Local teens find religion at Converge

A large number of Cleveland Heights teens have been spotted going to church recently. Without their parents. Just by themselves.

Thanks to leaders and young people from more than a dozen churches in Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, Mayfield Heights and surrounding areas, teens now have their own worship service. It’s called Converge.

The brainchild of Otte, youth director for Forest Hill Church, Presbyterian in Cleveland Heights, Converge is geared for teens, with a full band and a relevant message for young people.

Married to Brian Otte, a worship leader for Mayfield Church in Chesterland, Kristen Otte was intrigued by the idea of drawing teens from a variety of denominations. In August, she e-mailed area churches looking for signs of interest in a community youth service. Bruce Becker from Mayfield Church, Curt Campbell from Church of the Saviour, and Jae Williams from First Baptist were the first to respond.

Together they designed a service with lots of “non-church” music and songs wrapped around a meet-and-greet time, announcements, and a message addressing issues affecting teens.

Other churches soon came on board: Church of the Covenant, Church of the Redeemer, Church of the Western Reserve, Fairmount Presbyterian, First Presbyterian Willoughby, Grace Lutheran, Hope Lutheran, Lyndhurst Community Presbyterian, Noble Road Presbyterian, and South Euclid-Hillcrest United Methodist.

According to Otte, Converge has surpassed its goal of drawing at least 40 young people to each service. The kick-off service in November drew a mixture of more than 100 teens and curious adults, with 65 young people attending in December and 75 in January.

Converge meets in the Spahr Center of the centrally located First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland. Visitors will find groups of kids talking, laughing and munching on cookies under colored lights and huge hanging umbrellas.

What you won’t find are pews, ushers, choirs, pulpits or offering plates. “We don’t ask for money,” Otte said. “We encourage the kids to support their home churches with whatever cash they can.”

Instead of cash, Converge collects donated items related to a monthly theme--itms the teens usually have at home. Canned goods donated at the first pre-Thanksgiving service were given to local food pantries. Stuffed animals collected in December went to the Cleveland Christian Home. More than 200 children’s books collected in January were donated to a local school.

At the Feb. 12 service, Converge will collect socks for the homeless. Mayfield’s Bruce Becker will lead a message on the topic of “One Life.”

The Converge band features worship leader Brian Otte on acoustic guitar and vocals, Gabe Wright on electric guitar, Bryan Javorek on bass, Abbey Calevich on vocals, Bryce Schill on drums, and Rebecca Sulzer on keyboard.

Converge meets on the second Sunday of each month, at 7 p.m., at First Baptist Church, 3630 Fairmount Blvd. Dates for the next three months are Feb. 12, March 11, and, for Easter, April 15. For more information, go to the Converge website at www.facebook.com/convergeworship, or send an e-mail to kristeno@fhcpresb.org.

Peg Weissbrod

Peg Weissbrod is a freelance writer and publicity coordinator/webmaster for Forest Hill Church in Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 5, Issue 2, Posted 12:21 PM, 01.31.2012