Sorry for the longer email, but I want to let you know about a great, new opportunity this Friday that I strongly recommend you don’t miss. I also want to make a brief comment on where I stand relative to speaking with children about violence. I’ll break this email down into two parts in case you want to quickly skip to the parts that interest you most.
Part 1: Come to the Family Shabbat Service of Hope this Friday at 7 pm at Temple Beth Am in Yorktown.
Temple Beth Am
203 Church Place
Yorktown Heights, New York
Temple Beth Am is having another prayer service this Friday at 7 pm and all from the community are invited. (Consider sending the flyer to family and friends). Rabbi Robbie Weiner informs me that this will be a very positive service focusing on hope, healing, solidarity, peace-building, and it will be very appropriate for children and families. There will be lots of singing and it will close with the song “If I had a hammer” (to give you a flavor of the tone). It will be very uplifting. I would recommend you come, if you can.
Don’t worry about the protocol of attending a synagogue service; their service leaflet tells us everything we need to know to participate respectfully. They know we are there because we stand with them against the evil and in affirmation of our common humanity and dignity.
There will be desserts and coffee available afterwards during their coffee hour. Robbie tells me that they have some desserts to provide, but they don’t know how many people are coming. I spoke with the senior warden at St. Mary’s Mohegan Lake and they are going. It could be large. And that would be great!
If you feel so inclined, bake or bring something for their coffee hour. They would appreciate it.
Thank you, everyone, for your witness to the values of the Gospel. This is a time when we double-down on love, not shrink back in fear. We are the light of the world, Jesus said (Matthew 5:14). Yes, even us. And what light we can be! In moments like these, we stand together against the encroaching dark. Join in and be powerfully uplifted.
Part 2: Kids, Christ, and Evil:
This past week, the attempted pipe bombs, assassinations in Kentucky, and murders in Pittsburgh raise an important question that we as parents and we as a faith community need to constantly wrestle with: how much do we expose our children to violence and evil in society? How much do we say? Not say? Where is the line? Where is the wise balance?
On the one hand, most of us don’t want to completely shelter our children, because then they will not grow and develop the necessary and advanced attitudes, skills, and confirmed relationships that will support and empower them when they inevitably experience evil directly in their own lives. And yet, we don’t want to overexpose them, either, and create mini-traumas. So where is the wise balance?
Here is the psychological rule of thumb that is common and that I follow as rector at Good Shepherd: the younger the child, the greater the shelter. Not exposing children, even younger children, to any evil and death is a mistake, in my view. Evil and death are a part of our world; part of our job as parents and a faith community is to help our youth learn to cope with these difficult realities. Again, the younger the child, the less detail and less exposure they receive.
One of the great things we do at Good Shepherd is developmentally sync all our programming to the developmental levels of the kids attending. In Sunday School and Middle School programming each week, for example, the kids hear the same Gospel lesson we do in church but it is broken down in such a way that they can understand it and apply it to themselves, whether they are six or sixteen. Our High School Youth process the Gospel and my sermon each week, and the content of their discussion always is the same: “What did you hear? What makes sense to you? Doesn’t make sense? What did you hear Fr. Hal say that you like or dislike? What is your takeaway for your life personally?”
I met with the high schoolers who were here Sunday and I was impressed, as I always am, by their advanced skills. I credit this to Fay and now Theresa and how they run the group. They help the youth learn how to process things in a critical, safe, and applied way so they have the necessary and advanced attitudes, skills, and confirmed relationships that will support and empower them when they inevitably experience evil directly in their own lives. It’s an amazing and massive gift we give our youth, and it begins in our Sunday school and progresses all the way to their graduation into college.
At the center for us is always the same core Gospel message: all are beloved of God, called into communion, empowerment, hope, healing, growth, and love. We may fear human evil, but we need never fear Jesus Christ. He is always with us and for us. In a lovely, poetic phrase from the second letter to the Corinthians, “all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (1:20). Jesus is our Yes and God’s Yes to us. Thanks be to God!
We may get the wise balance wrong sometimes. I may get it wrong sometimes. Please let me know when you think I or we have erred. We want to always get it right, as much as we can. I appreciate your feedback and keep it confidential. Thank you.
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: so mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered around your throne as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and forever. Amen.