As we enter into our summertime schedule at St. Mark's, please remember that Sunday School, Children's Church and the Junior Choir are suspended until the fall (to resume on the 1st Sunday after Labor Day). On behalf of all the children (and their parents), allow me to offer our sincere thanks to all those who served in these important ministries this past year.
I would also like to say “thanks” to Dawn Mitchell, the Director of St. Mark’s Nursery School, and the talented group of teachers and aids to whom she gives direction. It has been a great joy to see the nursery school children here throughout the week and I am so thankful for this excellent ministry. Please keep Dawn and her staff in your prayers as they help us with VBS, after which they will run a summer camp (during July).
During the summer, it is to be expected that some parishioners will at times be out of town. Even if you are travelling, I heartily encourage you not to take a “vacation” from worship. If you need help finding a church in which to worship while away on vacation, please let me know and I will try to assist you.
I also encourage families with children on summer break to consider how the more relaxed summer schedule affords you added opportunities in which to gather as a family for prayer, instruction and worship within your home. I write this, after having just officiated at a wedding and so what the Book of Common Prayer calls the 3 "causes for which Matrimony was ordained" are still fresh in my mind. As you may recall, the first cause given is: "It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name."
Clearly this is a very counter-cultural way in which to understand marriage and there is much that could be said about what the prayerbook is seeking to teach us here, but allow me simply to observe that what is implied is that children would be taught how to love, worship and obey God within the contexts of their own homes and under the care and direction of their own parents.
This is not meant to imply that the Church is without a role to play in the formation and education of youth (elsewhere we read, for instance, that God has committed to the Church “the care and nurture of children”), rather – the implication is that the calling of the Church is to train/equip Mothers and Fathers such that they might better be able to fulfill their calling to raise their children to be life-long disciples of the Lord Jesus (within the Church).
Here are a few basic ideas as to how families might be intentional and proactive in bringing up children in the fear and nurture of the Lord:
• On Saturday evening, you might consider helping your child(ren) prepare for worship by praying the Collect and reading the lessons appointed for the following Sunday. Just after dinner (but before dessert! – a powerful incentive) is a good time for a father (or a mother) to take out the prayerbook and lead the family in prayer.
• In addition, you might consider following the simple (and short) order for Family Prayers found at the back of the prayerbook. Children who are old enough to participate might be asked to read one of the prayers or lessons.
• Involving fire is always popular with children – we always light a candle at the beginning of our prayers and then allow David to blow it out when our prayers have ended. He looks forward to his (small) role in our evening prayers and the lighting of the candle is a visual clue to him that we are transitioning into our prayer time.
• Singing is also a great way to teach children the prayers. We are not very musically skilled (to put it mildly) but we sing anyway and David (at 3 years) doesn’t seem to mind that we’re off key. Singing has been an easy way to teach him a number of prayers.
• During the service on Sunday, encourage your children to participate. If they can read, they should follow along and make the appropriate responses. If they are not able to read, they can still participate physically (standing, kneeling, sitting) and as they learn various parts of the service they can recite them from memory. I think that parents whose children were in Children’s Church this past year will find that their children have learned the Lord’s Prayer, the 10 Commandments and the Creed.
Fr. Patterson, Rector