Category Archives: Community

Little Black Children, Little White Children

Martin Luther King Day provided our third annual opportunity for a “Munch” to honor the spirit and mission of Dr. King.  My friend Dr. Rob Owens confirmed that from his perspective all participants felt that spirit of unity in our gathering as his little black boys sat with my little white boys listening to Ms. Pam read stories from Desmond Tutu’s Children of God Storybook Bible.

20170116_120952-2A Munch is a lunch that intentionally brings together people who are not in the same place in life, typically due to their age.  As usual, we had participants from 18 months up to at least the 8th decade.  Munches remind us of Jesus’ gospel of reconciliation which stands in opposition to the spirit of division to which this world is prone to subscribe.  In a period of time when our nation is experiencing renewed racial tension, it was a blessing to experience the unbreakable bond of the Holy Spirit between brothers and sisters who may not worship in the same building every Sunday out of habit, but readily greet one another with warm smiles and endearing hugs–the kind only black and white grandmothers in Christ can give you.

20170116_120237-2I am thankful to Micah for sharing her prize-winning “Eyes of Diversity” speech that gave great insight to the pulls and tugs she experiences as a young black woman in a (nearly) all white community.  Often thoughtless words can bring to the surface those feelings of confusion one feels when they know they belong, yet they know they are different.

img_20170116_115404930-2It takes a committed core to pull off an event, and I am so thankful for the culture of community that has been cultivated by our Munch participants.  You could taste the teamwork in the crockpots that came from a half a dozen homes to feed our bellies.  I’ve been told that the church becomes the church at the table, and I believe it.

20170116_120016-2I learned a new Latin phrase today: “lex orandi, lex credendi”.  As we pray, so we believe.  We considered several of Dr. King’s famous quotes as we shared a time of discussion, but I want to leave you with a thought from a like-minded soul, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  This is a prayer we need to pray over and over until we truly believe it:

Good is stronger that evil.

Love is stronger than hate.

Light is stronger than darkness.

Life is stronger than death.

Victory is our through him who loves us.

AMEN

Thank you Dr. King for putting your life on the line to change the world.  You are evidence that the student will get no better treatment than the teacher.

Teddy Bear Munch

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Cassie reading the story of how Teddy Bears were created in “honor” of a popular story about President Theodore Roosevelt.

We enjoyed our first Munch of the new school year on Monday.  Our theme was Teddy Bears, and we drew our inspiration from a neat little board book that arrived at our house via the “Imagination Library”.  The book by Olivier Dunrea, simply titled Little Cub, tells the story of a little cub growing up all alone in the woods with no one to teach or care for him.  Ultimately, little cub’s story becomes interwoven with a lonely old bear who is very capable, but lonely.  The two become a family and of course live happily ever after.  The book highlights an important truth that is at the heart of our “Munch Ministry.”  Younger generations need interaction with older generations so that they may glean from the wisdom of experience.  Older generations find fulfillment not just in being able, but in being able to teach and pay it forward.  http://www.amazon.com/Little-Cub-Olivier-Dunrea/dp/0399166831

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Mrs. Maxine reads the story of Little Cub to a rug full of children.

The program began with a show and tell time in which the children brought up their favorite teddy bear (or other stuffed animal) and introduced him or her.  A few shared precious stories about when or where they received the special friend, and some older children shared funny stories about things they had done with (or to) their toys.

After all of the children had shared, Cassie read the story about Theodore Roosevelt’s unwillingness to shoot a wild bear that had been tied to a tree.  His unwillingness to shoot the bear in such an unsportsmanlike manner became a legendary story that inspired a toy maker to create the “teddy bear” in his honor.  http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/site/c.elKSIdOWIiJ8H/b.8684621/k.6632/Real_Teddy_Bear_Story.htm

Following lunch, the children were gathered on a rug as three of our senior ladies shared stories with them.  Mrs. Harriet Sue told the story of the last teddy bear she received from her mother before she died.  She and her sisters sometimes exchange bears in honor of their mom’s memory.

Mrs. Maxine read the story of Little Cub to the children, reinforcing the beauty and great truth found in its pages.  I elbowed her husband Jim as she read the pages about the sometimes grumpy old bear. 🙂

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Mrs. Phyllis tells the tale of the teddy bear she and Mr. Bill have taken care of for 55 years.

