The end of May and June seem to be weeks and days filled with transition. For high school students this means closing the door on high school, saying goodbye to friends—some of whom they have known since early childhood—and making plans and decisions for adulthood. A number of years ago, as we contemplated our own children growing up, we began to think of how Newberg Friends has been so supportive of both of our families over the course of many years. We both have children who were dedicated as babies and children here at NFC.
At these baby dedications we as a congregation agree to help support and nurture our children as they grow up. We do this in so many ways. We pray for them and their parents, speak encouragement to the parents, give baby items, and help with adoption funding. We serve in the nursery, Sunday school, Godly Play, VBS, Bible Quizzing, youth group, and as NWYM Samuel School “Elis.” We help fund camp scholarships and participate in the camp programs as well as mission trips. We support their activities—attend, take pictures, donate to their school’s jog-a-thons, and buy fund-raiser “stuff.” We agree to notice the children, greet them, and listen. We agree to keep them safe. We supply treats—lots of treats!
We began to wonder if there was some way that we as a church could express our support and appreciation of our high school students and celebrate with them as they move on to the next chapter of their lives after high school. This reflecting led to the idea of a “Senior Salute,” a time for high school seniors to gather with their families and larger church family for a time of blessing and celebration.
For the past ten years we have been gathering on a Sunday evening toward the end of May. It seems good that, for most, this is the first of many celebrations that will occur as they move on from high school. Senior Salute has become a time of recognizing those graduating from high school and sending them off with a reminder that they are loved by their church family. Some would say that the special desserts are one of the highlights of the evening. For many, one of the favorite parts of the evening is the slide show made up of pictures of each graduating student. From baby pictures to senior pictures there are laughter and a few tears as we remember together God’s faithfulness and how fast these years have gone by. The festive atmosphere includes a time of worship through music and a time of listening to words of encouragement and challenge spoken from an adult who was part of NFC youth groups during their high school years. At some point in the evening, all of the seniors gather in the middle of the room and prayers of blessing are prayed over them.
Even though the seniors may not be attending NFC after they graduate from high school, through this event we can communicate continuing support of our kids as they move on. We hope it serves as a reminder that no matter where they go or what they do, NFC and the family here will always welcome them home. Whether they come back to stay or just to visit, we want them to bring their ideas, joys, struggles, challenges, hopes, and pain—whatever it is, we want to always be a place where they know they are welcome, accepted, and loved.