By Brittany Stillwell
Every Wednesday, I climb to the 4th Floor, arms full of whatever randomness is needed for the evening’s shenanigans, and set to work preparing for the chaos that is soon to tear through the halls. I love my few minutes in the quiet, as I straighten up and do what I can to make sure the 4th Floor at 2BC is a hospitable and welcoming space for all youth who bound up the stairs.
But it’s not just turning on lights, replenishing the snack bucket, or straightening the couch cushions for the millionth time that makes our space hospitable and welcoming. It’s not solely the supportive and loving care of our teachers that makes the youth floor a safe place for our students. One of the central factors to the affirming and nurturing atmosphere that permeates our youth group lies in an intentional decision made on the ground floor of the church.
Two years ago, Second Baptist Church officially adopted a statement affirming what we were already practicing.* It read:
Because our identity is found in Christ, we welcome all people, regardless of race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, physical and mental ability, and nationality into full participation in the life of this congregation.
It’s probably fair to say that most of our youth don’t know this statement exists and if they do, the weight of that statement is probably lost on them. For our students it seems natural. Of course their church wants them to bring the fullness of who they are to the Body. But it is not lost on me. Every week, I get to watch our youth learn and grow and explore who they are. I watch them wrestle with their self-worth and wonder if they are good enough, if they really belong. And sometimes, in the quiet before the storm, three floors above and over two years beyond those conversations that led to a statement of affirmation, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to journey with these students as together we transform into the people God made us to be.
As this Pride Month comes to a close and as I continue to discern how to best prepare safe and nurturing physically distant spaces for our youth, I am even more aware of the importance of safe places for all God’s children and I am full of gratitude that 2BC is one of them. Thanks be to God for a church where everyone is beloved and affirmed.
*If you ’d like more information on how we came to this statement, you can read this article written by our Pastor, Preston Clegg.
Written by Brittany Stillwell, Minister with Students and Families