This Spring marks the 20th anniversary of a different approach to ministry. In the late fall and winter of 1993-4 several members of the Episcopal Church of St. John Baptist, having been moved by the need to address the dire needs of youth in our community, began talking about how we might act.
The impetus came when a young man in seventh grade was found walking around town in the early hours because he was kicked out of his house when his mother’s new boyfriend came over. The boy had a history of abuse and it was apparent that things were only going to get worse if someone didn’t step in to help. Several other stories emerged of young people in need and the lack of mentors for these youth.
A small town can be a divine place of support and nurture for a young person or it can be hell when labeled and stereotyped as a problem or seen as a threat.
The Rev. Peter Jenks suggested some way in which adults who have moved into area might somehow connect with these young people to help. Al LaPlante, a Maine guide suggested taking the young people and adults out into the woods for a common time together. Jack Carpenter, a former Young Life director and not only a member of the parish but also working with a group called Youth Forum Maine, set up the framework to make this happen. Along with others from the parish a ministry was formed. The focus was always to meet the needs that were before us, and not to try to create something that would better the parish or the larger church or the gospel as we might have understood it. Our goal was to be faithful to what we felt called to address, nothing more. Whatever we were going to do, it was evident to us, was going to need a wide range of community support. It was important that people from all churches, organizations and backgrounds needed to join together to make this work and to connect with the youth. The first trip was with four adults and four seventh grade boys, then shortly thereafter a girls trip was made. It was called “Trekkers”. Year after year it continued to grow and add more trips, following the young people throughout high school. Members of St. John’s still serve on the board, support it with financial support and make sure that when the groups travel to other cities they match up with churches in the local areas to sleep and cook, connect with the community. It is not mandated that there be people from our parish on the board or involved, but it is something that people have continually felt important to support.
Recently a trip was made which set out to introduce ninth grade students to historical places they might only have read about, and in so making the journey we we at the local parish were able to connect with an Episcopal Church in Hanover Mass., and Washington D.C., who were able to host them in their pilgrimage. Many of these young people have not been out of the state before. For a county with great disparity of wealth and very little connection to any church this opens the faith community to finding a way to help and support new insights for the young people in efforts not to offer them the experience of others, but to help them discover their own path and experiences.
The journey began small, seeking to meet local needs with local people and resources. Step by step the journey was made, with the parish and church association not mandatory, or in any way necessary but with relationships always held as most important, the organization has continued to grow with the needs of the community. This organization is not a church based initiative, but rather a community based initiative. It was an act of faith, which was given away and in doing such allowed to grow in new ways. Young people and adults from a wide range of the community have served on the board, making crucial decisions. Under the guidance of its director Don Carpenter, the organization has built links to a broad range of people and organizations for support, mentorship and guidance. What began with the immediate need of one young man, and the prayers and response of a few adults slowly emerged what is now a vital part of a community.
For more information visit them at: Trekkers.org