Uniting in support of youth

Published 9:39 am Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The free Community Back-to-School Worship event at Victoria Railroad Park on Sunday drew more participation in its second year from churches around the county.

JoAnne Baldwin, of Victoria Christian Church, helped plan the inaugural edition of the event last year, and Sunday, she noted it was born out of a desire

to create something for the youth of the community, “to let them know that we support them.”

She said the support comes through prayer and through a message delivered at the event from a teenager, a peer.

Baldwin’s daughter, Alissa, helped with the planning and was pleased to see more collaboration this year.

“More churches partnered with us this year, which was good, instead of it being like one church and then inviting the other members of the community,” she said. “More churches were involved from the get-go with the planning to make it a more countywide event, which is nice.”

The list of the churches that were represented Sunday included Victoria Christian, Victoria United Methodist Church (UMC), Kenbridge UMC, Victoria Baptist Church, Victoria Church of the Nazarene, Kenbridge Baptist Church and Kenbridge Christian Church.

Melissa Johnson, of Victoria UMC, helped the Baldwins with planning the event this year after having attended it last year.

She said the occasion was created “just for everybody to come together as a community. Rather than separate churches, just come together as a community as a whole and kick off the new school year with a worship event and keep us all centered on Christ…”

Johnson added that it was also about “letting youth share their talents and get up there and give them speaking opportunities to share their testimony and just get out there to the people who might not come to events at a church.”

Her son, Matthew Johnson, a rising junior at Central High School, gave a testimony to the approximately 50 to 60 people in attendance Sunday, telling of some of his past struggles and how he overcame them.

“I don’t talk in front of people, so it was a little nerve-racking,” he said afterward. “… But I think it was a good thing to do.”

After Johnson spoke, Gabrielle Aubel, also a rising junior, contributed to the event by singing.

Those in attendance also enjoyed food, lawn games, prizes handed out through a drawing and music from the band New Project, which featured members who attended Carter Music & Art School in Cartersville.

Pausing from playing cornhole with some of the young people present Sunday, Michael Lacks said he thought the event is simply a good opportunity for churches to gather as a community.

“And we can get the children together, they can interact with each other,” he said. “We can pray for them as far as the school year is concerned, and it’s just a good time to get together and show everybody that we support each other. So many times I think, in churches especially, we get in our own little church. We’re all the body of Christ, so when we get together like this, I think it shows a unity that is good for the community.”

Matthew Johnson noted that for young people, the event helps them switch their focus from fun and leisure to work.

“It brings kids together after the summer,” he said. “They’ve basically been going to the beach and all this, and it just brings them together to get the aspect that they’re going back to school and to get that mindset that, ‘I have to perform in school now.’”