Group discernment is a tradition of the Church. Israelite “went up before the Lord” in Judges 20 to learn if they should do battle; Nineveh entered a time of fasting and repentance when Jonah prophesied to them; the apostles waited together to receive the Holy Spirit and during that time they discerned who should replace Judas as one of the Twelve.
In that tradition, we discerned together about the Sunday school program. The spirit of the meeting where we shared what we heard was one of peace and consensus about what we communicated to each other. Part of the message we heard was that children are important to God; that parents are charged with responsibility for their children’s spiritual formation; that this includes taking an active role in it. We realized that this can be a challenge when other claims - school, sports, extracurricular activities and lessons, the struggle to find family time - are also made on the child and the family. The group as a whole felt that we should teach children according to their levels of development, with greater responsibility and greater participation in the life of the Church as the child matures. In their program, we want our children to experience the richness and mystery of liturgical life and to have an experience of the beauty of holiness.
We decided to structure the Sunday school program in much the same way as it has been, with the children leaving after the gathering of the congregation and opening prayers, and returning during the exchange of the Peace. During that time, they will have Children’s Chapel in a program that is similar to what is happening in the main sanctuary, with readings, songs, prayers, and a teaching. In this way, they will go home having heard the same themes and questions as their parents, which offers an opportunity for discussion and activities around throughout the week.
Most of our older children are of an age to be confirmed, so we will develop a confirmation class over the next few months using the curriculum Confirm Not Conform.
We expect this class to formally begin in January. We also decided to have a service on fifth Sundays that is a children’s service, with children performing the duties of the liturgy in as full participation as possible. November 30 is the first one of these.
What we have done together is important work. Listening together to the Holy Spirit is risky but beautiful. It includes prayer, humility, receptivity to God’s message, openheartedness with each other and a sense of peace and consensus in our decisions. Now we will need compassion for one another as we attempt to live out the messages we received. Please pray for the Sunday school program as we faithfully seek to move forward remembering Matthew 19:14-15:
14but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ 15And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.