Pan-Methodists and the National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths – a Quarter-Century of Faithful Participation
This year marks the 25 th anniversary of the National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths. The participation from denominations in the Pan-Methodist family has been vital to the growth and continuing witness and work for justice of the Children’s Sabbath observance from its earliest years to now. If you and your congregation haven’t yet joined in, make this the year!
Should your church participate if it already celebrates Children’s Day in June or has a monthly Youth Sunday? Absolutely! The October National Observance of Children’s Sabbath shares elements of celebration with traditional June Children’s Day and incorporates young people’s leadership like traditional Youth Sundays. However, the Children’s Sabbath has distinct elements that make it a vital addition to the life of congregations even if they mark those other occasions as well:
- The Children’s Sabbath focuses attention on current, urgent problems facing children and families in our nation—like poverty, gun violence, lack of health care, and the need for affordable, accessible, good quality child care.
- The Children’s Sabbath draws on our sacred texts, teachings, and traditions to call for action—both compassionate hands-on service and courageous, committed work for justice to address systemic problems and call for widespread solutions.
- The Children’s Sabbath aims to involve all ages—from children, to teens, to adults—in the leadership of the day, since all of us have a role to play in improving the lives of children.
Pan-Methodist Bishops Affirm Campaign
Bishops of the six Methodist denominations that constitute the Pan-Methodist Commission held their 12th Consultation of Methodist Bishops in Atlanta, GA. At this biennial gathering, they voted on March 22 to: 1) reaffirm their “commitment that Pan-Methodist bishops appoint annual conference liaisons to the Campaign”; and 2) encourage their liaisons to report their initiatives for children to the Campaign Coordinator.
This support is vital to the Campaign’s success. The Campaign’s operational structure relies on the selection and encouragement of liaisons. The bishops’ commitment to advance the Campaign through their liaisons is a significant endorsement of the Campaign’s mission and accomplishments.
Madeline’s Story (One of Billions)
Luther E. Smith, Jr., Campaign Coordinator
Madeline sits in her third-grade class wanting to excel in her studies. But she came to school weak from hunger, and her mind is continually distracted by thoughts of food. This is not her first day being hungry. Most of her school days are days without a breakfast that would diminish the hunger pains and provide energy for the day’s challenges. So although Madeline listens to her teacher, she cannot concentrate.
Madeline has been labeled as “not very smart”, “not paying attention”, “lazy”, and “unmotivated.” These labels fail to recognize the real problem: Madeline is hungry. Her hunger will diminish her educational achievement, and her poor academic record will limit her future job options, and her low-income job will be the major reason that Madeline’s children are likely to be hungry and in poverty.
[Editor: My granddaughter Jasmyn was asked to give the invocation for an event where I was given a “Big Voice for Georgia’s Children Award”. Her prayer deeply touched our hearts, and resonates as one that can be recited by all who seek God’s guidance in being God’s people.]
Jasmyn and Luther Smith (“grandpa”)
Thank you for being here with us today and for allowing my grandpa to be a big voice for children.
Thank you for our health, for our food, for family, for friends, and for everything that you give us everyday.
Please help starving children to survive.
Please help people to have all the food and shelter that they need.
Please help people to have lots of love.
Please help people to come together to help poor people.
God, please help us to do all the things we should—like sharing and being good and kind to others.
Please let us have no bad dreams, and keep us safe.
I hope you have a good day tomorrow. Amen
Jasmyn A. Smith, Age 9.
2014 Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry
The Pan-Methodist Campaign works in partnership with the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) to prepare people of faith to be inspired and effective child advocates. The following announcement is submitted by CDF:
For many, summer is a time for family reunions, rest and renewal, relaxed worship services or summer revivals, and a time to step back from the year’s daily grind to focus on the big picture, dream new dreams, make plans for the year to come, and even learn something new. The Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, is the one place where you can do all that and so much more. Plan now to attend, whether for the full five-day Institute, as a one-day participant, or even just to stop by for one of the evening worship services featuring the Great Preacher Series that is free and open to the public.
In Weaving a Just Future for Children: An Advocacy Guide, Methodist child advocates Diane C. Olson and Laura Dean F. Friedrich describe their experience of the Proctor Institute: “One place both of us have felt the powerful presence of the beloved community is at the Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry, sponsored every summer by the Children's Defense Fund. With equal parts of family reunion, spiritual renewal, and skills building, the gathering is an inspiring week of sermons, workshops, and reflection groups focused on the needs of children and celebrating our calls to advocacy.
2014 National Observance of Children’s Sabbath
Precious in God’s Sight: Answering the Call to Nurture and Protect Every Child
When Trinity United Methodist Church in Duncanville, Texas, celebrated their Children’s Sabbath, they publicized the event in their newsletter, writing, “Children's Sabbath is an opportunity to not only celebrate the gift of children in our lives, but to develop a shared concern for children that helps us build a common commitment to improve their lives and to work for justice on their behalf. “ They shared statistics from the Children’s Defense Fund “to start the conversation:”
Every day in America
5 children killed by abuse or neglect
8 children or teens killed by firearms.
