The Christmas pageant at my church has been completely transformed since 2008, when I first came here. Then it was a children’s production, directed by a Children’s Music Director. Youth grudgingly participated, skulking down the center aisle as reluctant Josephs and Marys, a spectacle that, come to think of it, might have been completely appropriate.
Yesterday the congregation was treated to a second consecutive youth and children’s pageant entirely written by teenagers. It was thoughtful, funny, even irreverent. It featured an unforgettable mural sketched by one of the students (see above). Someone sang a parody of “Let It Go.”A kid shot silly string at the front row.
Women in the 80’s approached students afterwards in tears. Of joy.
A few things occur to me about where we’re at with this. First, teenagers writing and producing a pageant is not an inherently superior approach to the one in which a paid staff person marshals a bunch of children. This works now. In this place. With these youth. Years from now people may look back with nostalgia on this as how our pageant “used to be.” But who even knows if this approach will last even one more year? It was magic yesterday, and that’s enough.
And that magic came at a cost. There was plenty of tension and frustration during the writing and rehearsing. People are glad for it to be over, and that only signals to me that it was worthwhile and meaningful.
Youth were not on their own here; adults played very important roles in coaching and supporting the teens’ efforts, and the way we defined those roles is what I’m most curious about going forward. A paid “Artist in Residence” helped the youth with every aspect of the production. She deftly walked a thin line between honoring the teens’ vision and directing them. We wanted students to learn from her, and they clearly did.
For my part, getting to have a part in these students’ work was an honor, the weight of which only really hit me during the closing chorus of the production, when I couldn’t keep singing.Then I just took it in, took them in, immensely grateful for the time I’ve had with them.