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.

    Trinity United Methodist Church’s Children’s Sabbath is just one of the many creative events that took place, invigorating existing congregational efforts to help children and inspiring new ones to continue congregational engagement on behalf of children throughout the year. Each Children’s Sabbath is unique, reflecting the concerns and commitments of its congregation and community, but together they are a strong, unified expression of the faith community’s commitment to nurture and protect all children.

    Plan now to join thousands of Methodist churches, churches of other denominations, synagogues, mosques, temples and other faith communities across the country in the 23rd annual National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths the weekend of October 17-19, 2014, by holding special worship services, education programs, and advocacy activities to engage your congregation in faithful efforts to ensure that every child has a strong start through positive early childhood development.

    The 2014 National Observance of Children’s Sabbath title is “Precious in God’s Sight: Answering the Call to Cherish and Protect Every Child.” While congregations may focus on the concerns most urgent in their communities and state, the 2014 Children’s Sabbath encourages a special focus on the importance of high quality early childhood development and learning opportunities. A safe, nurturing, stable and stimulating environment is crucial to ensuring that a child’s brain develops appropriately during these earliest years of rapid development.

    Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, affirms, “We know high-quality early childhood development and learning interventions can buffer the negative effects of poverty and provide a foundation for future success with lifelong benefits, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable children. Studies have shown children enrolled in high-quality early childhood programs are more likely to graduate from high school, hold a job, and make more money and are less likely to commit a crime than their peers who do not participate. High-quality preschool is a critical piece of the early childhood continuum — and we need to celebrate and support the cities, states, and political leaders who are successfully providing this experience for all children. Congress needs to follow their good example now by enacting the Strong Start for American’s Children Act to enable millions of the nation’s children — not just thousands or tens or hundreds of thousands — to get quality early childhood education including home visiting through kindergarten and be better prepared for school and for life. This should be a litmus test for our vote this November. If leaders don’t stand up for children, they don’t stand for anything and they don’t stand for a strong American future which requires educated children.”

    The Strong Start for America’s Children legislation in the U.S. Congress this year offers an immediate opportunity for justice-seeking advocacy leading up to and on the Children’s Sabbath weekend. Congregations can combine this advocacy with local, hands-on volunteering, giving, and awareness-raising activities. The Strong Start for America's Children Act (S. 1697/H.R. 3461) invests in and encourages expansions of high quality home visiting programs, Early Head Start, Head Start, child care, pre-kindergarten and quality kindergarten programs to provide high quality early childhood development and learning experiences for low-income and vulnerable children from birth through age 5.

    As Dr. Luther E. Smith, Jr., Campaign Coordinator for the Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty has observed, “Caring for children is a basic spiritual practice of the Methodist heritage. John Wesley insisted upon it; and our Methodist churches, at their most faithful times, have put their faith in action through the nurture of and advocacy for all children. Celebrating the Children's Sabbath is vital to naming and sustaining a congregation's activism as a response to God's call to love children.”

    To assist communities with planning and implementing their Children's Sabbaths Celebration, CDF produces an annual National Observance of Children's Sabbaths Manual: A Multi-faith Resource for Year Round Child Advocacy. Though the National Observance of Children's Sabbaths Weekend is traditionally held the third weekend of October, the worship resources, educational materials, and action ideas are intended for use throughout the year.

    Rev. Shannon Daley-Harris, Religious Affairs Advisor, The Children’s Defense Fund

     

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