By Hannah Post
To describe SHINE as phenomenal, would simply be an understatement.
There seems to be a lexical gap finding the words to express the emotions, realisations, and encounters experienced within the short 24 hours of the 2018 SHINE Gathering.
Over seven hundred students from up and down our Diocese, converged together at St John Paul College to experience a real encounter with God. For a lot of students, it was a first. An experience like SHINE offers an encounter with God, that is beyond what is taught in Religion lessons. It offers a greater understanding of God that can only be grasped when in a personal relationship with Him.
The gathering was mostly for students in the Year 9 Ministry Classes. They were accompanied by student leaders ranging from year 10 to Year 12. Over the course of the two days, students participated in student tailored workshops, small group discussions, night rallies, keynote speakers and a chance to experience praise and worship. With our very own Wildfire, supported by Emmanuel Worship. The sense of community, across the schools, year groups and classes tied every SHINE attendee together like a little invisible string. There was an obvious anointing in this shared experience, it was like no other.
The moment in which I was captivated by His grace was during those minutes of adoration, during the night rally. It is truly something of pure, undiluted beauty being blessed with the chance to see so many young people, all in their own individualistic and distinctly personal ways, being still to sit in awe of our creator. There was no need for masks or false constructions of who you are, it was these moments of reprieve where each of us are joyfully permitted to be unashamed by our faults, authentically, unapologetically and simply, us.
The undeniable bravery of character these students possessed was something to be witnessed. How willing they were to surrender their doubts, questions, skepticism, and conflicts to the possibility of something greater than themselves but equally centered around parts of themselves which they potentially hadn’t opened up to the world before. To delve deeper into them as humans, to open and begin to understand who they truly are and laying it all in front of the Lord, asking for His direction.
In these moments, if I could be brazen enough to say I was certain of just one thing. That He was there in that moment. In the untainted and captivated awe in my friend Chelsea, in the outpouring of sorrow and reconciliation of the boy across the hall, the friendship of two friends brought to unexpected tears, the complete relinquishment of doubt of my friend Gus and the caged yet very alive curiosity of students who were experiencing this all for the first time.
At the commencement of the Friday, when my students were getting ready to board the bus back to Port Macquarie I had a handful of students from my Ministry Class come up to me and leave me with these words, “thank you so much for making us come to this, we are so glad we came, because now we want to stay in the Ministry Class next year just for SHINE!”
So my parting thoughts would be this. To all those who for them, this was their first taste of a living, breathing encounter with God – don’t let this simmer out to simply just a fond memory. Be brave enough to pursue your curiosity, seek understanding, question the things around you. You owe it to yourself.
Do it, take the plunge, even if you have doubts… especially if you have doubts.