Children in the Church
By Ellen Mintzmyer
The importance and participation by children in all aspects of our Christian community is treasured by the Diocese of Atlanta and every parish here. We believe that we are all on a faith journey and enrich each other by our presence. Children are full members of the Episcopal Church and since the mid-1970s, it is their baptism, not their age, that authorizes and brings them to the Eucharistic table. In the 1990s the church developed a Children’s Charter which recognized that not only are we called to nurture and minister to children, but we are also to be in mission with them, recognizing and supporting their gifts. So children travel with us, contributing to our spiritual growth, as we nurture and form them.
Children learn by practice, by doing, by playing, even watching. Thus many parishes have embraced new forms of learning as offered in Godly Play, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Journey to Adulthood. There children discover their own ways of knowing God, learning the stories of God and Jesus, being welcomed and blessed, as they find expression for faith. All Episcopal curricula will have an emphasis on arts and crafts of all kinds, for as Jerome Berryman, the founder of Godly Play, has proclaimed, “We are closest to the Creator when we are creating.”
In the parish community, children will be able to share their talents in pageants at Christmas or Epiphany and at other special times of the year. They will join the church community in the practices of Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, Advent and more as over and over, we cycle through the rhythms of the church year.
Each year, they will grow in confidence and faith as again and again, they join with everyone in worship and praise, engage and participate in the sacraments of baptism and eucharist, and join their families to serve others in need and care for the earth. In essence, to keep Jesus’ commandment to “Love God and Love Neighbor.”