Written by Kurt Fekete
The first thing the girls did was stake out their territory, flip the tables, and build their forts! Thus began the November SPLATz+ (Super-Powered Lovable Almost Teens) retreat at the Boston Church on the Hill (Boston Society of the New Jerusalem). Seven youth, aged ten to fifteen, gathered for the weekend to discuss and experience the topic of freedom. On Friday night, once the mattresses were inflated (we stayed on the floor of the church fellowship hall) and forts were complete, the youth played card games and drew silly pictures while waiting for everyone to arrive. Some youth traveled from as far away as New Jersey and even Philadelphia! Once we were all settled in, the girls in their forts and the boys behind the curtain on the stage, we went over rules and the schedule. We closed the evening with a short icebreaker where the youth named which animal in the world they thought was the most free.
Our three freedom topics of discussion were national, personal, and spiritual freedom. On Saturday morning, we discussed national freedom. We talked about liberty, our country, and reviewed the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence and the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Next, we discussed personal freedom. Each youth made a list of five things they are free to do, five things they are not free to do (like driving a car, because of age), and five things that they are free to do but feel are too dangerous. (Such as walk around certain areas at nighttime or picking mushrooms in the forest and eating them). They shared their favorites with the group, and we talked about laws and how they protect us but limit our freedom.
In the afternoon session, each youth wrote on the easel one thing that they would like to be free to do, today, right now in their life. Not surprisingly, some kids wanted unlimited use of their cell phone. One child wanted to stay up all night, every night, all the time! Next, the tweens and teens created miniature cloth personal freedom flags. They varied in representation, from the humorous, “free to go to 7-Eleven and get a slushie” flag, to the more serious, “until animals and humans live together in peace, I will never be free” flag. All of them came out beautifully.
We were blessed with absolutely gorgeous weather on Saturday afternoon with lots of sun and temperatures in the seventies! It was very hard to believe this was Boston in November. So, off we went to traverse the Freedom Trail. We saw lots of historical sites, like old State Houses, Paul Revere’s grave, the Old North Church, and the site of the Boston Massacre. We also visited Faneuil Hall and Christmas in Boston! It was such a beautiful day to just frolic outdoors and stroll around Boston Common.
Saturday evening after dinner, we talked about our spiritual freedom. We talked about how our church, the Swedenborgian Church, is a church of freedom where you choose your own heaven or hell. We learned that heaven and hell are not actually places, but states of mind. Our daily choices in our earthly life right here and now ultimately determine where and how we live in the next life. We have awesome responsibility and freedom. God wants us to be as happy as we can be and allows us to make our own decisions, whether good or evil. Although, Swedenborg writes in Divine Providence that we are not truly free in hell because, “Two kinds of freedom that are opposite to each other cannot both be true freedoms. Further, we cannot deny that being led by what is good is freedom and being led by what is evil is slavery.” After session, Rev. Kevin Baxter came in and took us up to the eighteenth floor rooftop to observe a fantastic nighttime view of the Boston skyline. Once back downstairs, we finished the evening with a couple of rounds of “Heads Up” and “Catchphrase” games. The girls merged their forts together into one big fort so that they could be together and “whisper” after hours (I did have to finally shush them), while the two boys, Nate and Ben, remained in residence on the stage area behind the curtain.
Sunday morning, we awoke early to the sound of chefs in the kitchen. They arrived early to cook turkeys along with an entire traditional Thanksgiving meal! We quickly got dressed, organized and cleaned up the hall and lounge areas, and ate breakfast. Then, we attended the lovely worship service on freedom led by Rev. Kevin which included listening to a magnificent professional choir. The SPLATz youth, led by Maudie, explained to the congregation how they spent their retreat weekend and then showed off their freedom flags. They also shared three quotes, two from the Bible and one from a famous leader that knows a little something about freedom and captivity. From 1 Corinthians 10:23–24, “We are free to do anything we want to do. Yes, but some things do not make people better. It is better if we do not do such things. A person must not think only of himself. But he should think of the other person as well.” From 1 Peter 2:15–17, “This is what God wants. Live as free men. But do not use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Live as servants of God. Show respect for all people. Love the brothers and sisters of God’s family. Respect God.” Lastly, we heard the words of Nelson Mandela, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
After worship we enjoyed the big turkey dinner in the fellowship hall, then packed up, hauled our stuff to the underground garage, and departed. A huge thank you to Beki Greenwood who helped plan and organize this retreat, purchased groceries, did all the cooking, and supervised the group. Without Beki, none of this wonderful experience could have or would have happened. Also, thank you to Rev. Kevin Baxter and the Boston church for their hospitality and the use of their building. New friendships were formed, existing friendships were strengthened, and special memories from this weekend of freedom were made that will remain for a very long time.
For information on the upcoming retreats, please see or the Youth League page.
Read the full issue of the December 2022 Messenger
Meet Kurt Fekete
Kurt Fekete has been the Youth Director for the Swedenborgian Church of North America for over twenty years. He also currently is serving as Vice President of the denomination.