August 6-7, 2010Friday and Saturday, August 6-7, 2010, saw 17 kids and teens - a record number - attend Saint John the Theologian Orthodox Church's third annual JOY Summer Sleep-over. "JOY" (Jesus, Others, You) is Saint John's church school program headed by Elaine Del Gigante and has seen attendance at this summer event grow from 11 just two years ago. A special and exciting draw for everyone this year was the visit and overnight stay by His Grace, Bishop +Michael, making his first visit to the parish as diocesan bishop.
Upon arriving at the church, His Grace was greeted by the children and parents in attendance with the joyous peeling of the "Russian Bells." The children then presented His Grace with hand-made cards and signs (and homemade cookies) welcoming him to the parish. The children enjoyed a few hours of outside activities, quite a few having to do with water -- to the delight and relief of many on such a hot day!
Dinner (pizza!) and evening prayers followed, with all readings and responses sung by the children. After dinner, evening activities centered on themes related to the day's Great Feast of the Transfiguration: all participated in a campfire on the church grounds, complete with guitars, singing, s'mores, and a few card tricks by the rector, Father Jonathan.
After a late night (try getting 17 kids to bed all at the same time!), all woke in the morning to waffles, beverages/coffee, and morning prayers. Some parting words and a last blessing from Bishop +Michael were received as His Grace left to attend another parish event elsewhere; everyone was very edified and grateful for His Grace's warmth and wisdom, and for the wonderful way he related to the children and for the obvious joy they seemed to take in his presence and participation. The children then spent the day making "Comfort Kits" for our soldiers overseas and for school supply kits for deserving schoolchildren here at home (oh, and somewhere in between all this, there were the motorbike rides around the parish field). Later, a blessing for pets and a final service of Great Vespers concluded the 2010 Sleep-over.
This has now become an event the children greatly look forward to, and many already told their parents not to make vacation plans next year during this time so they can attend next year's Sleep-over! New bonds of friendship and fellowship were formed, and existing ones were surely strengthened and deepened. Parents and clergy of the parish look forward to next year's event, with hopes and plans of an expanded program with day trips and a greater focus on parish life and Christian living for youth.