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Glad Tidings!

As parents, remembering that our children are the property of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20: 28: I Peter 1:9, we will bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and take all possible care to preserve them from every evil influence.  For this reason we will seek to approve ourselves as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, setting an example for our children.  We will give faithful attention to the spiritual development of our children, both in the home and in the church.  We will endeavor to conduct regular family devotions.”  –Moravian Covenant for Christian Living, Section lll. B

Whew!  Camp is over, the kids are off to school and we all are off and running!  I do want to take a moment to thank all of you who were volunteers, oops. . . that is, disciples this summer with the children.  Our camps were wonderful and we shared many beautiful moments of kindled spirits and new growth with the kids.   The kids were so genuine and kind and many of us adults remarked about how spiritually gifted the children were.  And that is in a word, Gospel, dear sisters and brothers!

I want to take a moment to remind you about our resource for families, Loving Hearts United.  We are still excited that God worked through so many people to pull this off.   It is uniquely Moravian and we are grateful for all the designers, writers, parent and grandparent photographers and singers who so cheerfully shared their gifts. 

Liz Venable, Ruth Cole Burcaw, and I will be working on a short resource to use with families, so that they can explore ways as to how they might use it.  Starting is half the battle!  We really want to help people open up and make time to live into as a way of life.  Christ always calls us into a deeper relationship with one another and with our Good Shepherd.   This is vital because many families are so busy and scattered that they will need a hand-up to try to be very intentional:  

As pastors and educators, here are some ways some of our churches already have used this resource:  

1.       Give the book to parents when their children are baptized.

2.       If you give the gift of the Daily Texts or promote it, add Loving Hearts United to your gift or promotion.

3.      Give this resource to children in the moment with the children and tell the children about it.  Interestingly enough, they will love the rituals and will help parents stay intentional. 

4.      Invite me or any of the writers to come and share this with your parents.  Some churches plan a lunch after church, get a caregiver to be with the children, some have hosted Wednesday nights, one had a two-part series on parenting and served lunch and involved the children.   One little boy was very excited about the Daily Texts and asked if he might have one for his family too!

5.      Announce it verbally from the pulpit and use a bulletin insert, which we will be sending you.  You may want to tailor the insert or newsletter piece to suit how you are planning to share this gift. 

6.      Some people believe that a book means more if the parents are pay for it themselves.  It is available for sale in the resource center.  The cost is 19.95 plus tax and it includes the CD.  It is also a companion piece with the Daily Texts. Call 336-722-8026 for more information or to order.

7.      Request someone to lead the parents (grandparents and guardians) through the short resource to help them get started.  Or invite someone in your church to lead it.  We will provide a “teacher-friendly” resource for you, (which will be available in November).

This is a stand alone piece which means that families can pick it up and use it any time of the year.  Here are some examples: 

At a special event in the life of a family or church: 

They may start living into it at a special event such as the baptism of their child, the confirmation of their child or teen ager, (it is never too late!), the day Bibles are given out, a child’s birthday or when a new family joins the church, on the anniversary of a child’s adoption ( fondly called, gotcha day).

At a special season in the life of the church:

You could promote the resource or give the resource before Advent since this is the beginning of the church year, at Christmas,  since Jesus was born into a family, in the new year, when the new Daily Texts are given or sold, during Lent since this is a special time of devotion or on Easter, (of course!).   One teenager asked for the Daily Texts for a Christmas present.  Then again, you could simply give it to your own family for Christmas. 

If your church has any ideas of how you have invited families or shared Loving Hearts United , lease send us you good news.  We always welcome glad tidings!

Faithfully yours,

Rev. Lisa Mullen, Director of Children and Family Ministry

What will capture the heart and mind of a child?  Upon what values will children make decisions?  Such questions are foundational for any “organization” that wants a child to be “hooked”, always “buying into” what they offer and even sell, “getting and having them for life”. 

Lisa Mullen in her article Giving – Who’s Minding the Children hits these questions head on and notes that it has long been the goal of many businesses to “own this kid younger and younger and younger.” That is a frightening thought, even a basic goal of “Kids ‘R’ Us”, such to (hopefully) ensure a dedicated relationship for a lifetime that will lead to profit, but at what cost?  

Rodger Nishioka notes the same in his article Stewardship with Generation Next, going beyond the store in the mall to the ways that young people connect with one another and the world…predominantly technology-driven.  This makes it even tougher to connect with young people who have ears and eyes (constantly) tuned in is their general distrust of the institution…any institution, especially those that ask for money.

