by Andrea Meier
From an interview by Andrea Meier, director of communications, of Trey Al-Uqdah, a graduating high school parishioner at St. John the Divine
Q: How long have you been a part of St. John the Divine?
Trey: I’ve been at St. John the Divine since birth. I was baptized here, and we’ve continued going to church here since then.
Q: What is your first memory here?
Trey: My first memory here was in the preschool after-church care, just playing with the other kids. I remember someone reading me a book. I’m not quite sure who it was, but I remember getting along with the kids and having a good time.
Q: What experiences stand out from your time here?
Trey: There have been a bunch that I really enjoyed. I started out teaching Sunday school at the church around fifth grade, and then I moved to acolyting, and then to different volunteer work like Taco Tuesdays with the youth over the summers and Dan Gannon’s Scoop Group where you can volunteer with kids. The church has a lot of opportunities for kids, which I’ve really enjoyed while going here, and they’ve all been wonderful.
Q: It sounds like you are passionate about working with kids and youth here?
Trey: It’s really what I enjoy the most. I get along with the kids the best. I feel like I can speak to them, and I think they’re very enjoyable to work with.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory of growing up here?
Trey: One of my favorite memories was as an acolyte captain. I got my new group, and normally you get one or two people who have been acolyting with you and are senior acolytes, but I got all new acolytes on my team.
Normally before the gospel procession, we have to re-huddle and make sure everyone knows their roles, and that no one has forgotten between Sundays. One Sunday we forgot to re- huddle, and they just did it right, and it felt great because I could see they knew what they were doing and were now completing it on their own. That was a great feeling.
Q: It sounds like acolyting has been an important leadership opportunity for you. Are there other leadership opportunities or lessons you have received from the church in particular?
Trey: Yes – acolytes for sure. Dan Gannon’s Scoop Group has been a good leadership opportunity, as well as leading Sunday school. In my freshman and sophomore years, another student from SJD, Brady Puckett, and I led a Sunday school class for Tweens. The entire Tween class would meet in a big room first and the adult teachers would give the lesson, then Brady and I would take the male Tweens to a separate room to go over the lesson together and then play games.
The biggest leadership lesson I learned was from when I was a younger acolyte. My acolyte leader told me that no one knows exactly what’s happening as an acolyte, no one knows the exact procedure. So, if you mess up, you just keep going. I think that’s a great lesson because a lot of times you can apply that with different areas in your life. I use it in school presentations - if I misspeak or something goes wrong, I just keep going.
Q: How has growing up at St. John the Divine influenced your faith?
Trey: At first, I really didn’t enjoy going to church because when I was young, I didn’t understand what it was. But as I’ve gotten older, I see the value in it. More so than just going to church, I really enjoy the people around me at church. I love the community here. The big thing I’ve learned is if you engage more with the church, you enjoy it more because you get to know the people. Every Sunday you see familiar faces. Growing up at the church has made my faith a big part of my life. My relationship with God is something I can rely on. My parents are helping me look for churches in Chicago for when I attend the University of Chicago in the fall. Aside from my relationship with God, which is obviously the important part, St. John the Divine is the community I can fall back on ... I feel like the community is incredible.
Q: What do you want families to know about ‘Growing Up SJD’?
Trey: I’d encourage them to interact with the community. I believe I started out by going to Sunday school, which I thought was fine even though I mostly forgot what happened in it. But I ended up leading a Sunday school class, and I found that much more engaging. So, once you start to engage the community, you want to engage more, and you meet different people.
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