Summer is over and kids are back in school. That also means that Sunday school at St. Brendan’s is starting again!
Children are a cherished part of St. Brendan’s, and we encourage our children and youth to be an active part of our community through worship, service, and socializing. On any given Sunday, you’ll see kids serving as acolytes or ushers, singing in the children’s choir, playing in the chime choir, helping plant and harvest food in the Garden of Hope, collecting donations for the food pantry, and participating in numerous other projects and events at St. Brendan’s. But another way in which St. Brendan’s embraces our children is through our Sunday school program. Sunday school provides an opportunity for children to get to know God and the Church in a format and setting where they can engage, participate, question, discuss, and be kids!
When children are baptized in the Episcopal Church, we, as a congregation, promise to “do all in [our] power to support these persons in their life in Christ.” That includes nurturing them, praying for them, and teaching them about what it means to be a Christian. A close family friend of mine, Elizabeth, who was also the Director of Christian Formation when I was in Sunday School at Christ Church in Blacksburg, Virginia, used to liken Sunday to Thanksgiving. It’s “not much of a stretch,” she says, “since that's the root of the Greek word ‘Eucharist,’ but it's more than just the meal. Thanksgiving is a time when we sit around the table telling stories ... funny ... embarrassing ... sad. These stories are passed on from generation to generation ... the good, the bad, and the ugly. The stories about Jesus are stories about our roots, where we came from and who our relatives are. The stories of the Old Testament are stories Jesus grew up with; they too are our stories. Sunday school is important, because that's where we learn these stories—our stories through baptism.”
Here are some other reasons Sunday school is important:
Sunday school is a place where children can learn about God in an environment that is designed just for them. Our teachers and leaders have put a lot of time and effort into finding methods to share God’s message in ways that children will understand and relate to, and they are invested in making sure that kids have a positive and meaningful experience.
Sunday school is a place where children can have fun, make friends, and become a part of a community of other children and mentors who can support them along their faith journey. St. Brendan’s is an intergenerational church, and we welcome people of all ages, but there is also value in kids learning about God with other kids their age. Sunday school is a place for children to share their faith with other children, to watch older children and youth becoming involved with the church, and to help younger children discover what it means to be a Christian and to be a part of St. Brendan’s.
Sunday school gives kids a chance to ask questions and discuss ideas. There isn’t time during a regular Sunday worship service to stop and ask questions or hold a lengthy discussion, but Sunday school is designed for just that! Children need to know that the church is a safe place to express doubt and uncertainty, to question, to learn, to explore, and hopefully to find new meaning and understanding in the Word of God as their world views grow and change.
And here are a few more perspectives from other churches about why they feel Sunday school is important:
As I was writing this post, I had a chance to correspond with another family friend, Bishop Martin Townsend, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton, Maryland about his views on Sunday school. From his perspective (after 49 years as a member of clergy) Sunday school is important because it is an opportunity for children “to be loved and listened to by an adult in a setting that has an awareness of a holy presence. In the best of Sunday school circumstances,” he writes, “we might learn and re-learn that the biblical folk were a lot like us, struggling with the same questions of 'where do I belong?' and 'what do I value?' that we have. [But,] like the church itself, Sunday school is about being in a loving and supportive community more than it is about head learning.”
I know that this was often the case for myself growing up. While I have forgotten a lot of the psalms I memorized or the facts I learned in Sunday school, what has stayed with me is the sense of community I felt. In Sunday school, I learned that I was (and will always be) part of my church family and part of the larger Christian family. In fact, I still keep in touch with several of my Sunday school teachers and other members of the church family I grew up in.
Beginning September 17, St. Brendan’s will be offering Sunday school for children in pre-K through 5th grade during the 10 am service. Children will be invited to Sunday school after the opening hymn and prayer and will return for communion with their families. The last Sunday of each month will be a children’s liturgy during where children will be encouraged to participate and sing in the service. There will be two Sunday school classes this year: the LAMBS (Living As My Bible Says) for children in pre-K through 2nd grade and the FISH (First I Seek Him) for children in 3rd through 5th grades. The two classes will also work together seasonally on a service project. The Education Committee is currently working on plans to re-establish a youth program, which they hope to begin in October.
This year, the FISH class will be using the WHIRL Lectionary curriculum, which follows the same Revised Common Lectionary we use at St. Brendan’s. Through the WHIRL Lectionary curriculum, children read, reflect on, and discuss the weekly Gospel reading through creative lessons and activities. You can read more about this curriculum and watch a short video here: https://www.wearesparkhouse.org/kids/whirl/lectionary/. The LAMBS class will be using Godly Play. Check back on the blog next week for more information about Godly Play!
All of St. Brendan’s Sunday school teachers and leaders are required to have up-to date clearances and go through the Episcopal Church’s “Safeguarding God’s Children” program. This is a free program that anyone can complete online through the Diocese of Pittsburgh: http://www.episcopalpgh.org/ resources/safe-church/ . This program can be completed in a fairly short amount of time and is useful and informative for all church members, not just those working directly with children.
If you would like more information about Sunday school, are interested in being a teacher, leader, or door person this year, or need to update your clearances, please stop by the Education Committee table at the Ministry Fair this Sunday, September 10, after the 10 am service or email the Education Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At St. Brendan’s, we welcome children to be part of our community not just for who they will become, but for who they are now!
Grace and peace,
Annemarie, with special thanks this week to my family friend, Elizabeth!
A member of St. Brendan's since 2014, I enjoy being a part of this welcoming and giving community of faith. However, I am not a theologian, biblical scholar, or official spokesperson for The Episcopal Church. If you read anything on this blog that is inaccurate or contrary to the teachings of The Episcopal Church, please let me know! If you have any questions, please email me at email@example.com.