Rhonda Pittman Gingrich in Teaching Mindful Giving takes the concern one step further as she clearly defines the importance of helping young people make “values-based decisions”, especially related to spending habits.  She challenges the “church” to take the lead, recognizing that the church has “wonderful faith development opportunities”. 

So, what does the Church do?  In reading these excellent articles, each published in the most recent issue of Giving…Growing Joyful Stewards in Our Congregation, I am reminded that the challenge is real, yet also a challenge the Church can face with confidence.  In each I note the importance of relationship, the “personal connection”.  The Church can help children pull away from the many aspects of life that want to “own” them.  This happens best when trusted people of mature faith spend time with children…“baking cookies” together, “painting a fence” together, and “talking” together.  Such will do and help lead to all that is needed. 

     The truth is,  we need to (again) realize that what children want is not “stuff”, at least not primarily.  What they want is excellent relationship.  It takes time, but even more so it takes doing what we know will serve best as we help all children see themselves, each, as a child of God.  In that realization is the “stuff” they really long for, and such is found best through Christ and the Church.             

-Gary Marsh
Gary Marsh is the Director of Stewardship for the Moravian Church, Northern Province

Just as the taco meat was beginning to simmer, I received a knock on the door.  When I opened the front door I knew immediately who the two young men were representing in their dark suits and white button down shirts.  I did not have to read their clearly marked nametags to know the reason for their visit.  I figured I had 10 minutes before dinner was ready so I did not have to be rude or cut them off at the pass like I might have done if we were getting ready to sit down at the dinner table.  Also, my 8-year old daughter, EmmaGrace, was right there beside me watching and listening to see what I might do. 

I clearly told these two young men that I was a Christian, that we attended church regularly, and I even worked for the Moravian Church.  They had a few questions and asked about raising a child in the faith.  I shared with them my answers and told them that most recently I was passionate about faith formation in families and any issues with children and reconnecting them with nature and God’s wonderful creation.  At that moment EmmaGrace ran back into the house and grabbed a bracelet we recently made that represents the seven days of creation.  EmmaGrace was charming as she explained what each bead represented in that bracelet.  The young men were so kind and patient listening to her retell the story of creation through that beaded bracelet.  Together, we agreed that God created a great big world with all kinds of people and we need to share His love with one another.

-Heather Stevenson 

From Lisa Mullen: 

I love this remarkable story about our little friend and sister in the faith EmmaGrace.   With exuberance she runs to find one of her treasures to share with the Mormon evangelists!  This must be the kind of openness that Jesus spoke of when he talked to us (adults) who might only enter into the reign of God as little children. 

In her own childlike wisdom EmmaGrace meets her guests right where they are and shares a part of herself that testifies to the deepness and wideness of God’s whole created order, including Mormons and Moravians, (who are not to be confused with one another).  Sometimes, we underestimate the spiritual gifts of children who enjoy and share a wondrous and rich spiritual life.   EmmaGrace shares her joy directly, openly and freely.  Listen to Wynn McGregor in her spiritual formation curriculum, the Way of the Child,   as she speaks of children’s “innate connection to God:”

All children come from God and God’s spirit is breathed into them at birth.  As human beings, they are created in the divine image for relationship with God.  They have that gift from God to all humans—transcendence, the desire and the capacity to reach beyond their own limits because their imaginations are so rich and fertile, they do not have to know all the answers. They are comfortable living in the “in between.”  They fathom much more than they can articulate. Our culture puts an inordinate emphasis on reasoning and knowing “the truth.”

Our faith is always deepened by the faith of children, our younger sisters and brothers, if we open our eyes and ears to the gifts they bring to us all. 

-EmmaGrace is a second grader at Clemmons Elementary School who loves this great big world filled with God’s wonderful creation.  Heather Stevenson is the mom who loves this curious little girl.  Lisa Mullen, Director of Children and Family Ministries for the Board of Christian Education is EmmaGrace’s friend who shares beautiful flowers with her.

Annual church seasons serve as regular reminders of certain aspects of Christianity. Reminders are beneficial, but it seems that the 40-day Lenten practice is incomplete to many in our modern world. Interestingly, a relatively new understanding of the number forty in biblical context suggests that the number represents “a very long time.” But suddenly, in Lent we regress to the literal interpretation of the 40-day length. Instead, we should extend our enriched faith beyond Easter Sunday. Perhaps it is our comfortable lifestyles that tend to prevent us from doing this. Maybe it is the speed at which we fly through seasons, checking off holidays in our planners as they pass. The Church calendar is beautifully cyclical, but as we move through cycles more quickly we seem to be missing the point, as if we were spinning faster and faster on a carousel. The faster we move, the less focus we can place on each season.

