By the Rev. Canon Jana Sundin, Canon for Children and Youth
When a person is baptized, they and the whole congregation make prom-ises, one of which is to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every hu-man being.” Judging from what we see in the world around us, this is not always a simple promise to keep, and part of the work of the church is to teach and support each member as we keep our promises and walk as disciples of Jesus.
As Bishop Reddall and many others leading our church have clearly named this year, one way we as The Episcopal Church have failed to fulfill our vow is by maintaining silence in the centuries-long struggle for racial equity. We are called to the freedom in Christ that comes from transformative truth-telling! (See: https://day1.org/articles/5f0770cd6615fbf72d 00000f/speaking-of-freedom-a-letter-to-the-church-on-breaking-free-of-white-supremacy-by-kelly-brown-douglas-stephanie-spellers-and-winnie-varghese)
And because we care about the discipleship of young people, and because they are, and will become, our leaders, we must invite them into these important conversations now. There may be people who feel concerned about the idea of talk-ing with children about race for various reasons. However, experts agree that even the youngest children learn to make judgments based on differences they perceive, and will pick up racial bias from the culture around them if they’re not intentionally formed otherwise.
Animated by baptismal vows and this call to truth-telling and discipleship, this fall several parishes teamed up to offer a formation series called Respect the Dignity of All: Kids Engaging Racial Equity. Through this series, we are practicing ways to respect the dignity of all people and love each other as Jesus taught us to do. We began on Sunday, September 13, using stories, prayer, music, and activities to explore how we listen for the voice of God, the importance of attending to others’ perspectives and needs, the meanings of justice and mercy, the interconnectedness of all living beings, and what love in action looks like.
This formation series is available in the Family Formation playlist on the Diocesan YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/azdiocese1), and has been designed to be used by churches as their Sunday School or mid-week programming, or by individual households. If you would like more information about how you and/or children in your church can engage this program, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And while this program is specifically designed for elementary school-aged children and their caregivers, striving for justice and peace and respecting the dignity of all is the work of a lifetime. We do not outgrow it, and we do not do it alone – we walk together as a community of disciples of Jesus, and everything we do, we do with God’s help.