I was once again astounded by the awesomeness of young people today.
A 17yr old lad who was a Christian sadly lost his life in a tragic swimming accident this week. I had never met him but he had been to diocesan events in the past (before my time) and was known by at least one of our youth council who invited me to join the facebook group in his memory. From Monday to today the group grew to over 750 members with over 150 wall posts, a video and over 70 photos. They also organised their own commemoration today at places of significance to them. 80 confirmed they would attend and then today there were many more who came along. I got a few other adult Christian types to come along with me and we stood (somewhat awkwardly) at a reverent distance from a large number of young people who had decided their own way to mark this lad's death. There were flowers and candles, messages, exchanges of stories about the fun they'd had together and even some music - Blink 182 from a digital device & a few things on guitar.
We had tooled ourselves up with packs of tissues and passed through the crowd offering them where we thought they might be needed without intruding on what was very much THEIR time. There were times of quiet, times of chatter and even laughter and of course times of tears. I think my favourite moment was when one of them shouted "right everyone shut up a minute!" it was so much more direct than adult church would be and it worked. the quiet gave way to the sound of a guitar and some girls singing.
We as adults made it known we were there. Even though the young people clearly supported each other, I think my colleague put it right that our presence was still impotant.
We're offering a similar presence for young people at the funeral which is due to be at the cathedral. We're again offering copious supplies of tissues, some squash and a space for those who might find the funeral service too much or the too out of their usual experience.
I found myself reflecting on how I had tried to makes saggestions of Bible passages and offered a memory book and some bubbles for people to blow in commemoration to the young person I did know. When it got to the large group of young people it was so clearly for them to decide what they did. I took that step back. I don't know how much of what I offered they actually used and in a way it doesn't even matter. I think I would still offer the same in future but be equally happy for my suggestions to be recevied with thanks but left unused. Grieving is such a personal process and I think often all we can do is offer our presence with those in mourning.
These are the times when there is no need for words. Words in fact would be too much. Presence and the gentle offering of a tissue said so much more about the Gospel than a theological explanation of salvation could ever have done today. Perhaps that true in many situations.