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.
While every Children’s Sabbath celebration is unique, most incorporate an emphasis on children and justice in the service of worship, educational programs, and congregational activities. The Children’s Sabbath weekend serves as an impetus for new, long-term action to improve the lives of children throughout the year. The following examples are just a few of the countless Methodist Children’s Sabbath celebrations held last year:
- Amity United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, N.C., held a book drive as part of their 2015 Children’s Sabbath, collecting books in a “boat” in the rear of the sanctuary. The collection continued through the spring when the books were then distributed to elementary-aged children in the community to read during the summer. They also kicked off Operation Christmas Child on the Children’s Sabbath weekend. Special child-friendly treats were served after the Children’s Sabbath service at Amity.
- St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Metairie, Louisiana, invited a guest speaker—a local school principal—for their Children’s Sabbath focused on ending child poverty.
- As detailed elsewhere on the Pan-Methodist Campaign website, Hunter Memorial AME Church in Prince Georges County in Suitland, MD held its second annual Children’s Sabbath Interfaith Celebration, with youth and adults learning about and leading the congregation, including a homily by a young person, calls to action, and prayer stations.
The 2016 Children’s Sabbath, “Children of Promise: Closing Opportunity Gaps,” is focused on the inherent promise in every child, made in God’s image, and on the importance of keeping our promises as adults, citizens, leaders, and people of faith to treat all children with equality, dignity, justice, and love. One way we can do that is closing the opportunity gaps created by poverty, inadequate early childhood development, and failing schools, so that every child may fulfill her or his God-given promise. You can read more about the 2016 Children’s Sabbath theme in the Children’s Sabbath Welcome letter by CDF founder and president Marian Wright Edelman on CDF’s website at www.childrensdefense.org/childrenssabbaths.
Download free resources for the Children’s Sabbath at www.childrensdefense.org to help you plan a Children’s Sabbath weekend that inspires, informs, and engages all ages in action to close opportunity gaps so that every child has the family income, early childhood development, and education they need to fulfill their promise. Whether you start small or “go big,” plan for your own church or team up with other places of worship, schedule it for October or find an alternate date, what is most important is that you find the right way for your church to participate this year, joining the faithful witness and work of a multitude of congregations across the nation. Every child is full of promise. Let’s get to work to close opportunity gaps so that every child can realize the fullness of their God-given potential.