50 years ago…50 years

…. did you know? 
Fifty years ago, when the first families formed the new John Calvin Presbyterian Church, they brought along their children. We know that the Playschool arose from the needs of these families, but what about at church? Quickly Sunday School classes were started and the youth began to gather!
In the 1970’s the local high schools were segregated by gender. The girls went to Grace King High School and the boys to Bonnabel or East Jefferson High Schools. But where did they go to meet each other? One popular place was the Youth Group at John Calvin Presbyterian Church. It didn’t matter what your faith tradition was, the place to be was JCPC. It started small, with a program at someone’s house followed by fun and food. Often the gathering started when everyone went to a church league softball game, then shared pizza afterward. Bob Malsbury began a discussion group on Job for the mixed group, and it grew in strength and understanding.
1974 saw the group headed out on retreat to Montreat, while Camp Lacombe was the destination for one or two weekend retreats. Wasn’t there a story about “streaking”, or was that just the 70’s? Summers found the young people performing plays, with costumes and all in the sanctuary, directed by none other than Jananne Lankard! Who’s up for another one! This group was so close that they have gotten together for reunions occasionally through the years.
With the mixing of gender in the high schools in the 80’s, the need for a place to meet was reduced, but the youth group, while not nearly as large, was still active. In the 90’s the church hired a Director of Christian Education (DCE), Ann Ferguson. Her first day started with leading the youth on a mission trip to San Antonio! This group went to the Martha May House where they stayed, cooking and cleaning from themselves, and spending the day either with Habitat for Humanity, or the local soup kitchen. A day trip was made into Mexico. What a great experience!
The 90’s group experienced overnights at the YMCA, and a retreat to Montreat, led by Linda Craven and Joe and Paula Palermo. Youth Sunday was an important occasion. Three memorable young speakers gave sermons through the years – Linda Craven’s daughter, Michael Lowry (of current Weather Channel fame), and Scott Crawford, who experienced a calling to ministry. No mention of “streaking” with this group. In addition, Diane Parry led a wonderful Children’s Choir.
In 1998, Sonia Lee became the DCE, staying for 8 years, through the aftermath of Katrina. She developed strong relationships with the young people, even coming back for a wedding and joining a post-Katrina work crew. After Katrina, the Sunday School class enrollment fell to just 2 children. The programs had to be restarted from scratch. But with 13 baptisms the year after Katrina, growth potential was clear!!
Today, there are 3-4 active youth, with the potential for 30 in the next 3 years as they go through high school (Remember those 13 baptisms? Just say in’). This year there are 10 in Confirmation Class from the current group known as the “Tweens”. This summer several experienced a retreat to Mo Ranch in Texas. The beginning of the faith journey for our children and young people is a critical and ongoing mission. Is there anything more important that starting the kids out right?
This is the last article in this series on the changes in the life of John Calvin Presbyterian, over 50 years. We hope you’ve enjoyed them! Here’s to 50 more years!