2,058 children confirmed as abused or neglected
2,573 babies born into poverty
3,312 high school students drop out.
As part of Trinity’s Children’s Sabbath, they collected a special offering for the Rainbow Room which provides Child Protective Services caseworkers with items that babies, children, and youths might need such as diapers, school supplies, and clothing. The congregation’s families were encouraged to make the donations a family event, with their children helping select the items to donate to the room.
The Hunger for Bread and Love
Twelve children, forty-two grandchildren, seventy-nine great-grandchildren, and twenty-eight great-great-grandchildren; that is what my grandmother’s obituary read when she died in 2008. Of that 161 people, I am the first male to graduate from college and attend graduate school.
My grandmother, as wise and skilled as she was, died at the age of 93, having never learned to read or write. She was a deeply religious woman who believed in hard work and “loving thy neighbor.” As the matriarch of our family, her words to us were always, “Help one another.” It was a necessary trait since my family was affected by social and familial dynamics that thrust us into poverty. I was 5 years old when my mother left my father. We moved into a tiny three-bedroom house in the country. My mom paid $60 for rent. The rooms were so small they looked more like cell blocks than bedrooms. The house was infested with roaches and rodents. We didn’t know how poor we were.
Ask Before You Book
The following article from the Interfaith Children’s Movement (ICM) presents an issue and action for all Methodists. Before our churches, various organizations, and conferences spend money for accommodations, we can take an action that can change a major factor in the sexual exploitation of our children. Some chain hotels already support the Child-Protection Code of Conduct. Where we spend our money is fundamentally a moral issue. All the more reason to “Ask Before You Book.” ~ Luther E. Smith, Jr., Campaign Coordinator
Interfaith Children’s Movement Launches Child Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Campaign to Raise Awareness in the Hospitality Industry
Interfaith Children’s Movement has launched a state-wide campaign called, “Ask Before You Book,” to raise awareness within the interfaith community and the hospitality industry of the commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children in Georgia. The campaign asks faith communities to pose three basic questions to potential lodging facilities prior to booking their conference, convention, meeting or other activity:
- Does your company have a formal written policy in its annual report against human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children?
- Does your company provide annual anti-human trafficking/commercial sexual exploitation of children awareness and response training for its employees?
- Does your company include anti-human trafficking/commercial sexual exploitation of children messaging in each lodging facility’s brochures?
“ICM believes that if the interfaith community begins to ask these questions, then the hospitality industry will being to respond with a movement towards making their lodgings safer places for all children,” says Pamela Perkins Carn, coordinator of the Interfaith Children’s Movement. Studies have shown that anywhere from 250 to 500 girls are sold for sex each month in Georgia. The average age of entry for a child into the commercial sex trade is 12 - 14 years old. A 2010 study by The Shapiro Group, reported that on average, 7,200 men knowingly or unknowingly purchase adolescent females for sex each month in Georgia.
More than 100 Annual Conferences!
Over 100 annual conferences have now joined the Campaign for Children in Poverty! In just the last six months, nearly 40 annual conferences joined the Campaign. This is an exciting achievement that indicates the Campaign’s momentum.
Liaisons are reporting on the ministries of their annual conferences and churches that serve the needs of children in poverty. Reports range from providing such immediate needs as school supplies, tutoring, and meals to involvement in advocacy on policies and laws that affect thousands of children. The Campaign is not only putting together a picture of Pan-Methodist activism for children in poverty, it is enabling Methodists to inspire and offer the resource of their example to one another.
What next? We sustain this momentum in several ways. If your annual conference has joined the Campaign, work with your conference’s liaison to care for children within your annual conference. If your annual conference has not joined, encourage your bishop to appoint a liaison to the Campaign. “Like” the Campaign’s Facebook page. Celebrate “The Children’s Sabbath” in your local church, and explore ways for your church to make a difference in the lives of children in poverty. Most of all, pray for children and the mission of this Campaign.
Know About Your State's Children
Find data about realities of children in your state by clicking the “Children in the States Factsheet” link on the side panel. The link takes you to the website of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). The Pan-Methodist Campaign and CDF collaborate to make a difference in the lives of children. The website’s information will enable you as a child advocate to know and speak about issues that impact children in your state. Activism begins with knowledge. After noting the data about your children, talk about it with others in your church and community, and begin to explore how you might initiate or join efforts to improve the lives of these children.
Campaign Is Now International!
The Campaign for Children in Poverty is now in annual conferences outside the United States. Since our denominations are international, the Campaign needs to be wherever our Methodist churches serve.
Recently, annual conferences in South Congo/Zambia, Central and Southern Europe, Germany, Northern Europe, Eurasia, India, Jamaica, Liberia West Africa, Sierra Leone, and U.S. Virgin Islands have joined the campaign.
This is an exciting development for the Campaign. Campaign followers will have opportunities to hear how churches across the globe are making a difference in the lives of children in poverty. When we are able to tell one another’s stories, we increasingly experience the oneness God has called us to become.