- Created on Tuesday, 04 October 2011 16:24
Here’s just one example of how powerful a Children’s Sabbath can be…
I had the great honor to give a sermon at Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka this past Sunday as part of their observance of Children’s Sabbath. UU of Minnetonka honors the National Observance of Children’s Sabbath a little earlier than most congregations (the suggested observance is Oct 21-23), but their early observance gives everybody else the benefit of using their ideas!
It began with celebration. Worship leader Andrea Heier explained the how they created portraits and written profiles of the congregation’s children to colorfully present on large display on the chancel of the sanctuary. Young people opened the service by unveiling the display and celebrating the gift of children in our worshipping communities and in our midst.
This was followed by the “It’s Time” liturgical reading, a simple presentation that is outlined on page 5 of the Multifaith Resources materials published by the Children’s Defense Fund. This liturgy evokes both lament and hope.
UU Minnetonka Church was very creative with the “It’s Time” idea. A metronome was set to beat once per second, loud enough for the whole congregation to hear: a steady click, click, click. The worship leader explained that each click represents a young person suspended at school — one school suspension every second….
Then a young person stepped forward and explained that every eight seconds a high school student drops out. “Each time I clap my hands, it represents another child whose feet are no longer on the path to a promising future.” [Claps with 8 seconds in between each clap. Keeps clapping every 8 seconds throughout the rest of the readers.]
Then, Reader 3: “Every 20 seconds of the school day a public school student is corporally punished. Each time I clap, think of a child who experiences school as a place of pain and punishment instead of positive guidance and constructive redirection. [Claps hands every 20 seconds.]
Reader 4: Every 21 seconds a child is arrested. Each time I clap my hands, think of a child who is being pushed along the Cradle to Prison Pipeline instead of along a path of promise. [Claps hands every 21 seconds, continuing to clap throughout rest of the readers.]
Reader 5: Every 31 seconds a baby is born into poverty. The odds for school success are stacked against this baby before she even enters a classroom for the first time. [Claps hands and then claps again in 31 seconds. After that second clap, all readers stopped clapping and the metronome was stopped.]
Leader: Time. It’s time to act.
Leader and Readers (together): It’s time!
Leader (to congregation): Let all who agree, respond together with applause, hoots, and noise.
At this point the whole congregation, clearly moved by the demonstration, made a lot of noise and clearly were ready for action!
Then I made a brief presentation on the importance of faithful citizenship and how people of goodwill must act to defend the human dignity and human potential of every child. With child poverty on the rise in Minnesota and currently at 15%, it is especially important that congregations highlight the need to take action on behalf of those who can't represent themselves in our political system.
We then distributed ready-to-send postcards and encouraged the congregation to add their own personalized messages. We also circulated a sign-up sheet for iCAN’s action alert network. I can’t remember a more receptive and charged-up congregation. I found out after the service that worshippers were from a wide range of communities, including constituents of Minnesota's Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader — It was great!
It's amazing how powerfully simple the “It’s Time” liturgy is. Thanks to CDF for publishing the original idea and thanks to UU Church of Minnetonka for adding their own creative touches, including an announcement that a portion of their offering would go to support iCAN's work.
This is how we become stronger and more powerful. It's time.