In this video, Bishop Ward asks us to embrace the children of our churches in our worship services. How is your church living like Susanna Wesley lived?
“I give thanks to God for a day well-spent.” This is a beautiful prayer of Susanna Wesley, the mother of Methodism.
Today, with 45 United Methodists from the North Carolina Annual Conference, I am at Epworth, at the rectory, where Susanna lived with her husband, Samuel, and their children for almost four decades.
He was the parish priest, often away, and we know the stories of how she taught her children. She was a learned person herself, having learned to read the Bible in their original languages from her father, who was a Puritan divine.
Today, as we are at the rectory, we remember the importance of embracing children with a faith from the very earliest days. We are visiting Saint Andrews Anglican Church, where the Wesley children were baptized and we are having a service of baptismal renewal at the same font where the infant John Wesley and his brother, Charles Wesley, were baptized.
As we think together about children in the life of the church, we give thanks for the power of the worshiping community. In clergy gatherings in January and February, we talked together about the best possible ways to nurture children in the life of faith.
It has been shown through research that congregations, that traditions that include children in worship from the beginning to the end of the worship hour are those who keep their children. It is in these traditions that children and youth grow up to take their adult place in the church. There is power in the entire family worshiping together.
A task force has been gathered to think about children in worship and to plan opportunities across the districts for us to engage in conversation and planning and dreaming together. A good text for us to use in all of our congregations is the book “Children in the Worshiping Community” by David Ng and Virginia Thomas.
I welcome your thoughts, your experiences, your ideas as together we live as Susanna lived long ago, embracing children with the love of God so that they may feel the grace of God and never know themselves apart from it.