“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Charles Dickens opened his novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” with this now infamous quote in 1859. Over 160 years later, we could make a case for describing the ministries of Congregations for Children as “the best of times amid the worst of times.” Members of our NCCUMC Congregations for Children Committee report so many faithful and generous partnerships between local churches and neighboring elementary schools that we can extract other phrases from Dickens’ opening paragraph: “it was the season of light;” “it was the spring of hope.” A few examples of the C4C projects and activities that shed light in the darkness of this pandemic across the Conference include churches that….
coordinated with their fire station, police station, and other churches in their community by purchasing mobile internet hot spots for students, raising money to buy iPads, and setting up places for students to do virtual learning
bought holiday food and gifts for families in need
helped find appropriate housing for a family of five who were living in one room with no stove or other necessities
sponsored a drive-through for free food each Saturday for students and their families
provided food through the Backpack Buddies program for children who are engaged in on-site learning to take home over the weekend
provided its partner school with masks, face shields, plexiglass dividers, hand sanitizer, antibacterial cleaners, and wipes
purchased postage for teachers to mail information to parents
provided hand-made masks for the teachers and staff
sent flowers to the food service staff for their work providing two meals a day for students attending school virtually
placed notes of appreciation and small gifts in teacher and staff mailboxes monthly
gave each child in their partner school a new book to take home at Thanksgiving
partnered with Camp Don Lee to allow thirty students to attend camp two days a week for virtual learning and other activities
upgraded their internet access and converted their sanctuary into a learning space Monday through Friday – complete with volunteer tutors – so students could participate in online learning
raised funds to purchase Chromebooks for students to engage in online learning from their homes and satellite learning sites
provided welcome-back notes with enclosed gift cards to every member of their partner school’s faculty and staff on their first day back in September
held a community-wide fund-raising campaign to purchase and donate to the school system a food truck so the school system’s child nutrition office could deliver food to children and their families
…and the list goes on.
Congregations for Children began as the shared vision of Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson to establish partnerships between local UMC churches and their neighboring public elementary schools to promote K-3 literacy, help to meet basic needs of children living in poverty, encourage volunteerism in schools by caring adults, and advocate for public education in the public square. Eight years later, amid a pandemic that temporarily shuttered church doors, forced public schools to pivot to online teaching and learning, prevented adult volunteers from continuing in-person mentoring and tutoring of young children inside school buildings, and increased the basic needs of low-income children who were struggling already, churches throughout the conference face these challenges daily with fortitude and creativity, demonstrating that they are still the hands and feet of Christ in their communities.
So we celebrate those C4C volunteers across the Conference who continue, undaunted by the challenges of a worldwide pandemic, to live into the C4C motto: “Helping Children Affected by Poverty – Supporting NC Public Schools.” Won’t you join us?