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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

When Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers, beloved Mr. Rogers of public television, stood to acknowledge his induction into the Television Hall of Fame, he spoke about the power of neighbors, including people on TV, to shape the lives of children.

You can view his acceptance speech and other videos here.

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IMG_0267Rachel Held Evans and others maintain that it’s not hip-ness and cool-ness that most young adults need and want in a faith community.  It’s authenticity.  It’s real, loving, stand-by-you-no-matter-what community.  It’s a family of people from all generations.  It’s a congregation where all–and I mean ALL–truly are welcome and wanted in the  congregation’s heart and life together.   Many small congregations cannot be “cool,” and yet we are this kind of community.  Real.  Mine is.  So how do we raise our profile so we can connect heart to heart with people hungering for the God we love, and who loves us without condition or limit?  How do we mingle with people “out there”?

I recommend Rachel’s book Searching for Sunday, and here is an article she wrote for the Washington Post: “Want millennials back in the pews? Stop trying to make church ‘cool.”

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“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.”

–Isaiah 35:1-2

The term “food desert” describes areas where healthy, affordable food is hard to come by.  One of our adult Sunday School classes talked about this recently, and we looked at some of the down in the dirt ways people are trying to address the situation.  Food deserts exist in urban areas as well as rural areas.  Not far from us the Conetoe Family Life Center is working to grow healthy young people and a healthy community as it grows and distributes healthy food.

It occurred to us that there are many other kinds of deserts as well.  Within walking distance of the building our congregation calls home, we have identified a “music desert” and a “reading desert,” and there are certainly others.  In a music desert people don’t hear much enriching music, and they seldom attempt to make music. It is all left to professionals.  In a reading desert there is little storytelling or reading, and few books around to stimulate minds through words and good art.2016-02-09-21-20-33

Isaiah 35 reminds us that God can make the driest desert blossom, and God can make a way through where there seems to be no way.  God has the greatest green thumb of all. Our little flock is participating in what God is doing to help our community flower. Every week one of our oldest members leads a group that makes music flower at a local nursing home.  We also enjoy making music with some of God’s youngest children through gatherings called Music for Little Friends, to help their minds, hearts, and souls develop.  We will soon place a third Little Library somewhere in the churchyard.  The first two are in nearby neighborhoods, and there is a weekly story time at Little Library 2.  We are looking for creative ways to encourage children and families to use the libraries and read together. In these and other ways we are trying to garden with God.

Sometimes the small things we do seem so very small and inconsequential, and we worry about how our ministry can be sustained long term.  We need our divine Gardener to creatively cultivate us.  Yet even the smallest flowers are exquisitely beautiful, like a crocus.  In God’s eyes they are, at any rate.

file-dec-06-6-17-36-pmReaders, our prayers are with you for flourishing where you are in God’s gardening scheme.  And we appreciate yours for us as we plant our seeds with hope and longing for something beautiful from God in the future.

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Simply inviting people to church isn’t enough.  Here is a post from Karl Vaters on being church for people who don’t go to church.  Among his recommendations:

  • Build relationships with no strings attached.
  • Talk about life, not just your church.

Read more at 11 Ways to Be the Church for Those who Don’t Go to Church.

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narniamapHere are some thoughts about Narnia that my daughter, Laura, wrote while she was in Oxford, England studying C.S. Lewis and other fantasy writers. 

Reflections on My Childhood Love of Narnia

I have realized that the love-even devotion-that I had for C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books as a child has not gone away, even though I now read them as a skeptical adult, and I feel the need to defend them fiercely when people disparage them. The books are part of me.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was especially instrumental in shaping my imagination. Many of my childhood games involved Narnia in one way or another. I had (and still have) a stuffed lion named Aslan. I sent my animals off on the voyage of the Dawn Treader in individual boats crafted from the lids of toy boxes.

I remember vivid dreams of Narnia. The most memorable dream is one that I had around the age of ten or so. I dreamt that I was Lucy, and I was too old to go back to Narnia, but I was still allowed into a corridor that stood between our world and Narnia. In my dream, I could sit in that corridor, a sort of limbo, for hours, and have tea with Aslan. Aslan was the most important part of Narnia. He was strong and wise but soft and gentle, a better cuddler than all my stuffed animals combined. I was not afraid of him at all, but being near him filled me with joy. Underlying that joy, however, was the uneasy feeling that one day, I would be too old even to enter the corridor between the worlds, and I would not be able to see Aslan directly any more.

