and you are exalted as head over all.
By Maggie Mallette
Director of Family Ministries
An Episcopalian from birth, I come from a family of teachers and learners. My hometown of Oxford, Mississippi boasts just one sweet Episcopal Church, St. Peter’s, which is not too unlike St. John’s: it has a similar congregation size, a similar family atmosphere, and a similar outward focus. Like St. John’s, the people of St. Peter’s like to gather, both in formation and in fellowship. St. Peter’s cares about Christ, cares about its people, and cares about its community. Moving into my job as Director of Family Ministries here felt like coming home in many ways, and I am grateful that the good people of St. John’s were here to welcome me with open arms, words of encouragement, and willing service to the children and youth of the church.
Many of the memories that I now recall as formative in some way are from my experiences as a child or youth at St. Peter’s. I have memories of parades, Easter egg hunts, and other celebrations. I also remember “low Sunday” times of sitting on the butcher block island in the kitchen and singing church-y songs with church-y ladies. I’m sure many of the parishioners here at St. John’s have very similar memories in this parish. You may be the child in those memories, or you may be the church-y lady! In all of those times and spaces, I was learning. I was learning about expression, about community, and about compassion. Sometimes, my learning was more explicit - times spent at Vacation Bible Studies (VBS), in Sunday school classrooms, learning to acolyte, or learning to compose a sermon for Youth Sunday. I spent every Sunday morning at church with my family, every Sunday evening at EYC with my best friends, and many weekends a year at Camp Bratton-Green, the camp of the Diocese of Mississippi. In all of those contexts, I was learning.
I am learning here. I am learning from mothers of youth and children like Victoria Fleischer, Ashley Jaillette, and Catherine Lockhart, who have children’s ministry tricks up their sleeves from years of experience. I am learning from fathers of youth, like Brandon Templeton and Michael Burkett, who lead their families and their church family with servant hearts and spirits of thankfulness and humility. And I am also still learning from people who have graduated from the ranks of St. John’s youth and children’s ministries. We have former St. John’s youth who volunteer with EYC on Sunday nights, and one of my deepest college friendships was with a former St. John’s youth who was and is always teaching me something or other.
Mostly, though, I am learning from the youth and children at St. John’s. When they share their highs and lows of the week, I learn about vulnerability and trust. I learn about selflessness and endurance as we serve together in the brutal low country heat during Home Works at John’s Island. I learn about God through their openness about their experiences, and I learn about love for neighbor as I watch their friendships that have developed through the shared community they have in St. John’s. The children teach me openness, welcome, and faith. Their spirits of honesty and gratitude surprise and uplift me on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday evenings, sharing a meal in the Barr Center, singing “This Little Light of Mine” in the Children’s Chapel, or playing tag on the playground.
St. John’s should be proud of the ways it is teaching its congregants. It is teaching from the pulpit on Sunday mornings, teaching from experience through servant ministries, and teaching through hands-on activities at Sunday School. It is teaching through good-spirited guilds who minister to one another in fellowship and community. We are learning in Bible studies, through Southern Literature, and as leaders navigating church in the complex twenty-first century
I’ve still got a lot to learn - more than I even realize, at this point, I’m sure. I feel blessed that I get to share that with the youth, children, and families at St. John’s. What I do know is that I am so grateful to be here, and grateful for your generosity that makes our ministry possible. I am grateful for the hope and love that animate and invigorate our community of faith. It is a blessing to be a part of a gathering of people who value learning, who value teaching, who value the growth and community that we have here together, working towards and for the kingdom.