THIS WEEK at St. Stephen’s … September 18, 2011
There can hardly be a Canadian who did not breathe an enormous sigh of relief at the release of three-year-old Kienan Hebert last week, following his abduction in the middle of the night from his home in Sparwood, BC. What parents did not follow this horrific story, as if it were happening to them, drawing their own children close for safety’s sake?
Children matter. We do not need to be reminded by the Old Testament prophets that a people is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members, which is how God is said to judge the nations. We already know that how we treat the children in our midst is a measure of the safety we offer to the rest of the world through our churches. And safety is vital to our mission and ministry, “sanctuary” being at the very heart of our identity, as well as our building.
So it seems fitting that we have embarked on an assessment of the place of children at St. Stephen’s: of their inclusion in the life of our parish, of the programs we create with them in mind, and of their safety in our midst. We have called this our “Year of the Child”. Dariel Bateman, our Deputy People’s Warden, is heading up a task force to study the place of children here and to make recommendations at our Annual General Meeting. It can only make us a better—and safer—congregation.
Last week our “Year of the Child” task force met to begin guiding us through a year of “child honouring” at St. Stephen’s. It promises good things not only for the children and youth of the Parish, but for all of us.
Someone asked about the “Year of the Child”—was this a United Nations designation or something? No, this is just our “Year of the Child”. Vestry, at its meetings in February and March, identified children and youth as deserving special attention in the coming program year. The reason was simple: as we enjoy the recent arrival of young families to our church, we want to ensure that we engage them—and therefore keep them—as they grow up in our midst.
There is another reason too. Raffi, the well-known Canadian “children’s troubadour”, has launched an initiative he calls “Child Honouring”. This is a way of seeing the world, with its many challenges and joys, through the eyes of children. By so doing, he says, many of the world’s problems solve themselves as we learn to work not for self-interest but for the sake of others.
So in the coming year our task force will examine all areas of church life with an eye for how we welcome, engage, and protect our young people. We will link with Raffi’s initiative and become part of a larger plan to see the world through the eyes of children. And we will become more attuned to God’s care for all of us.