by Rev. Peter Friedrichs
Reading #463 in our hymnal begins: “My heart is moved by all I cannot save.” These words have been repeating, over and over in my mind this summer. Amidst all the joys the season brings, it has been impossible to ignore the vast suffering in the world. From Syria and Iraq to the slaughter of hundreds of passengers on a jetliner and the murder of yet another African-American teenage boy, my heart has been broken time and time again since I was last with you in June.
My heart breaks, especially, for the children. For those who, simply by accident of birth, have fallen victim to violence in all its forms. Innocent victims, in the true meaning of the term. I have been especially appalled by how this country of hope and promise has responded to undocumented children, warehousing them in little more than dog kennels pending deportation. Reports are already emerging that some of the children returned to their homelands have been murdered. I am reminded of the words of the Matthew’s Gospel: “That which you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me.”
Because we cannot personally save the children of war-torn Syria, or the Christian children persecuted by ISIS in Iraq, because we cannot personally take in the children of Central America awaiting deportation, we are called to ensure that the children of our own communities are properly nurtured and loved, that they’re provided with adequate educational opportunities, that they have enough food to eat, that their streets are safe. And we are called to be guides, mentors, and teachers of our children and youth.
I am calling all of us to make this church year “The Year of the Child.” I would like us all to consider ways that we can become more involved in the lives of our children and youth. And by “our,” I mean both the children and youth within the church community and those beyond it.
There are simple, concrete tasks you can do immediately. Sign up to teach or assist in our Religious Education program. Work with our children to make peanut butter sandwiches for the Hunger Task Force. Help to host or feed families staying at the church through the Interfaith Hospitality Network. You could simply make a commitment to attend an occasional Children’s Chapel on Sunday mornings and to show up at our multigenerational worship services. We will be developing other programming during the year that will help encourage interactions and build relationships among children, youth and adults in the congregation. I ask you to consider how you might enrich the lives of the children and youth of the church (as well as your own) this year.
Beyond our own church community, we are exploring how we might deepen our relationship with the children living in Chester. Our support of high school students through the NAACP Scholarship program is meaningful and important, but I’m sure we can do more. With certain limited exceptions, our Justice Ministry Team has already committed significant “Share the Plate” proceeds this year to the programs of Chester Eastside (formerly “Chester Eastside Ministries”), which provides valuable support to the children of Chester. You might consider volunteering as an after-school tutor or a GED instructor through Chester Eastside or supporting their food and clothing ministries. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern PA also has opportunities for us to serve as mentors and friends to local children and youth.
It’s a cliché to say that “children are our future,” but like many clichés it’s also true. As a community of compassion and hope, where can we better apply our energies and our commitment than to our youngest and most vulnerable?
“My heart is moved by all I cannot save: so much has been destroyed I have to cast my lot with those who age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” -Adrienne Rich
As we begin another church year together, let us work to reconstitute our little part of the world.
From September 2014 Focus
(Photo by Bryan Boosz)