I spent last Tuesday driving from mall to mall in search of Harry Potter merchandise. I found Hufflepuff everywhere, occasionally a Ravenclaw shirt, but seldom anything Gryffindor or Slytherin in any size I needed. The All Souls High School Youth are leading this Sunday’s service on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets so we wanted to be unified by all of us wearing our house shirts. I grabbed several shirts everywhere I went, and I was joyful to hear from the cashier that there was a sale. Hooray!
At every mall, I was asked why I was buying so many Harry Potter shirts, and I would briefly explain the high school youth service at church. Every time, the young cashier, around my age, said, “They let you talk about Harry Potter in church?” I forgot how bizarre that sounds to someone who is not familiar with Unitarian Universalist faith and ideals, even though I was raised in a conservative church where I was not allowed to wear or talk about Disney, because “that is for girls.”
That question was often followed by a story about how this person brought a Harry Potter book to church and it was then ripped out of their hands. They heard sermons and conversations urging parents to keep this profane material out of their homes and children’s hands. These young people shared with me openly that this divide between who they are, how they relate to the incredible story of Harry Potter, and the beliefs of the spiritual home they were in separated them from faith and caused them to hide who they are.
Children and youth are a blessing we are incredibly lucky to have in our congregation. Not only do our young people experience faith in a way that many of us adults have forgotten – physically and actively with ever-amounting curiosity – but our youth and children challenge us. Thought and methods move forward with society, and our youth have a gauge on that way better than I do. There are new words that people use to identify themselves with their community, different processes for self-reflection, and the desire for a real and authentic answer. I feel and experience this most around the youth. It is our responsibility to encourage and affirm their creativity, drive, and emotions.
All Souls does an annual high school youth service because we have much to learn from the younger members of our church. If we call ourselves “inquisitive minds,” then we should support and listen to the most inquisitive minds around us. Much like the people I met at the mall, our youth are enthusiastic and passionate about the Harry Potter series. This is personal for many of them, and I celebrate that youth and children in our congregation do not have to hide their reflections and messages on the series. Our youth are expecting us to show up, listen, and make sure they are heard. And it is an honor for us to have the opportunity to hear from some of the most progressive, hopeful, and strong souls in our congregation.
Robert Thompson, High School Youth Coordinator