For me, Aslan was always Christ. I intuitively understood the allegory of the crucifixion and resurrection. Perhaps that was partly because I had a morbid fascination with the passion of the Christ when I was little, but that’s another story. Jadis, the White Witch, was sin or Satan. Aslan chose to die because he cared more about the life of one small, imperfect human than about reigning forever; indeed, when the Pevensie children were crowned, he diminished, allowing them to rule. His self-sacrifice, the defeat of death “by death” (thank you, Rachmaninoff) was and remains one of the most touching displays of love I have seen. Aslan’s death was not about saving Edmund from Aslan’s own wrath, or that of the Emperor-beyond-the-sea, but from the all-consuming power of greed. And what better way to defeat greed than by the sacrifice of the greatest thing that he had to offer? I have always been moved by the rightness of it. That does not mean that my beliefs have not evolved since early childhood. I do not have the simple, unquestioning “child faith” that I used to have, and, in some ways, I am glad. In other ways, I still mourn its loss.

Sometimes, I feel like I am still searching for the corridor that disappeared while I was not looking. But there is one thing for certain: even though I do not see Aslan directly anymore, I know that the spirit of Narnia still lives in me somewhere, like a flame just under the surface of the skin. In my dreams, and sometimes, when I see what I know to be suffering or injustice, I know that I am hearing Aslan’s roar.   Amen.

 

Here is a link to a post I wrote about Narnia:

Lucy’s Healing Cordial

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HPIM0165In his book Bowling Alone, published in 2000, Robert Putnam described the fraying community and social ties in American society, citing declining church attendance; declining voter turnout; and declining participation in labor unions, in civic clubs, in scouting, and in all sorts of community organizations like bowling leagues.  He warned that declining engagement with one another jeopardizes the social connections and social resources that we must have in order to solve community problems.

In a new book entitled Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, Putnam describes the growing divide between children born into families who are able to give them enriching experiences such as reading to them beginning in babyhood and taking them to music, sports, scouts and other opportunities, and children whose families are struggling simply to survive economically  He stresses that it’s not just material resources that these children lack.  They are missing out on mentoring and the benefits that come from knowing a network of caring adults, and from enriching activities.  Along with a good education and good health care, these blessings help children grow up into strong adults.  Putnam reminds us that all of these children are OUR children, and we are collectively responsible for them.  Faith communities can certainly help address the situation, Putnam notes, especially when it comes to mentoring children. I resonate with Putnam’s call for adults to step forward and be mentors.  There is no substitute for having adults show interest in you and want to spend time with you.

You can read a Washington Post article about this book here, and a review from the New York Times here.

I look forward to reading the whole book.  Growing up I received so many blessings and was loved and mentored by so many caring adults in my family and church.  My husband was similarly blessed.  Thanks to our families and our church, my husband and I were able to pass these blessings on to our daughter.  God has brought to our church’s attention a whole flock of children that we can share these blessings with, and we are seeking ways to do that.  See my recent post on sharing music with little children.

God has also brought to our attention some statistics that cause great concern.  We have learned, for example, that within a seven mile radius of our church’s building 37% of households with children are headed by single mothers, and 8% are headed by single fathers, and that adds up to 45%.  Moreover, 18% of all households within this radius are subsisting on $15,000 a year or less.  It is a varied and challenging community in which to seek God’s call.  However we answer the call, it is going to require an investment of our hearts, making friends and building relationships.

 

 

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little-friends-logo

Art by Laura Todd

When my daughter was a toddler, we enjoyed Kindermusik classes together.  We still remember some of the songs we learned then.

I always thought it would be wonderful to have a program of music and movement for young children and their adult caregivers that was faith-based, included songs of faith, and corresponded with the seasons of the church year.

With that dream in mind, we are experimenting with a music program at Morton that we call Music for Little Friends.  Besides helping children from infancy to age five to sense how deeply they are loved, we are helping them to develop an ear for music and a feel for rhythm.  This begins a lifetime of appreciation for music and lays a foundation for more musical learning later.  Moreover, music is great for their cognitive, physical, emotional, and social development, and it’s fun!

The CDs and songbooks that we use were developed by Kate Daneluk, a Catholic music educator, and her husband, John, who is also an accomplished musician.  They wanted a music program for their own children that integrated prayer and songs of faith with some of the methods used by secular programs like Kindermusik or Music Together.  You can learn more about their work and hear samples of the music at makingmusicprayingtwice.comMaking Music, Praying Twice has resources for parishes that want to do a large, full-scale program licensed to use the name Making Music, Praying Twice (MMP2), for families, and for small groups like ours at Morton.  I took the three-day training class that MMP2 offers for prospective teachers.

Our music comes from many sources: songs of faith, well-known children’s songs, music from other cultures, classical themes, and some new songs by the creators of MMP2.  We enjoy a wide variety of tunes and tonalities, meters and rhythms.  As you can see from the illustration above, we sing, dance, and enjoy playing musical instruments. Each class session lasts about forty-five minutes. One of the things I enjoy most is encouraging children and families to make up new words to some of the songs.  The next thing you know, they are making up their own songs!

Our next series of classes will probably run from Easter to Pentecost, and our prayer song will be “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”

Contact me if you’d like to know more!

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