Children's Sunday and the Kingdom of God
It seems everyone I’ve talked to this week who was in worship on Sunday has been riding the same spiritual high. Myself included.
Children’s Sunday is always a special time of worship. Our children never fail to impress and inspire with their poise, gifts, and depth of spirit. This Sunday has become even more poignant for me these last few years when we’ve chosen to celebrate it during the season of Lent.
At first we tried to avoid this, thinking the somber tone of the season might not fit with the buoyancy of Children’s Sunday. But last year we just decided to lean into it. We celebrated Children’s Sunday on the First Sunday of Lent, and as the service progressed, it became clear we’d stumbled onto something profound.
Who better than children to lead us in the work of retuning our hearts, reorienting our lives, and reforming our imaginations, which in the end is the work of this season of preparation for Easter and the miracle and mystery of resurrection?
I can still remember from last year how gut-wrenching it was to be called to confession by a child:
Lord our God,
In our sin we have avoided your call.
Our love for you is like a morning cloud,
Like the dew that goes away early.
Have mercy upon us.
Deliver us from judgement.
Bind up our wounds and revive us, and receive us in our silence, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If they should say these words, how much more should I?
This past Sunday did not disappoint. We were treated to beautiful anthems and prayers, moving reflections on “growing in wisdom” (the audio for which has been posted; we’re working on getting the text posted as well), as well as the profound visual of having young bodies stand in places of leadership and authority. I seem to remember Jesus saying something similar about the Kingdom of God.
And yet Sunday was particularly special in that we recognized two women who in their own way have shaped our children and our church for many years.
The first was Dolly Pace, aka Mrs. Dolly, who has served in our church nursery for 50 years.
You read that right: 50 years.
We honored Dolly’s service among us with a breakfast reception in the Fellowship Hall and then recognized her at the end of worship, offering gifts of a portrait of the church with a frame signed by grateful children and parents, and a love offing of $2,500.
Perhaps the most moving visual of the whole day came when in her beautiful remarks of recognition, Julie asked all in the congregation who had been cared for by Dolly, or whose children or grandchildren had been cared for, to stand up. Nearly three quarters of the congregation rose to their feet.
Following our recognition of Dolly, we also took a moment to thank Julie Long for her leadership and service among us. As I hope you have seen by now, beginning this week Julie has transitioned to part-time, giving up her administrative and larger-church duties to focus on children’s ministry. This decision did not come easy for her, but was made in light of this larger season of transition for her family, with Jody accepting the position to become the new director of CBF of Georgia.
As I noted on Sunday, while we will of course miss Julie’s presence in the office through the week, we fully support her in making this move. Julie is a rare gift, and I am grateful to have her leading and serving among us in any capacity, but especially the capacity that is most life-giving for her and her family.
It was a special Sunday in a church where darn near most Sundays are special. In fact, what made it so special is that we celebrated the spiritual nurturing that happens in so many small, barely noticeable ways week in and week out, through the care and service of so many.
In this season of journeying toward the cross, how important is it for us to remember this journey is long, and can only be taken one step at a time.