Dear Friends in Christ;
From the time that I learned to sing "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know," (I think I was four), I have had the abiding sense that I was always welcome in the Episcopal Church. I learned Bible stories from a young curate who told them with the aid of a felt-board that was the single most popular piece of technology in the whole Sunday School back in 1957. But I also was welcome in the nave. I learned the sung canticles for Morning Prayer just by listening to my mother as I stood next to her in the pew, and I burned with envy watching my older brother on the Sundays he served as an acolyte. This experience played a huge role in my growing faith in Christ, sustained me in the lean years of my adolescence, and provided the seed-ground for my vocation to the priesthood.
The easy lesson to draw from this story would be that our children are the future of the Church. However, Jesus teaches a different lesson, when he says, let the little children come to me, for to such as these belongs the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:16). I note that "belongs" is in the present tense. They already belong. We belong insofar as we imitate them, in their willingness to trust God and be led by Him. So, among other messages, this text suggests that our children and youth are the present of the Church, not merely her future. They are a substantial sign of Christ among us, a witness to the Kingdom of God in our midst.
That is why the Children's Charter, which we endorsed by vote of Diocesan Convention in November, is such an important commitment for our common life. I invite us all to reflect on this commitment, and to celebrate the varied ministries of our children, with special emphasis on Sunday, February 10th. A copy of the Children's Charter appears below, along with links to materials from the diocesan Christian Education Committee which include suggestions for ways to respond to the resolution.
Please join with me on February 10th as we lift up together the essential role of children in the Church's mission for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
Faithfully your Bishop,
Children's Charter of the Episcopal Church
Nurture of the child
- to receive, nurture and treasure each child as a gift from God;
- to proclaim the Gospel to children, in ways that empower them to receive and respond to God's love;
- to give high priority to the quality of planning for children and the preparation and support of those who minister with them;
- to include children, in fulfillment of the Baptismal Covenant, as members and full participants in the Eucharistic community and in the church's common life of prayer, witness and service.
Ministry to the child
- to love, shelter, protect and defend children within its own community and in the world, especially those who are abused, neglected or in danger;
- to nurture and support families in caring for their children, acting in their children's best interest, and recognizing and fostering their children's spirituality and unique gifts;
- to embrace children who seek Christian nurture independently of their parents' participation in the church;
- to advocate for the integrity of childhood and the dignity of all children at every level of our religious, civic and political structures.
Ministry of the child
A child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6
- to receive children's special gifts as signs of the Reign of God;
- to foster community beyond the family unit, in which children, youth and adults know each other by name, minister to each other, and are partners together in serving Christ in the world;
- to appreciate children's abilities and readiness to represent Christ and his church, to bear witness to him wherever they may be, and according to gifts given them, to carry on
- Christ's work of reconciliation in the world, and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the church. (Ministry of the Laity, pg. 855 BCP)
A printable version of the above Children's Charter is available by clicking here.
A study guide for implementing the Children's Charter is available here.
A list of suggestions for celebrating Children's Charter Day in your parish on Feb. 10 is available here.