Mrs. Phyllis stole the show with the story of the teddy bear she and Mr. Bill have taken care of together for 55 years.  The video of her bear living in the wild, and the story of finding him by a stream captivated the younger children, though a few wondered why the bear in the video had black fur, while the one in her lap was brown.  Nonetheless, the story of how her children and grandchildren took care of the bear was priceless.  As was her hope that someday  great-grandchildren would come play with her bear.

This was one of our sweetest munches.  It was such a blessing to witness three retired teachers, who no longer work in the Sunday school ministry, bless our children with their story telling ability.  Their charisma with the children reinforced the value of creating alternative settings for inter-generational activities.  It also displayed to the parents present the love our senior members have for our children.

The little cubs were blessed.  The old bears were blessed.  And the young and middle adult parents were blessed to be a part of this day that brought into fellowship a multi-generational cross-section of our church body.  May God continue to pour His blessings on us as one generation passes His love on to another.

In Him,

Wes

 

 

 

Community: The Transmitter of Faith

The question has been posed many times, “Why are some people more committed to spiritual matters and moral norms than others?”  This is an important question for me as a father, friend and Children’s Minister.  There are many factors that influence the outcomes in all of us from life experiences and our own natural bent, but let us never overlook the social factors.

Sunday school is important, but not just because of the curriculum.  Relationships matter.  Christianity is not an academic topic like math.  It is a way of life learned through years of discipleship.  Knowledge of God and his teachings are important, but it is no more important than a sense of belonging to a community that is committed to following the path of Jesus.

Think about it.  How much did the Apostles know when Jesus died?  A lot less than he had taught them!  The gospels record no less than three times that he told them he would die and be resurrected, yet the cross was a surprise and the empty tomb was beyond their wildest imagination.  It was their loving relationship with Jesus and their commitment to one another that allowed them to pick up the pieces and become a community filled and guided by the Holy Spirit.

One of the most famous researchers of child development is Erikson, whose psychosocial development theory is regarded to be of utmost importance in the training of school teachers.  We will explore his developmental stages in future posts.

For now the general heads up is this: the two social institutions that most greatly influence a child’s faith are the family and the church.  (For children who don’t have a worshiping family, a surrogate church family can be just as powerful an influence.)  From the church perspective that does not mean that being in the right church will save your children.  What is needed is deep meaningful relationships within your church.

Children need connection more than they need us to entertain them.  Those words convict me as I struggle to recall the names of 150 children whom I see regularly at church.  But learn their names I must.  I must show them that they matter to me, because they matter to God.  Any worship they are led in or truths they are told about will be tossed in the scrap pile if there isn’t a real connection with a faith filled parental figure and other children, teens, young-, middle-, and senior adults who are clearly walking by faith.

Faith, religiosity, spirituality and morality are all passed from person to person and generation to generation.  The congregation connects the child to generations of faithful followers across centuries of church history.  That connection is made strong by deep, meaningful, ongoing relationships.  So take time to relate with your own children and go out of your way, because that is what it takes in our culture, to help yourself and your child develop relationships across the generations of your local congregation as we all seek to grow together…

In Him,

Wes

On Our Hearts and Theirs

So, I fell off the blog wagon a month ago, but I’m trying again, or should I say I’ve finally settled on some shareable thoughts.  I’m trying to learn to speak more from my heart than my mind…but its a challenge for me.  Yet, it’s where my heart has been that has made it a challenge to write lately.

I am full of joy, excitement, ideas and vision like never before in my new role.  I’m thrilled and amazed at some of the developments that have come about in our church family over the past months.  But I know some aren’t so happy.  People I have respected and looked up to for years are concerned, as I would expect them to be…

These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them upon your children.  

I read recently that for any culture to have continuity in its customs at least three generations must be walking together.  Counting generations is tricky, but I would say that I am part of a church family with at least 4 generations: my children, my generation, my parent’s generation and my grandparent’s generation.  In our fellowship, I believe the greatest “generation gap” comes between the oldest two generations.  The life experiences of the baby boomers have altered their perspective and subsequent generations have followed.  Or, as is sometimes the case, my generation has come to different conclusions and our parents have followed.

