To Our Parish Community:
We’re going to re-imagine our children & family ministries.
Our theme for this year is Elevate+Explore. Elevate means a taking next step with ministries where we have a focus: Children & Families, Arts, Harlem, and Hospitality. Over the last six months, I’ve watched and listened carefully to families in our community and in our neighborhood. I believe God has given us the opportunity to develop a new paradigm for our children’s ministries.
Together we have the call to re-imagine our ministries so our children can develop the spiritual resilience and moral compass they need to navigate life in an ever-more complex world.
We have the chance together to step out from the traditional structures of Sunday School to find new ways to engage our families and build bridges with our partners.
Jesus’ ministry invited everyone into a loving community. Our children & family ministries offer our children the opportunity to grow up in a place where they are loved, safe, and recognized for their gifts. We want to support our parents and caregivers with the spiritual grounding they need. To follow our call, we will work with parents, caring adults, and our youth to share the best of what we know about pedagogy and child development to convey the story of the Christian faith across seven days.
We create our ministries together. This spring, we’ll engage our parents and our youth in praying, dreaming, and working for a re-imagined Children & Family ministries, culminating in a re-launch our children’s programs next fall. These conversations will begin with a Parent Forum at 9:30 am on Sunday, February 25 in the Undercroft. Here’s what we’re thinking:
* Re-imagine Sunday Morning: Our children spend enough time in classrooms. We want to give families opportunities to gather on Sunday morning…but not for “Sunday School.” Sunday morning should be more like a festival that practices the Christian story through drama, art, music, dance, and community service.
* Gather parents across our neighborhood: How can we support parents for the tools they need for spiritual resilience? Columbia University professor Lisa Miller is interested in working with us to convene area schools and neighborhood parents for an “interfaith spiritual parenting group.” Park Avenue Synagogue has agreed to act as co-convener. This group would respond to the social media drenched, achievement-driven focus of current childhood with a different standard that supports “spiritually-aware families.”
* Strengthen the weekday toddler playgroup community: Our weekday toddler playgroups are growing- but we’re not developing community with playgroup families. We want to develop a structure that makes weekday growth sustainable.
* Partner with Harlem congregations: We have a common desire with Harlem congregations to invite and engage children. This summer, we can pilot a week-long summer arts program, based in Harlem, to test a next step in our relationship.
Right Now: Transitions
As we begin our program changes, Rhonda Sarrazin is leaving Heavenly Rest with our gratitude. I appreciate her faithfulness and her work re-developing our Godly Play program. She is accompanying her husband as he interviews for rector positions in Episcopal congregations. We will host a party to thank her on Sunday morning, March 4 at 9:30 am. We will continue our current programs through the end of the program year (May 20). It’s important that we support teachers and families who are involved.
Leading the Re-Imagination
I have asked Wendy Reynoso to lead our re-imagination this spring. Wendy is a Columbia Teachers’ College graduate who expanded both the GO Project after school program at Grace Church and the Harlem Storefront School. She is Citywide co-chair of the Advisory Board for the Mayor’s Children’s Cabinet. She has also developed schools internationally, in Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Wendy is a gifted educator whose life has demonstrated a deep commitment to children, particularly those who are underserved. For our spring re-imagining I wanted someone with experience in building complex programs, collaborating with parents and colleagues, and developing community partnerships. I also wanted someone whose leadership could help us explore a new paradigm for programs for children and families. Wendy will work with Cindy and me to support our teachers and families for the reminder of the year.
Thankful for our legacy– and our possibilities.
Family ministries are deeply rooted in our Parish DNA. Sometimes, honoring our legacy means making a change. I am grateful to Mollie, Cindy, and Tuesday for their leadership with our children’s programs. I’m hopeful that these next steps will be even more collaborative with our current chorister, acolyte, and confirmation ministries. I’m looking forward to our work together this spring so that we can invite a new generation of children and families to know more fully the Joy of the Gospel within our Parish community. I hope that you’ll join the discussion next Sunday. You can let us know [mailto:email@example.com] if you plan to attend. Please let me know [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] if you have thoughts or questions in advance of Sunday’s conversation.
Grace and Peace,