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Reverend George Gardner This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   When you're a teenager, you're exposedto many new things and have to decide what's right for you. Ihad so many questions and needed someone old enough to havethe wisdom I sought, yet still in touch with teenagers. When Iset foot in the sanctuary of College Hill United MethodistChurch (known as CHUM), I instinctively knew I would find thatguidance.

It was crowded that summer morning, with aspecial celebration for Independence Day. My family wassearching for a new church (our old one had closed), and I wasopposed to all the stale "old people" churches myparents had taken me to. But CHUM was different. The pastor,George Gardener, had a humorous approach to his service. Heunderstood that for people to sit for an hour, he had to keepthem entertained. His occasional joking told the congregationhe was one of us; being in the pulpit didn't make him aboveus.

After the first minutes of that service, my faithin organized religion was renewed. From George's sermon, Iknew CHUM was a rare place. It was a place where everyoneunderstood that individuality should bring us together, notdivide us. George had convinced the congregation that churchdoesn't have to be a rigid institution of unquestioned rulesand rituals, but a living, growing and constantly changingforce. He felt free to express his liberal views, and had thecourage to do things differently.

In Reverend GeorgeGardener, I finally found an adult who has both the authorityand the courage to enact a vision that many share, but fewcarry out. He often says the seven last words of a church are,"We've never done it that way before." This wasimportant to me because my biggest struggle with religion hadbeen that no one was willing to adapt it to today's needs. Andthen I saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

I stilldon't have all the answers, but now I know where to search.George Gardener is my hero because I've learned so much fromhim. He's taught me that, if you look hard enough, you willfind what you are looking for. George may be a grandfather,but he still is aware of today's issues. Finally, I've learnedat CHUM that everyone has the same questions, but will findtheir answers in different ways, and that's a good thing.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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