The mantle of leadership in our body has only recently been put upon the shoulders of the boomers, and as was feared by the older generation (and hoped for by the younger generations) they are opening the door to a degree of change .  Most noticeably of late they have allowed, even publicly endorsed, freedom of expression in worship.  (For our purposes I’m not interested in entering the decades long worship debate here, I’ll simply state that worship is what we do in response to that which we find to be worthy of our love, devotion, awe and allegiance.  Responses are not scripted, they are provoked and evoked, in the case of Christian worship, by an awareness of the presence of God.)

I believe the “commandments” have been passed down and will continue to be passed down in tact.  However, we are at a crossroads when it comes to methods of impressing.  So here is the question we must consider.  Recognizing that how we have learned and taught the important things of the faith sometimes become as meaningful to us as the truths themselves, how do we navigate through an age of significant transition in methods and maintain loving relationships across the generations.

To the generation of my children, for the most part you have no idea that there is any transition in process.  Our prayer for you is that we will do nothing to come between you and God.  Your awareness of His presence is so much greater than ours, and we hope it stays that way for you.  Your young lives get so busy, but I pray that you slow down enough to get to know some of the people in all three of these prior generations.  You have the opportunity to hear first hand accounts from my grandparents of the Great Depression, World War II and the rapid progress our nation experienced in so many fields as our “greatest generation” came home from Europe and went to work.  By the time you retire the Great Depression will be a century and a half in the past, the same distance between us and the Civil War today, and you can tell stories you heard from those who experienced it.

To my generation, appreciate the faith and practice of the two generations before you.  Churches in America saw their greatest period of growth in the 50’s when our grandparents were our age, and our fellowship was one of the fastest growing at that time.  Yes, times have changed and sadly we are proud to be declining at a slower rate than some others, but never forget that there is wisdom and experience to be gleaned from those who go before.  Work to build relationships with those who are ahead of you in this walk.  They may not live in “your world” but they do have perspective to speak meaningful critique into it.  The world in which they reared children was different, but perhaps they can let us in on some secrets that today’s culture masks.  Also, remember they have had time to see the outcomes of their parenting and to reflect upon what they might have done differently.  Listen to those incites.

To my parent’s generation, we are all looking to you now to lead the body of Christ.  We commit to walk with you.  You have waited in the wings longer than most generations, but don’t rush now, on average you will stay healthy and active longer, so you will have plenty of time in the driver’s seat.  Be true to yourself and take the paths you believe to be best based upon your years of study and experience.  Continue doing so gracefully as I see you desiring to do.  Never stop saying the things that are on your hearts.  When you see us younger folks developing bad habits and attitudes, tell us so – you have earned the right to speak into our lives.  Express your love to those who disagree with you.  Even if your heartfelt expressions are rejected, it will help me know how to treat you a couple of decades from now 🙂

To my grandparent’s generation, we know you have led us diligently and faithfully.  You no longer lead in formal capacities, and that must be a strange feeling after so many years, three decades for some, of leading God’s people.  But your voices are still heard.  Today’s leadership is taking to heart the things you say now, even if they don’t make the decisions you wish they would.  Your legacy will always remain, because the generation that leads now has followed you for so long.  If they did not love and respect you they would have left a long time ago, when their peers did.  If I did not love and respect you I would have given up on our fellowship a long time ago like many of my most passionate friends did.

Seriously, I wish more of my generation could sit in on the meetings I’ve been in over the past decade and a half.  I’m privileged to see the bare hearts and hear the thoughts that have been refined by decades of study, prayer and life experience.  God meant for each generation to learn from the prior.  Yet, recognizing that the previous generations were faithful in their time, this generation must pave the way through each new day seeking the guidance of the Spirit of God to help us be faithful in our time.  May God bless us and be gracious unto us.

Always in Him,

Wes

PS.  You may wonder about the picture with this blog.  That’s my Uncle Bill holding his beloved granddaughter.  He made the most of the time he had and I will never forget the time my dad, brothers and I spent with him as we rang in 2010.  It has been just over a year now since he passed from this life, all too soon.  I thank God for the prior generations that have shaped me in so many ways.  I pray that I never lose focus and actually gain some intensity in developing the generations that are coming behind.