A participant in the first Duke Youth Academy in 2001, UNC sophomore Anna MacDonald returned last summer to serve as a residential advisor, or RA. Here’s her account of what had changed—and what remained—when a diverse group of teens gathered at Duke last July to explore the community of Christ.
Sunday, July 13
The kids have arrived and are finally settled in for the night. Check-in was a whirlwind of new names and faces. As a student, I remember the first day as uncomfortable. . . . I’m sure some, if not most, feel the same, but now from a staff point of view I can observe. [I] already see kids venturing out of their shells to meet roommates, mentors and other staff. We are brothers and sisters in Christ even though we don’t know each others’ names. I think the kids are reassured by this common bond, and it encourages them to initiate genuine conversations more comfortably.
Monday, July 14
RA’ing isn’t that bad, but I hate lights out and having to come across as the bad guy. Hopefully they’ll appreciate the sleep they wouldn’t otherwise get.
I sat in on the first plenary today. I re-realized that DYA provides a unique space, an intellectual safe zone. The conversations kids have and the questions they ask are so incredibly uncommon. It’s pretty awesome to hear such intellectual, unafraid dialogue – 36 hours after we all met. The community of Christ probably isn’t a hot topic of conversation in most of their lives, but at DYA, it’s the main focus of thought and debate.
Tuesday, July 15
After dinner and a pretty intense game of Frisbee tennis, we had worship in York Chapel. The music was incredible. Songs are sung with true sincerity, student-led reading of the Scripture is enthusiastic, and there is a true joy at the opportunity to pass the peace of Jesus Christ. As time goes on, I suspect the passing of the peace will continue to get longer and longer.
Wednesday, July 16
Worship again was awesome. The different styles and preachers are really opening some of the kids’ eyes to faith practices they didn’t know existed. Daily worship, in addition to two-hour plenaries, and an hour of talking, debating, and sorting through with the kids’ mentor groups, is intellectually exhausting. Exciting, but exhausting.
In the short span of two weeks, it’s almost as if these kids must master a foreign language (theology), interpret and understand it, and apply it to their lives. It’s hard work to say the least. Most ideas challenge many cultural constructs that have become ingrained in all of us, whether we recognize it or not.
For instance, the sense of Christian community—formed and enlarged by baptism and Eucharist—flies
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