On Saturday, Pilgrim Center had the privilege of hosting a Youth Summit on Gun Violence organized by the Wisconsin Council of Churches. This was a multi-denominational event in which middle school and high school youth were invited to gather together for an exploration of how their voices and perspectives on gun violence could be effectively shared. The Wisconsin Council of Churches brought in multiple agency who explored with the group how their individual stories might be best crafted and shaped in order to be well received. The bulk of the day was focused on story telling, specifically how a person’s personal story can be intentionally shaped and presented in the best manner to be received by others. Topics such as what should be included in a narration and how things should be expressed in a timely manner were explored at great length. After lunch break-out sessions focused on using art and activism as tools of expression. The day concluded with the students having an opportunity to try out some of their stories on each other.
It was a really good day with lots of new faces experiencing Pilgrim Center intertwined with a few seasoned veterans. Some old friendships were rekindled and I suspect a couple of new friendships may have ignited. This group of young people came together in order to wrestle with and face some pretty serious stuff. There were stories sharing: the fear of school lock-downs, the unknown of large crowds, and the grief of lives tragically and abruptly ended way too young. These stories were shared in an honest, candid, and straightforward manner that clearly indicated their origins in the hearts of the speakers. There was nothing fancy or flowery about these stories. I don’t believe anyone was there to impress or show-up anyone. These are people who have heavy stuff on their hearts and they are searching for ways to share and process what they are witnessing. Often Pilgrim Center is thought of as a sacred place where laughter fills the air and games are our main stay, but there are other days when we are sacred in a different way. Sometimes we are sacred in our honest, raw, and yet safe space where stories and burdens are shared and honored. From my perspective it is always inspiring to witness a group of youth choosing to spend their Saturday gathering together in order to improve their lives and the lives of those whom they might encounter in the future. What an honor it is to be part of this community.
~ Rev. Nathan Athorp