In mid-March when many activities were already on the spring break schedule, additional modifications were made to follow recommendations to avoid gatherings of groups of 10 or more individuals among our residential youth due to COVID-19.
Since we weren’t able to hold our weekly Chapel service open to all youth and staff, Chaplain Gay King Crede was proactive in offering the Chapel at the Spiritual Life Center as an alternative location to alleviate space limitations at the Residential Treatment Center, the Noel Education Center and Henson Gymnasium. But that didn’t stop her from providing spiritual services and programming.
Throughout our history, spiritual nurturing for our youth and staff has been an integral part of our provision of care. Chaplain Gay provides support and leadership during times of celebration as well as during times of crisis. Participation in spiritual services—like weekly chapel, vacation bible school and bible study and staff devotions—is optional and tailored to the unique needs of our staff and kids.
"Although it may look different, our spiritual programming can be activities which are a source of stability and consistency during uncertain times," she said.
For our youth ages 10 to 14 years, Chaplain Gay has been providing "Faith and Fun" sessions which center around faith lessons incorporated into a physical activity:
The Weight of our Sins
Youth carried water bottles representing their feelings/sins about mean, hateful and hurtful things they said or did and feel bad or guilty about, while also trying to make a basket in a mini-hoop.
What they learned is when we carry our guilt around with us it weighs us down. Over time it gets in the way of us doing good things in life.
The good news is God loves us and wants us to be free from sin and guilt so we can live our lives with joy.
God Pushes Evil Away
Chaplain Gay poured some water onto a paper plate. Youth then shook pepper onto the middle of the plate. When they stuck a finger into the pepper on the plate, it clung to their finger. Each youth then dried their finger and Chaplain Gay put a dab of dish soap on it. When they put their finger back into the pepper, it shot to the outside edge of the plate.
Pins and Sins
Two bowls were on a table. One was empty while the other was full of rice and closed safety pins. Youth were blindfolded and had to transfer the rice from one bowl to another without getting any pins.
What our kids learned from this activity was that while it looks easy to do, it’s not because the pins feel a lot like the rice. In our lives we have to be very careful not to pick up bad habits. We have to pay attention to the things going on around us and avoid saying or doing things that could hurt us and others.
What they learned is that God is like soap. He helps us push the bad thoughts and our bad behaviors out of our lives. The more time we spend with God, the less time bad thoughts and ideas stick to us.
Coffee and Conversation
For our high schoolers living in the girls and boys group homes, programming has been simpler but just as effective:
Our young people made a trip to the chapel, chose a special flavored decaffeinated coffee and watched a short faith-related video. Together, they discussed their reactions to the message in the video, sharing fellowship with their peers and enjoying a good cup of java!
Movies in the Chapel
Our Chapel also has the largest screen on campus and we are fortunate to have a projector, which is the perfect set-up for movie nights. Youth have come over in their pajamas and comfy clothes, wrapped up in quilts and enjoyed a faith-based feature. So far, Chaplain has offered showings of A Perfect Game, Chasing Mavericks and Soul Surfer.
Chaplain Gay continues to work with Cunningham’s Special Therapies Team and Residential Staff in providing interactive and engaging programming for the spiritual needs of our youth, but also to help them have fun!