Thought for the Month (November 2012)
One often hears the cry: "We MUST do something about young people! Where are they? They are the Church of Tomorrow! If we don't, our churches will soon be empty! Panic! Panic!" Or words to that effect. And so the task is added to our rather long "to do lists", along with a lot of other tasks which are often daunting or not much fun. Recently, three of us from Rusthall went on a one-day course about children's work in the churches.
Like all these things, perhaps, some parts were more helpful than others. We went along rather hoping to be inspired by new ideas for activities, but it wasn't really about that. Something I did find very useful, though, I would like to pass on in this letter.
It was suggested, and it certainly struck a chord with me, that children are not to be seen primarily as the "Church of Tomorrow"; children are the "Church of Today." They should not be seen primarily as little people to be obediently trained up to one day fill our shoes as ministers, secretaries, lay preachers, pew fillers, or what have you, when we oldies finally retire, exhausted, from the fray.
Children have plenty to contribute now. They are part of everything now, and should be at the heart of our church now. We can learn from them almost as much as they can learn from us. The only difference, maybe, is that we have a responsibility of care toward them which they do not have toward us.
We have to be realistic, of course. Anyone who has to deal with children knows that they can try the nerves rather severely at times! But so what? Adults try our nerves too, but we are usually more forbearing with our own age group, more anxious not to offend, and we bottle up the little hurts. With our kids, we tend to let fly ... and hope they will forgive us later. And, bless them, they do. Rather a wonderful thing, that, when you think about it. The things I have said to my children over the years do not make me proud.
We are all familiar with the various words of Jesus about children. We know how he ticked off the disciples when they got irritated by the mothers bringing children to him. We know how he took a small child and declared it the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. We know he said that we must accept the Kingdom as a little child. I am never sure if that means that we have to adopt something of the mind of a child in order to get to the Kingdom, or if it means the Kingdom is actually like a little child: a gift, and we must look after it, accept it, love it and defend it. And the saying "Out of the mouths of babes…" has probably entered every language into which the gospels have been translated as a respected secular saying. Could this be what inspired Hans Anderson in his immortal story The Emperor's New Clothes? I have always thought this tale nearly on a par with the parables of Jesus himself in the disturbing truth it carries. All these words of Jesus are to be taken very seriously, and we need to pray to God help us do our duty by all our children: our own, or any we come in contact with. It is not easy and that is why we need to ask for help. So let us always keep children in our prayers, not just because they are "The Church of Tomorrow", but because they deserve it now.
With very good wishes,
Mary Nolze (Secretary, Rusthall URC)
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