Posted by Mark Beckwith on November 09, 2010
Imagine a large empty room. Place a group of children in the center. The children may be the children of your church, the children of the local community, the children of the world -- or a combination of all three. Then imagine the four corners of the room, each promoting its unique cultural influence. One corner is the mall. Another corner is the entertainment industry. The third is the sports industry, and the fourth is the violence industry (in both its legal and illegal forms). Each corner bombards the room with messages -- well-funded and market-tested messages that beg the children’s attention, and that boast of some immediate glory if the children head in their direction. Surrounding the children is the body of Christ. That’s us. On one level, the body of Christ is no match for the relentless, if not ruthless, messages coming from the four corners. We can’t buy the air time. We can’t produce the technical wizardry which provides such astounding promises. But we can provide relationship and guidance and hope that is real and abiding. And necessary. Children are vulnerable -- to no end of unhealthy cultural influences, to each other (with the escalating incidence of bullying) -- and increasingly, to poverty. One in four children in the United States lives in poverty. In the last twenty years, 300 million people from around the world have died of poverty-related causes. Most of them were children. Last spring, the interfaith group I work with in Newark -- the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace, came up with a message: support and protect our children. We are hoping to have the message on T-shirts, and next spring when the Dalai Lama comes to Newark to bring his unique message of peace, to have the message on billboards. Support and protect our children. That is what the body of Christ does as it surrounds the children. It is not an easy job. On one level our kids often indicate that they don’t want us to surround them for protection and support. They often insist that they can do it on their own. Or we can’t gather the kids in order to surround them. Support and protect our children. It is holy work. The newly created Justice Board of the Diocese (made up of deputies to General Convention along with some other folks in the diocese with a demonstrated commitment to justice) has identified children as the primary focus for our justice work in the diocese. The purpose of the Justice Board is to sort through the many issues that come our way -- by way of General Convention, international concerns or local community needs. When we think of hunger, I invite you to think of kids. When we engage in homeless ministry or environmental work -- or respond to any of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) endorsed by the United Nations in 2000, I invite you to imagine faces of children who are most affected if we don’t make more progress on those goals. The Justice Board and I will be formulating opportunities and challenges to galvanize the ministries of congregations and individuals in the area of justice -- with a focus on children. I invite you to do the same. We know that our children are our future. How we surround them -- and protect and support them, is a benchmark for how well we live out the invitation -- and challenges -- of the Christian faith. For more about the Justice Board, please see “A Witness To Justice” on page 10 of the September 2010 Voice. Photo by M. Christyanne Ward.