Most of us here…and especially those of us who have been a part of the parish family for many years, love to hear the pitter-patter of little feet in our halls and in this nave.
Most of us love to hear the laughter of little voices bringing life and vibrancy to this parish.
There are few sights as wonderful as a large group of little children making their way into the Nave as we pass the peace…there are few sounds as pleasing as when our children’s choir sings praises to their Lord and God.
Children are a blessing to this parish…a blessing indeed. They are a sign of growth and life and health…a sign that we are indeed alive.
But, my bothers and sisters in Jesus Christ…with every new pitter-patter…with every new laugh…with every new sweet song offered…we take on responsibility.
With every new child that walks through this parish door, we collectively take a weight on our shoulders.
One of the greatest responsibilities of the parish family is to instruct her members. And none stand in greater need of instruction and formation than the children.
It is our responsibility to see that every child that is a part of our parish family is instructed in the ways and the things of God.
The conscience does not exist ready formed…it must be formed. And it is our job to see that the conscience is formed in a godly manner- in a manner of faith and hope and love.
It is our responsibility to make sure they know the stories of the Bible…that they know the stories of Jesus Christ and the apostles…
It is our responsibility that they know the liturgies and the seasons and the feasts and fasts of the Christian faith. It is ours to make sure the rhythms and prayers of the Church become a part of their being.
It is ours to make sure the children have a deep and meaningful immersion in the Christian faith and practice.
Its is ours to make sure the children have the tools and the foundation to make good and godly choices as they grow and mature.
It is ours to make sure the children understand the tenants of the Christian faith and can use these things to help them grow and thrive as mature and adult followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And above all…above all beloved…it is ours to make sure that the children of this parish meet and know Our Lord Jesus Christ…living and true.
And these things are no small task. These things take dedication and persistence and a sacrifice of time and dedication. The education and formation of our children is a job…a ministry that takes the effort and involvement of each and every person.
And this morning, brothers and sisters, I stand before you to tell you that we are not doing the job we should or must do.
It is not that we are not offering solid or meaningful opportunities…because we are. It is not that we are not offering opportunities…because we are.
We are continuing to fail in the same ways that we have failed since the 1960’s. That is to say, we are failing because collectively, many of us do not hold the education and formation of the children of the parish as a priority.
Or worse, many of us…or in our collective mind, hold the education of our children to be the job of the parents of those children. So, the Sunday School teachers are supposed to be the parents of children that particular age.
We may certainly say that the education of our children is a priority, but in what ways to manifest that idea?
In what ways do each and every one of us live out the vows we make on behalf of the little children at our Baptisms?
“Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?…We will”
At present, we have a small group of ladies who work very hard and with not much support to provide education and formation for our children. And I would like to share with you a bit of their story.
I will start by telling you the story of my wife…and also will let you know this will in all likelihood be my last Sunday…for in sharing my wife’s story I have no doubt I am facing certain death.
But I think it is that important to share with you all.
Catharine, my loving and faithful wife of 13 years…the mother of my three children…my best friend and greatest supporter, gives a tremendous amount of time to this parish and to her children.
Catharine leads our EYC…the youth group here at the parish, along with Rick Burson, Eric Nail, and Melanie Follis. Catharine spends at least three and many times four or more hours each week preparing programing and activities for this group.
And then on Sunday evenings, she gives three more hours leading and guiding the youth of this parish…building them up, helping them to know Jesus…helping them to grow and mature.
Not counting that time…she is also involve in their lives…spending time during the week helping them with problems and concerns…being a friend.
Catharine also teaches the 4-6 graders…spending another 2 hours preparing lessons and activities for her kids in her class. And then each and every Sunday, she gets here early, gets the classroom ready, and spends an hour teaching the children of this parish.
So, all and all, she spends 12-15 hours each and every week helping build a foundation of faith for the youth of our parish family.
Another one of our Sunday School teachers gives the same amount of time…and comes down here for 4-6 hours a month making sure the advertisements and bulletin boards are up to date, and have uplifting messages and seasonal themes on them.
She also manages the curriculum and helps organize the teacher’s schedules and so much more. She gives many hours here as well.
Our other teachers have sacrificed much of their time as well. Many have given up weekend trips…others have to rush back on Saturday nights- leaving their children’s tournaments and events early to make it back home to teach the children of our parish.
All of our teachers have had to change their lifestyle and that of their family to commit to this ministry…they have all sacrificed a great deal to make sure the children here receive a proper education and a good foundation for the future…to make sure the know the Lord Jesus.
And it is a frustrating job. We still lack resources, we are short on faithful volunteers…we still lack adequate structures, the list goes on and on. But yet, these teachers are faithful, cheerful, loving and dedicated. But we need to do a better job supporting them.
Right now, we have nearly sixty children who call this parish home…and we only have a small handful of the faithful that attend to them.
I’ll share with you our most recent development. Up until last November, on any given Sunday, during the 10:30 service, it was normal to find in our one room nursery, between 15-20 children…and on good days even more.
Imagine for a moment what that looks like…our one room nursery packed to the gills…with children from infant to 1st grade all mixed up in a big wad of children.
It was complete chaos…both for nursery worker and for the children. So, out of necessity we began to have a children’s chapel during the first part of the 10:30 mass.
Mustering little support we began. Two or three very brave souls took this on. We tried our best to make the chapel into a place conducive for trying to keep the attention of 12-15 children.
And week after week after week after week…two or three people sacrificed coming to ‘big’ church to lead the children. Never getting a break…only recently have any been brave enough to lend a hand.
And to those who have lent a hand…God bless you. They need it in the worst sort of way.
We are blessed with the gift of children. I have no doubt that throughout this year more children will join us. I have no doubt that we will continue to grow.
This means that the responsibility will grow even greater…this means even more will be asked of us.
Our children need our support. Our teachers need help. This morning, I am asking each one of you to consider how you support the children of this parish.
Do you leave the job entirely for someone to do? Are you willing to give of your time to help? Are you willing to reconsider your giving to support a youth minister or coordinator?
If you do nothing else….pray. In the coming weeks the parish will be setting up structures and creating opportunities to get more people involved.
With the number of children we have…we must have more involvement from the parish at large. It is not an option.
This morning…as we hear Moses call the people of Israel to choose God and choose life….as Jesus calls us to perfection…
Let us hear and answer the call to raise up our children as disciples of Jesus…let make the choice to serve God and raise up the children of this parish in the way to which God has called us.