Church Lady: Youth take over at St. Mark’s Sunday service

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church was energized at the May 3, Youth Sunday service. The worship service, under the caring eyes of helpful adults, was turned over to the children and youth. The altar, children, youth and many adult participants were dressed in tie-dye.

The St. Mark Youth Sunday tradition began four years ago when Fr. Kyle V. Bennett came to Marco Island to serve as rector. His then 12-year-old daughter suggested everyone dress in tie-dye. Before coming to Marco Island, Fr. Bennett had served at a church in Long Beach, Mississippi where 40 percent of the congregation was under the age of 16. He made a commitment to have St. Mark’s be representative of the entire island community.

Children were on hand to greet, hand out bulletins, and usher. The youth read the Lessons and Prayers, gave the Message, and assisted with Communion. The “Littles,” the name given to children ten and under, sang “Love Grows” complete with hand motions.

Youth leaders were on hand to play guitar. Three baptisms were also celebrated. After the service everyone was invited to the balloon festooned Parish Hall to enjoy some kid friendly food.

In place of the sermon, two high school graduating seniors, Danny Diaz and Madeleine Richie shared memories of growing up in St. Mark’s. Diaz spoke of mentors who guided him with his music and mission trips to a children’s home in the Dominican Republic and Camp Able, a camp for disabled children. He shared how a young boy came up to him as they were leaving the orphanage and said in English “I love you.”

“Before he said these three words I thought I understood what I was doing. I thought I knew the impact we were having on these kids but after hearing his ‘I love you.’ I really understood,” said Diaz. About Camp Able he said, “After attending this camp I came back with an appreciation for celebrating the ability of all people and not stress on disabilities.”

Richie spoke of the relationships she had developed with people in the church and her service at the altar with clergy during worship as an acolyte. She said, “St. Marks has been my good shepherd growing up.” She thanked church administrator Nan Moll for “keeping everyone and everything organized” and former Youth Group Leader Emily Maples who taught her that, “the Bible is more than a book.”

Church Senior Warden, Donna Blankman summed up the energy generated by Youth Sunday service, “To me this is the coming of the Holy Spirit. I know this isn’t Pentecost, but it is inspiring to see all generations participating at all levels. We are just blessed with all these families.”

On hand to oversee and organize the Youth Sunday was Peggy Totten, the church’s new Youth Minister. Totten originally, from Wisconsin has a BA in History and Geography from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and is certified to teach from preschool to high school.

Totten is married to Golden Apple winner Shane Totten, who teaches art at Marco Island Charter School. Shane has also joined the ministry and will serve as a Youth Leader and guitar player for the services. Fr. Bennett looks forward to collaborating with Shane and the youth as they write and record Christian songs. The Totten’s have three children, Elliott ten, Julian six, and Helen two. Peggy has taught all levels from pre-kindergarten to high school as well as adult education classes. An avid traveler, she studied abroad in Poland, and has lived and taught in New Zealand, Alaska, Wisconsin, as well as, Florida. She loves to experience new cultures, read, cook, bake, do yoga, run, camp, and hike. In her spare time she gardens and cares for her tropical fruit trees. She also plays the flute and mandolin.

Totten said, “The middle and high school students are smart, energetic, and have so much to offer this church, the Island, and the world around them. I am exited to help the program grow and to spend time with them adventuring and serving others. I also love seeing all the youngsters growing up in the church and look forward to having them as part of the Youth Ministry program in the near future.”

She continued, “I hope to have the youth group grow in size and experience. We hope to have many opportunities for the youth to be adventurous by going camping, hiking, receiving their SCUBA diving training, going kayaking, etc. We also hope to plan trips that incorporate service to others around the country and here on the Island, including Camp Able. I also hope to be a guide for the youth as they grow on their spiritual journey toward Christ.”

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