Wednesday after Lent I–March 4, 2009
- Posted on Feb 4, 2009
Gather the Children!
Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he will answer them, “truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” Matthew 25:44-45
As I continued to struggle with finding my way to God during my twenties and thirties, I found a home at St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria. The way that St Paul’s welcomed me was to baptize my son. In 1988, my son Jack was born after a tumultuous year when we lost my father and Bryan’s father within months of one another. After my father’s funeral at Christ Church, Alexandria, I knew–just knew–that I needed a new spiritual home. A spiritual home for myself as an adult and parent. I called St Paul’s. It wasn’t convenient–since I wasn’t a member. I didn’t know what being a member meant—and I had been an Episcopalian all my life!!! The rector and the staff made it possible for me to have Jack baptized there. That became the beginning of my renewed journey towards God.
More than that, as Jack grew and Anna was born, I found that St Paul’s provided a spiritual home for my children as well. Their nursery and Sunday School was always open, vibrant and ready to receive my children with care and open arms. I never for a moment worried that Jack and Anna were not being fed while I was in church or adult education.
I do believe that when Jesus talks about feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger, he is speaking about all of us at one time of another. On the Vestry, we’ve spent a good time talking about how to grow the parish to ease our deficit. The best way to grow a parish is to tend to its families with youth and children. I have been doing a good bit of praying and pondering our commitment to children and youth at Memorial Church. We have a great tradition of serving the least of our society through our Samaritan Community outreach. However, I don’t think we’ve been as committed to our children and youth. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that if I were not your rector and my children were younger, I probably would not come to Memorial—because of the Sunday School program. That is really and truly difficult for me to say. Regardless of how much I resonated with the values of the Memorial community, I would probably find myself wanting a larger, more dedicated program for my children. I’d want my children to learn the Bible stories of the church as well as the traditions. I want them to have the opportunity to sing in a junior choir. I’d want a youth program that offered outreach mission trips and pilgrimages. As a young parent, I would probably not have the energy to take on that program and lead it into a new place. However, those are the pieces that I would be looking for in a church for that stage of my life.
As I’ve been led to remember how I was led back to a spiritual home to come closer to God, I remember how important for the community to be a place that valued my children. I wonder how we can create that place for our families at Memorial? Ideas? Comments?