The Life of Hope
by Rev. Jody Long
Within the next month, our church family will welcome at least two new members. Baby Dickison and Baby Long will make their debuts and, like so many children before them, be welcomed with wide-open arms. I’ve seen and believe deeply your care for them is not simply because they are children of the ministers of FBCX. Through my almost 10 years at FBCX, I’ve seen this good congregation embrace children of all ages and families with a love and care that is truly one of our best attributes. Thankfully, I’ve also seen this congregation embrace families who lost children far too early or when children faced seemingly impossible odds. While your care in the truly joyous times is deeply appreciated, it is your care in the tragic days that sets this congregation apart.
Our congregation’s commitment to children extends from the cradle to the diploma, regardless of whether children grow up in our congregation or come because their parents are a part of our ESL ministry, come to our Crisis Closet, or are a part of our neighborhood. We provide sacred spaces for our children to begin discovering their role in worship. We buy crayons, markers, stickers, and construction by the case so children can express the goodness of God in art and fun. We buy animal crackers and apple juice – the elements of childhood Communion – by the carton so our children can be nourished physically as they are nourished spiritually. We provide camp opportunities for older children to begin expressing a more mature sense of spiritual development.
The care for our children extends to our congregation’s commitment to our youth. Youth, who are discovering what it means to be a teenager in an ever-shifting cultural environment, are given space and freedom to ask tough questions about faith and how it can transform it personally while transforming the world around us. The first weekend of October, our youth gathered with youth from around the state to explore their God-given identity. ReCharge, the CBFGA’s annual fall youth retreat, was a wonderful success, especially as our youth participated in low-ropes course learning the values of teamwork, support for each other, and leadership. Time in the woods outside of Atlanta gave us all a fresh perspective of who God has created us to become and how we have a vital part in God’s good, open future.
Jürgen Moltmann writes, “With every child something new comes into the world. So for us the word ‘childhood’ has the resonances of an open future, a future full of everything possible; and it is often used as a parable of hope for the fullness of life.” Thanks be to God for a congregation that encourages, enables, and enjoys the life of hope children and youth bring into our world.