A Moment for Mission
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone.”
— Philippians 4:4-5a, NRSV
At Manchester United Methodist Church in the St. Louis, Missouri, metropolitan area, COVID-19 restrictions simply mean doing ministry differently.
“Our Children's Sabbath now looks like our director of children’s education and family ministry, Chessey Brenton, reading books to the children on Facebook Live in a private Facebook group for the parents,” said Autumn Dennis, director of missions.
In July, the congregation tried an intergenerational approach, adapting for children the sermon series on parables. “They got a video from our staff in the ‘Prayground,’ telling the parable story using puppets with ‘wondering’ questions,” Dennis explained. “Our adult classes have been using those puppet videos in their learning as well.” Before the pandemic, the in-person worshipping congregation numbered about 3,000.
Children’s Sabbath observances can take many forms, often including:
service/worship/prayers/faith community gatherings focused on the moral, spiritual and ethical imperative to nurture, protect and seek justice for children;
educational programs for all ages;
advocacy and hands-on service activities to meet immediate needs of children and raise voices for justice; and
long-term, year-round action to make a difference in children’s lives.
In The United Methodist Church, Discipleship Ministries coordinates the annual Children’s Sabbath. While the official ecumenical weekend is in October, congregations may choose a date that works for them.
No matter when or how your congregation observes Children’s Sabbath, it is always a time to remember Jesus’ words, “Let the little children come to me.”
Loving God, we are your children. Show us special ways to celebrate and to nurture our family in faith, especially the youngest members. In your name, we pray. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost — Mighty God, deserving of all honor and praise: we bring our gifts this morning, remembering that the offering you truly seek is the offering of our whole lives. Help us, we pray, to live a life that is worthy in your sight. When we struggle and stumble, help us up and put us on the path. On the advice of the apostle Paul, may our lives be focused on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable” (4:8), so that our offering may be pleasing in your eyes. In Christ, we pray. Amen. (Philippians 4:1-9)
From United Methodist Men: Gracious God, You are love, You are joy, You are peace, You are all that we need and all that we desire. Teach us to love. Fill us with the joy that comes from obedience to Your divine will, Grant us Your peace—the peace that passes all understanding, So we can speak and act justly; So we can truly see our neighbor; So we can be instruments of Your peace and citizens of Your kingdom—on earth as it is in heaven. Amen. – Rev Dr. Tom Albin, Nashville, Tenn.
In The United Methodist Church, Discipleship Ministries coordinates the annual Children’s Sabbath. While the official ecumenical weekend is in October, congregations may choose a date that works for them. It’s an opportunity to learn about the problems facing children, explore sacred texts and teachings that call us to love and protect them, respond with outreach and advocacy, and inspire year-round action to improve children’s lives.
Congregations hold special worship services, educational programs and advocacy activities to engage people of faith in the lives of children and their families.
The Children’s Defense Fund website proclaims: “The fight for children happens 24 hours a day, seven days a week. … Fixing … systemic inequities begins with our children, so we focus especially on poor children, children of color and those with disabilities.” For more information, go to www.childrensdefense.org.
Welcome all children. Share Jesus’ amazing love with God’s little ones every day. Honor the children who enrich your congregation’s life. Celebrate Children’s Sabbath!
—Adapted from Discipleship Ministries and Children’s Defense Fund websites