Music plays an important role in most teenagers’ lives. Through music they connect with peers and with issues that matter to them. Perhaps that’s why the Saskatchewan Mennonite Youth Organization (SMYO) chose “Where’s God in my song?” as the theme for its recent senior-high retreat.
Twenty-three youth from seven Mennonite Church Saskatchewan congregations gathered at Shekinah Retreat Centre from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 to think about how they connect with God through music. Area church youth minister Kirsten Hamm-Epp said that, although the group was small, they brought a “high level of engagement” to the weekend’s activities.
Ben Pauls, pastor of Zoar Mennonite Church in Waldheim, encouraged the youth to think about songs that are meaningful to them and imagine what might have inspired their composers to write them. He gave them various scenarios to work with, including Bible stories, stories from Mennonite history, pop culture and contemporary situations. Pauls asked the youth to put themselves in the shoes of the main character in their scenario and then create a psalm based on the scenario.
Anna Epp of Wildwood Mennonite Church in Saskatoon said the exercise “illustrated how music can come from [many] different experiences.”
People connect with God through music, especially when they sing together. Zachary Stefaniuk of Hague Mennonite Church, has experienced this in his own life. Times of singing with others at retreats or at summer camp have been powerful times of connecting with God for him.
Marcus Kruger, also of Wildwood Mennonite, is motivated by the “positive energy” of singing together at retreats and at camp. “The energy you get from people here will stay with you,” he said.
Singing together is also a way of building community. “I can sing a song by myself,” said Pauls, “but when we sing together in the context of congregation, we create relationships.”
Pauls recognizes that youth often struggle with questions, doubt and confusion, but said he hopes they will come away from the retreat secure in the knowledge that “I can always sing my song to God. God is always there.”
-- Posted February 11, 2015