BY BETH HAYES |
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are laying down and when you are getting up. Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol.- Deuteronomy 6:5-8
This passage has always held a special message to me. I was blessed to be born into a family that exemplified this in the fullest. I had parents and grandparents who took seriously the responsibility of passing on the stories of faith and living them out to the fullest in their lives. I fondly remember the big hallway at my grandmother’s house that held the family Bible on a bookstand. She would take me in her lap and read from the Bible every day I was there. The passing on of the faith stories did not stop at home. Sunday School and church were always an important part of my life. I have fond memories of events and special people like Sunday School teachers who helped to form my faith foundation. I still have a letter written to me by the pastor of the church when I was born. He talked about me being a special gift from God. I was blessed to be a part of this family and this church who took their responsibilities seriously to support and nurture me as I grew up.
Several years ago when we formed the Children and Family Task Force at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries, our goal statement was: to celebrate and encourage children and their families in the life of our church and support our faith communities as we fulfill the promise of baptism for our Moravian families. It was a natural fit for me to be involved with this group to strive to provide resources to families so that the connection of church and family working together can be seen.
One of the highlights for me in 2019 was the gift of a small book written by Sandy Swartaentruber called Everyday Family Faith: Simple Practices and Activities for Building Faith at Home. I was moved enough to share it with several educators and leaders along with a summer faith bucket idea, a simple way to share faith stories during the busy summer months when perhaps Sunday School was taking a break in some churches. What a gift this book has been to many and it all goes back to our responsibility to provide opportunities to share faith stories and grow in our faith together. It points clearly back to my favorite passage.
Perhaps the biggest event that the Children and Family Task Force does is coordinate the Annual Children’s Festival and Lovefeast. Every year on the Sunday closest to August 17, the day in 1727 in Hernnhut that was the spiritual renewal for children. We began at the first Moravian settlement in the area which was Bethabara and then we went to Bethania, Old Salem, Friedberg, and Hope. This is our way of helping families learn Moravian history and the sequence of the settlements.
Each year there are activities that families participate in together at their own pace. We end with a simple lovefeast done on a children’s level. To see children singing, waving, and standing on pews in the church will fill your heart. This year the festival will be held on Sunday, August 18th from 2:00-5:00 at Friedland Moravian Chuch. Families are invited to picnic together and share a common meal before the event on Friedland’s grounds. Activities start at 2:00. This year’s theme is Celebrating a Community of Peace which is the trademark of Friedland. As I reflect back on the passage and what we offer families in our Moravian churches, I feel like our best efforts are in passing on the story of our heritage and faith. We hope to continue to add resources and events from the Board of Cooperative Ministries to equip us to nurture faith development… at home and at church. In closing an excerpt from Vision for Children and the Church from PCUSA:
Because Jesus welcomed children and encouraged us to welcome them in his name: Jesus lifted up a child as an example of what the realm of God is like: Therefore we hope for a church where we bring good news to all those places where children are in need: where adults and children alike share in ministry.
Let’s covenant to make this something we strive for in the Moravian Church.
About the Author
Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries. She has been working in this role for 33 years. Before coming to the Moravian Church, she served as the director of Christian Education in several Presbyterian Churches. She holds a Master’s Degree in Christian Education from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. She is a member of Clemmons Moravian Church and regularly attends Come and Worship.