Friends since preschool, college students pool talents to help local church

By Jessica Brodie

CHARLESTON—Two college students in Charleston have been heavily involved with their congregation since their youth group days, and since the pandemic, they’ve turned that help into a technological ministry that brings worship right into people’s homes.

Luke Shaw, a sophomore at the College of Charleston, and Lily Turner, a sophomore at Trident Technical, met in preschool at Asbury-St. James United Methodist Church. Shaw is the pastor’s son, and the two grew up in the church together, active in children’s ministry and later youth ministry. They both played an active role in Asbury-St. James’ outreach ministry, standing on street corners on hot summer days passing out water bottles and food bags to the homeless.

And when childhood ended and they shifted to college, they didn’t stop. When COVID-19 closed the church doors in spring 2020, they pooled their video, music, editing and technology talents to help take worship online, gathering early every Sunday morning to help the pastor and other worship leaders produce the service.

Turner plays the piano and Shaw, the mandolin, and Shaw would sing a bluegrass hymn at every service, which the pair recorded on their cell phones on a tripod then livestreamed so all could participate during a time when many could not gather safely indoors.

Today they still participate in the service, doing whatever is needed—still livestreaming, still providing music, still doing all they can to serve the Lord and their church with their time and their talents.

“Their presence has been vitally important in so many ways,” said the Rev. Tim Shaw. “In a world where young people and church are somewhat forgotten or just not as involved as maybe they could be, these two are involved in every aspect of ministry in this church, every single Sunday.”

Turner said her passion for church was ignited by her parents’ passion, but it sparked into a full flame when she joined the church choir in seventh grade and began to sing.

“It’s freeing, just being inside and singing and everyone having a like mind, and the environment felt really inviting and really secure,” said Turner, who plans after Trident Tech to pursue her bachelor’s in sports communications and broadcasting. “Whenever I stepped into the church, I felt invited, safe and secure, and at peace and at home, and I think that’s what kept me in and what still draws me in. I love how much love there is.”

In the spirit of that love, she does what she can to multiply it, not only singing and doing outreach but also serving as acolyte, praying over prayer requests, doing Scripture readings on Sunday mornings and more.

To those young people who feel shy about volunteering, or who maybe don’t know how to get involved, Turner advises, “I would say just ask. You don’t have to be involved with everybody looking at you—you can do prayer requests or other things. You don’t have to have all eyes on you. I still do get nervous sometimes with the readings and like being behind the camera, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating.”

As for Shaw, an English major, his own church involvement started as an extension of being the pastor’s son. He’d sit in the front row at church on Sunday mornings, then follow his dad down the aisle, so it was a natural part of his childhood.

But as he got older, around 14, he began to realize it wasn’t just a part of his family life but something he personally wanted to continue with.

“I went through confirmation about that time, and it was interesting to go out on my own and find my own beliefs within the Christian faith. I was able to find my own personal flame of passion and able to connect that to my dad’s teachings, and that continues to drive me to help out in the church today.”

Now, Shaw’s church involvement is a conscious choice.

“The more I found I loved it, the more driven I was to participate,” he said.

He does anything needed, from serving as acolyte, usher, greeter or communion assistant to providing worship music.

Echoing Turner’s advice for those who want to help but have jitters or just aren’t sure how to start, he said it’s OK to be afraid—but do it anyway.

“It’s OK to be nervous about things and not be so sure, but that’s life. The more you push yourself to try new things—attend that church service, attend Sunday school—the easier it becomes and more rewarding it becomes. There’s value is trying things, and church can be the missing piece for a lot of people.

“It can be as easy as reaching out to somebody with a pure intention of making them smile or give a bright spot in their day.”

Their pastor said the pair are a true blessing both to him and to the church as a whole.

“People today say young people aren’t as involved in church like they were back in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s,” the Rev. Tim Shaw said. “But Luke and Lily have been this great mainstay of ministry in this church and a constant presence since they were tots.

“I’m so proud of both of them.”

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