Why do we give things up? Why fast? In order to begin to appreciate the gift of abundant life given to us through Christ’s suffering death and resurrection, we practice empathy. We try to inhabit the mind of Christ. We sacrifice, but in sacrificing we should build ourselves up. In living more simply, we live more. We should fast from those things that consume us: that control too much of our time, souls, and bodies. By this cleansing we make room for something that allows us to understand Christ and subsequently deepen our way of life. The word Lent originally meant “spring”. Think of Lent as Spring Cleaning. Also, fasting is personal. We all have our own set of things that consume us, be they pleasures or burdens. Choosing from pleasures may not be enough when considering what we should “give up”. Do not sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake. Let go of something. This will give you empathy for Christ that eventually brings you closer to friendship with God. Zihna Edwards cautions that, “People who equate Lenten sacrifice with a New Year’s resolution are missing the richness of the possibility. We have before us a preparation for Life… and an invitation to die to the things that keep us dead in a little further way. We could make this out to be about chocolate. Or we could ask God what things are getting in our way.” Hopefully by disassembling our lives temporarily we can reconstruct them to a more balanced form. Furthermore, we should consider how others are affected by what eats at us. St. John Chrysostom of the fifth century questioned, “For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?”.  

There is nothing wrong with “giving up” Facebook, chocolate, television, or meat. But Lent is more. Giving up is the first step. Filling that void with a healthier practice, such as prayer or silence, is the second. This is a time of reflection that is sadly trivialized by many. Often it seems that many set a goal to endure six weeks of sacrifice, which becomes a fruitless ritual. We risk becoming more self-absorbed in our attempts at self-denial. Sometimes our motives for fasting during Lent are self-serving. Our intentions are not usually wrong, but we quickly revert to our pre-Lent selves. Lent is a forty-day period to sit down and think—to consider our own lives, God’s incarnate suffering for us, and how the two line up. In a wider context, the liturgical year extends beyond our 365-day symbolic cycle to encompass all of time. So when we mess up, when we are confused—any time of the year can be the humbling days of Lent, and any time the bright rebirth of Easter. It is never too late to begin!

 16When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 16-18)

Anna Mullen is a Junior at Salem Academy where she sometimes writes for Salem’s community paper, Grassroots. 

Ruth & her first spiritual mentor, her grandma.

Ruth and her first spiritual mentor - her grandma.

Growing up, I had lots of fears. Now that I’ve watch my own very imaginative son struggle with similar feelings, I realize how normal I was. Lying in the safety of my warm, middle-class home, in my giant double bed, I obsessed over thunderstorms, fire, robbers, kidnappers and things that went creepy-crawly in the night. I pondered my own mortality, thinking, “Am I really real? Is life real or is it a dream?” This was the most frightening of all of my fears.

Fortunately, I was able to discuss my fears with a kind and compassionate adult — my maternal grandmother, whose faith has always been deep and wide and uncompromising. It was she who first really talked to me about Jesus and his great sacrifice, who prayed with me for comfort and peace when I felt unsettled, and who encouraged my heartfelt, childish writings and drawings about God and Jesus.

Though I grew up in the church with loving, faithful Christian parents, when I think back on my spiritual formation, I know that it began in my room at bedtime with Grandma praying me to sleep. I learned many things from my grandma — like closing the bread bag without using one of those twisty ties or how to decorate a dining table for company — but what I remember most about her is her deep and abiding faith – a faith that continues even today at 97 in a skilled nursing facility. Philippians is a favorite book of hers, and Philippians 4:13 provides special inspiration: “For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Even as her body and mind fail her, Grandma still embodies what it means to be a Christian.

Who were your spiritual mentors? Who provided a context or foundation for you to discuss spiritual issues as a child? From where did your initial impressions of God & Jesus come? And how would your children answer these questions? Are there adults in their life who provide a kind of spiritual leadership?

-Ruth Cole Burcaw, Co-Chair
Children & Family Life Commission



Recognizing the home as a community of faith, Roots & Wings provides avenues for families to discover and develop their spiritual roots and wings in today’s world. Roots & Wings celebrates and enriches family connectedness within the Moravian Church community.

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