From Monday, June 9th through Sunday, June 23rd my husband and I joined a group of pilgrims from the Episcopal Church in Connecticut to visit our Holy Land for the first time. I use the word “our” because it is a land that belongs to all of God’s people. While I have been home (a bit jet-lagged) for four days now, I am still coming to grips in my mind what I experienced and what I am going to do about it.
My expectations were simple: I wanted to walk in the places where Jesus and other people from scripture had been. I wanted this to be something other than a vacation to another part of the world, especially since we’ve travelled so much abroad in recent years. My expectations were rewarded, but they were also challenged, enlightened, troubled, comforted, and so much more. I went as an American Christian from the Episcopal tradition who happens to be from Connecticut and is a Christian educator. I returned the same, but different; more cognizant of the rights I have as an American citizen and a person who can freely worship (as well as travel) anywhere I choose. Not so for most of the people who call Israel/Palestine home. Jerusalem could be called the “center of the universe” for many faith traditions. Whose land is it? It’s complicated.
The Christian Century is the only magazine that I continue to subscribe to via snail mail. Another words – it’s a paper magazine I get delivered by the mailman every other week. I don’t always read ALL of the articles, but I enjoy reading the “faith” news, snippets, lectionary reflections, editorials and several of the regular contributors. I also follow CC on Facebook, which alerts me to articles that will be coming soon.
Today I got such a sneak-preview of an article that I think many of you involved in ministry with children – as a parent or teacher – will be interested in.
The simple fact is that the Bible is not a book fit for children, neither in its unsavory parts—murders, rapes, genocides, betrayals, mauling by wild animals, curses, divine retribution and apocalyptic horrors—nor in many of its neutral or even uplifting parts, including statutes and ordinances, proverbs, genealogies, geographies, prophecies, censuses and pretty much all of the epistles. It’s no surprise that most of these sections get dropped from children’s versions altogether, though at some point we may begin to wonder with what justification they still call themselves Bibles. Scripture is definitely something to ease the little ones into, not drop them in cold. So what’s the best way to go about it?
I’ve written and shared numerous articles and other people’s blog on how to choose a bible to use with children. And how to be truthful in sharing biblical stories – not candy coating them. I don’t agree with everything stated in it, but it will get you thinking, for sure. Read this great article here – and think about subscribing to The Christian Century!
I recently posted an article on Building Faith regarding the importance of teaching hymns and church music to children as a means to teach faith while creating memories that last a lifetime. (Building Faith is the new on-line community that I administer, which is probably why my postings on this site have diminished in recent months). For many of us, the Christmas season brings back lots of memories, and they are often triggered by music. Music brings us together and can create instant community; the recent flash mob in the mall in Philadelphia singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus has been a YouTube and Facebook phenomena.
This past Sunday my congregation held its annual Service of Lessons and Carols. We listened to the readings of the prophets as well as God’s announcements to Mary and Elizabeth. The church was filled as together we sung familiar hymns such as O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. The choir was was comprised of voices of all ages, some perhaps singing songs just learned and others singing ones learned long ago. My parents attended with us – and yes, my Alzheimer-stricken mom was singing away. Sometimes with the words – but definitely la-la-ing in her falsetto right on key. Music is a memory that stays with us.
The previous week my parents were at our home for the usual Wednesday night dinner. I don’t remember what our conversation was about; probably joking and talking about when grandchildren would be home for the holidays. Suddenly my mom began singing, I Love to Tell the Story.
Now this hymn was not part of my childhood repertoire and I did not learn it until I was an adult involved in Christian education. It’s not even in Hymnal 1982. (However, it is in Lift Every Voice and Sing II: An African American Hymnal for the Episcopal Church.) The hymn had its first impact on me at a ground-breaking Episcopal Christian Ed conference in 2003 in which I participated as part of the design and implementation team – Will Our Faith Have Children? Christian Formation Generation to Generation – in Chicago. Bishop Michael Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina was keynoting, and sang the song with a passion. I can still picturing him bouncing around the stage, his Bible (or Prayer Book) held high in his hand. The importance of being able to share the Christian story – the story of Jesus and His love for us – is at the core of what it means to pass on faith to the next generation.
Jump ahead 10 years, and my mom’s singing this song at my dining room table. We never knew she knew it. She was adamant that she learned it in Sunday School . . . the tiny Baptist chapel she walked to in her neighborhood (that part was from my memory of her stories from my childhood). The chapel still stands today in our town, now someone’s home. Whether it be Away in a Manger or Hark the Herald Angels Sing, wouldn’t we rather have our children sing these songs to the next generation instead of Jingle Bells or Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer?
How do you love to tell The Story?
How are we teaching our children hymns of their faith that will remain with them when we have long been gone?
But the child’s sob in the silence curses deeper than the strong man in his wrath. Elizabeth Barrett Browning
It’s a troubling phenomenon: several gay teens have killed themselves in recent weeks after being harassed because of their sexuality. They were bullied. They were not accepted for who they were – children of God. As people of faith we are called to speak out against those who use their self-proclaimed power to intimidate, condemn, and belittle others. And it is important that we teach our children (of all ages) to respect others as Christ modeled in welcoming the stranger and embracing the outcast.
Our churches need to be safe places for adults, teens and children to learn how to practice tolerance; to understand our mission to respect the dignity of every human being. If the religious community can’t act and become a voice to all generations, we are just as guilty as those who cause the pain of others.
Some articles and resources to assist in the conversation. Don’t wait another day to begin the work. The lives of people (young and old) you know (and even more so, don’t know) depend on it.
Articles & Action:
CNN is holding a weeklong look on bullying following the suicide of a student from Rutgers University. From their promotional material: Bullying is in our schools, and it’s online. Why do kids do it? What can be done to put an end to it? “AC360°” is special report in collaboration with PEOPLE Magazine, “Bullying: No Escape,” all this week at 10 p.m. ET on CNN.
Download the Study Guide for Bullied, which gives a definition of bullying, how to identify someone who may be a victim, and how to assess your school (or church) environment.
The Trevor Project and It Gets Better website features video clips of LGBT adults sharing their own high school horror stories, while telling kids to stay alive because brighter days are coming. So far, there have been 131 videos posted and more than 300,000 views.
Bully Bust is a program to stand up to bullying and promote upstander behavior.
For the Bible Tells Me So is a film about the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families – including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. Discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, A study guide is also available for further discussion.
Burst: Bullies and Mean Girls is a short-term study from Abingdon Press (United Methodist Church affiliation) for youth. It’s website also offers a variety of links including movies, books and other websites.
If You Really Knew Me is a program that began in July 2010 on Tuesday evenings on MTV. Yes – MTV. Watch the trailer to see how you might tap into this program with your youth.