by Mary Lou Edgar.
As I was thinking about what I wanted to say, the word “importance” kept coming back to me.
Most of us profess to believe that children are important. But there are times when I wonder. My career as a social worker focused on children. I have five children of my own. Children have always played a large part in my life. My children always accompanied us to church. It was a family event. We talked about it and it was expected.
I looked around SsAM yesterday and there were very few children. As I approached them with their parents, they were so receptive. I wonder if that makes them feel as if they belong.
I grew up in a religious tradition where children were expected to be seen and not heard. Pretty hard for most kids below the age of six (and many over it). When they realize something, they want to share it. Usually in a fairly loud way. I remember when our 4-year-old daughter was so proud of herself. She had figured out how to make the sign of the cross and she knew all the words. She wanted to show us NOW. So, I asked her to whisper. She looked at me very seriously and said, “In the name of the father, the mother, and the whole sperience.” Then she smiled broadly. It was so sweet; I just hugged her. I could picture God smiling.
When we as adults make our faith experience an important aspect of our lives, our children see this.
They may have limited understanding and a short attention span, but they do hear at least part of what is said. Many times, we have to explain words so they can understand it. The readings can be confusing for us at times, so think about being a child. How did they impact you then? How do they impact you now?
I remember the reading where Jesus cured the lepers and only one came back to thank him. I was about seven and asked my mother what a leper was. She told me and I was horrified. The next five years, I was sure there were lepers in my closet. I made sure to shut it every night because I knew they were contagious. I’m not sure where they went during the day. Sadly, I missed the whole point of the story even though I was old enough to learn from it.
Right now, our world is challenging, and our children have questions.
This is a time when it is important to have a foundation in faith so we can discuss these issues openly. Faith is an incredible gift that parents can share with their children. I am new here at SsAM, but I understand that, before the pandemic, there was a liturgy for children. Hopefully the pandemic is slowing down, allowing people to return to church. With this in mind, we are planning to reach out to our children and youth.
We are not just thinking about a liturgy for children, we are planning to involve our teens in other aspects of our liturgies. We want all our young people to see how important they are to our community. It is our hope that we can offer them a time when they can be with friends, learn the lessons of the Bible, and see how those stories are still relevant.
In order to do that, we need to have the support of their parents as well as everyone in our parish. We need to help our children see how important God is in their lives and help them share that with our community and others. In order to be successful, we must all participate.
I have not been many places where there are as many talented people as there are here at SsAM. I want us to be able ask for your help. Maybe you can sing or play an instrument. Possibly you can tell stories, or maybe art is your talent. One thing of which I am certain, we can all do something! And we want our children to see that and learn from it.
We are still in the planning stages but there will be more information coming soon! We want more children and youth in our church.
How do you want to help?
Please call me or contact D-L at the church office. “Every child brings the message that God is not discouraged of us.” That quote by the Indian poet Tagore touches me each day. Each child is an enormous gift from God. God probably wants us to teach our kids about Him!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Lou Edgar, MSS, is a clinical social worker who founded A Better Chance for Our Children, an adoption and foster care agency that works to find permanent homes for children in the foster care system. Mary Lou was the Executive Director of ABCFOC, but she is now retired. She graduated from Neumann University and Bryn Mawr School of Social Work and Social Research. She and her husband joined SsAM in 2021.