May seems to be a long-awaited month for many, with graduations, vacations, and anticipations of what summer will hold. This is especially true for Glenn's graduating seniors as they get ready to embark on new journeys. But as they look toward something new, they are also given the space to look back. Once a year the youth lead worship and give the graduating seniors time in the service to reflect on their time at Glenn.
Ellie McQuaig will be one of the seniors to speak during Youth Sunday this year. Graduating from Druid Hills High School and heading to UGA this Fall, Ellie has been a constant and faithful member of Glenn Youth. Read our interview with her for a taste of what these remarkable seniors will share this Sunday.
1. Tell us about your very first experience with Glenn Youth, your entry point. What did this community feel like to you?
I don't actually remember much at all about my first Glenn Youth experience. I know that it was the Youth Kickoff in August 2009, but I don't recall any details. One very important memory that I do have is from December 2008. I was a shepherd in the Christmas Eve service, along with youth minister at the time Elizabeth Lobello. My family didn't attend Glenn often during my fourth and fifth grade years, so I didn't really have any close friends here. Lobello totally talked up the youth group and got me very excited about joining. I remember how sad I was when I found out she was leaving. I didn't know Josh at all, and I had no clue who this Blair person was. Blair, of course, has become one of the most important people in my life.
2. Just like every church, Glenn us full of beloved traditions. What is your favorite one?
Wow. I have to pick one? I guess I would have to say the 11:00 p.m. service on Christmas Eve. If you've never been before, the service begins with the combined youth choirs & alumni singing "Still, Still, Still." It's a beautiful, peaceful service that really makes you think about what it means that God sent God's son to be born for us. The Chamber Choir always sings beautiful music, and some of my favorites of Alice's sermons have been those from this service.
3. You’ve been a very active member of Glenn Youth, serving as a leader and role model for others. Who was your role model when you were a younger member of the Youth group?
Easy. Kathryn Mase and Katie Boice. Kathryn and Katie were two integral members of the senior high youth group when I was in middle school. Besides the fact that they're both talented singers, they're fabulous people as well. Though they were four and five years older than me, they always made me feel like an important member of the group, and I've always considered them friends rather than "scary older kids." I hope that I've been able to do for some younger members of the youth group what they did for me.
4. This is a heady question, get ready: how has your understanding of God morphed and reshaped itself over the years? What experiences played a role in that process?
I saved this question for last because I knew it would take me a while. I think that when I first came into the youth group, I was still believing in God because that's what I had always been told was correct. But now, nearly seven years later, having been through some really difficult things, I can say that I believe in God because I have seen what God can do. I have felt God's hands pushing me to do things that may seem out of my comfort zone. I have felt God's touch in my heart when I've felt alone, but also when I've known that my community is behind me. Knowing that there is a God and truly experiencing God are two very different things. I have seen God's love in the people here and the people I've met in different places on mission trips and choir tours. I've seen God's handiwork in the places I've visited. I truly believe that if you look hard enough, you can find God anywhere at anytime, but God is very, very easy to find at Glenn.
5. You’ve spoken openly about your call to ministry and desire to begin seminary and the ordination process after college. How did this church provide a space for you to discover that in yourself?
The first time I had the opportunity to preach it was at our Youth Advent service when I was a sophomore. It kind of happened by accident. I was spearheading the planning of the service, and we first asked all of the seniors if they wanted to preach. None of them wanted to. We then asked all of the juniors. None of them wanted to either. So I said I'd do it. Even though I knew that preaching might be part of my future, I was completely terrified. I got through it though, and Josh asked me to preach at the Gathering again that April, so I guess I did pretty well. Since that first sermon, I've preached four more times at the Gathering, once at the Youth Theological Initiative at Candler, and once at youth worship at Annual Conference. Besides my preaching opportunities, which have of course been a major part of living into my calling, I distinctly remember the first real conversation I ever had about my calling with Jessica Terrell and Cheryl Griffin one night on our choir tour to the Bahamas in 2012. Besides the actual preaching opportunities, the role models that I've had at Glenn, both in the clergy and in other adults, have been an integral part in me being able to discover who I am.
6. When you move away to college, a lot of stuff will get packed up with you. What “stuff” will you pack up from Glenn to take with you?
Well I wish that I could fit you all in my suitcase and take you with me. I'll only be an hour and a half away, but since I won't be here every week, here are some things I'll take with me.
- the laughter of Cheryl Griffin and Alice Rogers. You can always tell when something is funny from across the room, and often you can't help but chuckle even if you have no idea what's going on.
- I fully intend to take the joy I've gotten from singing at Glenn. I started out in Mary Lindsey Lewis's Cherub Choir, made it all the way up through the Chapel Choir and have even done a bit of time in the Chancel Choir. Wes Griffin recently told me that if I don't sing in college he would be very disappointed in me, and I can't think of many things worse than having Wes be disappointed in me.
- I wish I could take Geoffrey Setnor with me, but I don't know that Blair and Shane would be ok with that. Also I don't know that I would ever get anything productive done. I've been lucky enough to be trusted with babysitting Geoffrey many times, and he and I have quite a bond. There's something really special about getting to hang out with someone who's biggest joy is playing with a ball.
- I'll take the memories that I have of the summer that I went to Summer Supper Groups with Susan Pinson. Too many of the people in that group are no longer with us - Mary Tierney, Frank Asbury, Hugh and Dot Joyner, Marian Travis - but they of course have gone to be with God. The stories they told and the lessons they taught were some of the most funny and most important things I've learned.
- I'll take the accepting attitude of the youth group that I've been so lucky to be a part of. There is no place where I have felt more comfortable being my true, authentic self, and I am so thankful for the leadership of Josh, Blair, Phil, Lauren, Travis, Andrea, and Stewart.
Really, like I said, I wish I could just pack Glenn up and take everything about it with me wherever I go for the rest of my life. Obviously that's not an option, but I know that the lessons I've learned, the experiences I've had, and the people I know and love will truly be with me in my heart for the rest of my life.