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Join us for worship on Sundays at 10:00
- Please join us after the service in the Van Roon Community Hall for the HeBrews Café, refreshments and fellowship before continuing on with your day.
- Senior Choir rehearses Thursdays at 7:30 PM. Newcomers most welcome.
- For news and events please have a look at Life & Work on our website: Life and Work
Welcome to worship for Sunday, September 10, 2023.
I have listened to a lot of talks and lectures in my life. That is not a bad thing but it is probably fair to say that I have forgotten more than I remember of what was said. However, one thing I value immensely is the times when someone said something that ‘stuck’. Something that felt true enough that my sub-conscious mind has hung onto it long enough that I can bring it to mind when necessary. One of those gems I always recall at this time of year.
Dr. Thomas Long of Emory University, a favorite writer of mine, was speaking at the University of Winnipeg twenty years ago or so and this is what he said. “Our primary responsibility to the children of our churches is to help them become worshippers as adults.” That could be interpreted in a number of ways and so it deserves a little unpacking.
Long was NOT describing a church survival strategy. He was not saying that we need to raise children to attend church because that is the only way to preserve the church for future generations. It should not be taken as a plan for membership.
Long was NOT talking about forced worship as ‘good medicine’ for children as though the only reason someone would attend church as an adult is if they have been indoctrinated to do so. Anyone who remembers being bored in church as a child also knows this is a poor way to inspire a young one to follow in our footsteps.
Thomas Long has always been unapologetically positive about church and worship. He wants it to be a meaningful experience for people of all ages, as challenging as that may be. When he talked about “our primary responsibility to children” he was speaking about Christian Education for children that keeps it’s eyes on the prize of letting young people grow in faith until such time as they freely choose to have worship as part of their life.
One of the things I know for certain having grown up in the church, raised children, and ministered to families with young children for 35 years is that it is more difficult to raise children in the church now than it has ever been. Where it was once something that everybody did, it is now something that fewer and fewer families do. A cultural activity has become a counter-cultural one. Where church was once the only activity going on Sunday mornings, it is now one among a multitude. Where the stories of Jesus were once prominent narratives in our society, they are now easily lost in an age of near-infinite competing messages about meaning and purpose in life.
All this and I haven’t even come to the fatigue issue. I am totally sympathetic of parents who come to Sunday morning and whose first prayer is for a single moment when everyone can be in the house at the same time and no-one has to go anywhere. God bless parents raising children today. The challenge would blow the minds of our grandparents.
Tom Long’s ‘primary responsibility’ is not that of the parents but belongs to the congregation. Ours is the ministry to welcome children into our midst with joy and compassion. Ours is the responsibility to provide the resources that engage children and give parents a rest to nurture their own souls. And ours is the task of providing the space, place, and spirit where becoming a future worshipper is a possibility.
But how do we do this? How does a congregation carry out this responsibility?
While we are called to be creative, adaptable, and imaginative in the present age, the core requirements are the same as they have always been. Church is where we tell the stories in scripture of goodness and grace. Church is where we sing the songs of our faith, old and new. Church is where we embrace mystery and find wonder in the sacraments. And church is where we show children a community that receives, welcomes, and celebrates each and every child as a gift made in the image of God.
Our children’s ministry resumes this weekend. Let us rejoice and be glad.
And when you can, thank a parent for bringing a child to church.
Grace and peace,
- Did you know you can support this ministry by e-transfer, automatic withdrawal (PAR), and gifted securities, in addition to weekly or monthly cheques? For Offering Information please visit: https://charleswoodunited.org/support/ Thank you for your generous support.
- Michael Wilson’s book “A Pastoral Pandemic: Remaining Connected in a Time of Disconnection” is available in store and online through CommonWord Bookstore (Canadian Mennonite University). For more information visit: https://www.commonword.ca/go/3408.
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- The reading for this week’s service can be found at: Matthew 18:15-20