder that we aren’t alone in this world.

I will still do my usual laundry list of “give ups”—as I think I would be lost without the tradition of doing so:
~no alcohol
~refrain from processed foods
~eliminating sugar

So, Lent is finally here!  What are you doing this Lenten season to draw yourself closer to God?

Black Can Be Beautiful

Black Can Be Beautiful

O God, black can be beautiful!
Let us be aware of black blessings:
Blessed be the black night that nurtures dreams.
Blessed be the black hole out of which creation sprang.
Blessed be the black cave of imagination that births creativity.
Blessed be dark wombs that cradle us.
Blessed be black loam that produces nourishing food for our bodies.
Blessed be black jazz that nourishes our souls.
Blessed be black energy that swirls into gracefulness.
Blessed be black coal that heats us.
Blessed be black boiling clouds hurling down lightning and cleansing rain.
Blessed be even our own darkness, our raw, undeveloped cave of shadows.
O God, help us to befriend black and not deny its power.
Help us not to cover over the dark with fear but to open to it with your grace and to be open to your life within the dark.
May we discover the blessings that lie deep within our holy dark so that we may freely affirm that
Black is beautiful indeed!

~by William John Fitzgerald from his book Blessings for the Fast Paced and Cyberspaced.