By Deborah Richardson, Education Director, Faith Seventh-day Adventist Church
As our youth are the church of today and tomorrow, the Youth and Education Ministries of Faith Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hartford, Connecticut with Pastor James Yansen, Jr planned and implemented a yearlong Rites of Passage (ROP) experience entitled “Men and Women of Distinction” for teens aged 13-18.
Based on the vision and inspiration of Pastor Yansen, the components of this initiative involved various topics including: spiritual, social, emotional and psychological development, personal grooming and manners, relationships, sexuality, financial literacy, planning for success, socialization, team building, practical life skills, cultural diversity, and community service. Approximately 25 youth part pated in “grow group” seminars, activities and workshops planned and organized by dedicated ROP staff, and facilitated by NEC Pastors, local professionals, entrepreneurs, community leaders and church members.
The formal experience began with an African-themed Consecration Service that involved the entire church and included spiritual challenges, pledges, and commitments in January 2017. It concluded with a culmination weekend beginning Friday, November 3rd with a “Roots and Wings” Consecration Service, and continued on Sabbath afternoon with a Coronation Service entitled “It Takes A Village.” During this program, political representatives and members of the Greater Hartford community, parents, friends and church members shared words of encouragement, congratulations and appreciation to the Rite of Passage participants and supporters. Highlights included the presentation of an official citation from the Court of Common Council of Hartford by City Council Member Cynthia Jennings, and the Passing of the Mantle Ceremony and Blessing led by Pastor Yansen and. Each ROP participant received authentic African Kenté stoles and a personalized African carving. Additionally, the committed Rites of Passage staff who helped to groom the youth throughout the year, received well deserved plaques and Kenté stoles. On Sunday, the special African-themed celebratory banquet “A Royal Affair” took place where ROP participants shared reflections, lessons learned and perceptions gained throughout the program.
ROP Co-Coordinator noted, “The Rites of Passage Program proved to be a blessing to all involved as we rededicated ourselves and our youth to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are committed to support our youth through precept, lifestyle, example, and love, while fully embracing the quote, We can give our children but two things, one is roots, the other, wings.”
As a result of the success of the ROP program, many parents requested a similar initiative for younger children, and the Kingdom Kids was born for children ages 5-12. This program is a monthly Wednesday night prayer meeting power-hour for children, designed to use an interactive approach to introduce young children to the pillars of our faith. The first session, held on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, attracted approximately 25 children and was a rousing success. Let us continue to keep all of our children before the Lord for they truly are the church of today and the church of tomorrow!