One of the blessings of our church community is that we take time to know each other, we often share when something really important or special has happened to somebody, and we celebrate! We believe that knowing each other is a good way to know God. And we believe that celebrating each other is a good way to celebrate God.

We celebrate with seven graduates this spring (five high school and two college). Many of our graduates grew up in this church. All were members of our youth program.

Mason Atkinson graduates from Longleaf School of the Arts.
Mason will attend Appalachian State University this fall. He’s frankly excited to go anywhere and plans to major in English with a minor in Film Studies. When asked for a favorite church memory, Mason remembers taking turns picking music, stopping for snacks, and enjoying the mountain scenery on road trips to camp.
Mason brings the spiritual energy of a gust of wind, a blast of inspiration that can spin us around in a new direction, and surprise us. He is refreshing, dynamic, transformative and fun.

Erik Burkhardt graduated from Sanderson High School and recently received his Eagle Scout, Erik will attend Western Carolina University in the fall, majoring in Natural Resources and Conversation. Erik remembers finding the most creative hiding spots when playing “sardines” at lock-ins.
Erik brings the spiritual energy of a cool breeze. He relieves, delights, and refreshes. He is like a breeze that indicates fall is coming and it must be time for a campfire, and he can start that campfire with just one match and can keep it going in a seemingly effortless way.

Xavier Jackson graduates from Western Harnett High School.
In addition to school work Xavier excelled in athletics. He was All Conference Player and Defensive MVP in football and a State Qualifier in wrestling. He is attending college and is still deciding who will get to benefit from his enrollment.
Xavier most fondly remembers going to BYC and meeting new people.
Xavier brings the spiritual energy of a warm breeze. His smile instantly warms our circle and comforts us every time. He is incredibly perceptive – and is able to shift his energy as needed for the sake of yourself and others. Xavier’s energy invites our hearts to soften and brings the hope that easy summer days are coming.

Jake Langenderfer graduates with an International Baccalaureate diploma from Needham Broughton High School.
His honors include National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, and a four year unweighted GPA of 4.0. Jake will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His major is undecided but he will minor in Spanish for Business.
Jake’s favorite memories lie somewhere between walking back from the beach at night while on retreat and stopping to watch someone else’s TV from our beach walkway, to sitting in the youth room talking about God.
Jake, brings the spiritual energy of a steady wind, the kind of reliable, stable, constant, and continual wind needed to chart a course and get directly there. His questions help us all to gain clarity, his wit and keen sense of humor keep us going through the storms. He brought his family to CUCC and he keeps ‘em coming. His internship with us has provided much needed support during this pandemic year.

Ella Powell graduates from Enloe High School.
Ella served as the Vice President of the Drama Club and had the lead role in the school musical this year. Ella will continue working with Raleigh Department of Parks and Recreation throughout the summer then will begin attending school at Appalachian State University this fall. Ella remembers our first youth group beach retreat and still talks about all the cheese puffs we ate on that trip.
Ella brings the spiritual energy of gale winds. Her passion and commitment to justice is a powerful change making energy. She feels deeply, and cares deeply, and puts her convictions into strong action. She calls others to join her in keeping pressure on places in the world that need transformation. She’s learned and has helped us to calm our inner storms in order to bring on strong winds of change. Her impressive sense of humor shifts the air in the room, breaks tension, and brings sheer delight.

Our graduates have blessed us with their presence and we are changed by their involvement here at CUCC. We look forward to hearing what gifts they will bring to the world next.

Each youth received a spiritual tool kit to remind them of all they’ve experienced in our time together. It includes prayer beads, a journal, colored pencils, pens and a paper labyrinth.

Erin Kiel (a steady wind like Jake) graduated with a 4 year nursing degree from UNC Greensboro with international honors and as a member of the Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Academic Excellence Association. She and her husband Josh will be leaving this August to spend a year in Scotland. While Josh attends the University of St Andrew’s, Erin will work as a nurse at a local clinic.

Julia Langenderfer (a warm breeze like Xavier) graduated with a B.A., in English, and a minor in Theater from Meredith College. Still considering her post-graduate options
Graduates, we pray that you will trust in God and in your upbringing to guide you through both the wonderful and the difficult times ahead, and remember that
Holy Spirit, we are thankful that you are always with us. We love being part of a church that knows each other well and celebrates together. We’re grateful for the friends we have here and for the memories, and the experiences we’ve had. May they too be the tools that remind us that you are always in us and among us. Thank you for these graduates and for all that we have shared. May they remember that Community United Church of Christ will always be a home for them. As Christ is in our hearts, we, too, are in each other’s hearts. Their journey may take them to far away places, but a part of them stays with us just as a part of us goes with each of them. Amen.