Over the past several months, we have been hosting at least one ministry at our Vestry meetings. These interactions between ministry leaders and the Vestry offer all of us an opportunity to learn more about that ministry, its challenges, and, more importantly, how best we may be able to respond to some of the challenges as a Vestry. This past week, we hosted Jenn Adkins and Leigh Smith, who have been working extremely hard with other parishioners on our Children Formation - even during the peak of the pandemic. They, and many others, reflect the deep desire to nurture children in a way that brings out the best in them, not only for today but for tomorrow, as well.
One thing that struck me was the optimism of both Jenn and Leigh. It has been challenging, no doubt, and it will be challenging going forward, but they are determined. They are determined to continue to teach Sunday School and offer their best to the children of Christ Church. The teachers may not necessarily know, at this moment which of the many children they teach week-in and week-out, either in person or on Zoom, would be impacted by their teaching and model of faithfulness.
In their optimism, they expressed a need. They need other parishioners to join them in teaching and modeling God’s love to our children. Are you the one? Can you be the one? Should you be the one? I am sure you have the capacity to teach and model a life of faithfulness and compassion to our children within you.
This brings me to the story about the stolen watch...
An old man meets a young man who asks, “Do you remember me?”
And the old man says that he does not. The young man then tells him he was his student, so the teacher asks him, “What do you do, what do you do in life?”
The young man answers, “Well, I became a teacher.”
“Ah, how good. Like me?” asks the old man.
“Well, yes. In fact, I became a teacher because you inspired me to be like you.”
The old man, curious, asks the young man at what point in time he decided to become a teacher. And the young man tells him the following story:
“One day, a friend of mine - also a student - came in with a nice, new watch, and I decided I wanted it, so I stole it. I took it right out of his pocket. Shortly after, my friend noticed the theft of his watch and immediately complained to our teacher, who was you.
Then you went to the class and said, 'This student's watch was stolen during class today. Whoever stole it, please return it.'
I didn't give it back because I didn't want to. You proceeded to close the door and tell us all to get up as you were going to search our pockets one by one until the watch was found. But you also told us to close our eyes because you would only look for his watch if we all had our eyes closed.
So we did, and you went from pocket to pocket, and when you went through my pocket, you found the watch and took it. You kept searching everyone's pockets, and when you were done you said, 'Open your eyes. We have the watch.'
You didn't tell me, though, and you never mentioned the episode. You never said who stole the watch, either. That day, you saved my dignity forever. It was the most shameful day of my life.
But this is also the day my dignity was saved and I decided not to become a thief, a bad person. You never said anything, nor even scolded me or took me aside to give me a moral lesson, yet I received your message clearly.
And thanks to you, I understood what a real educator needs to do. Do you remember this episode, professor?"
The professor answered, "I remember the situation, the stolen watch that I was looking for in everyone’s pocket, but I didn't remember it was you, because I also closed my eyes while looking."
This is the essence of teaching: If to correct, you must humiliate; you don't know how to teach.
I have always believed in Sunday School, and I believe so strongly that it is an important part of our common life that we should not in any way compromise. I have had the blessing of serving in different parishes with strong Sunday School programs, and I know the difference that this, alone, makes to the health of a parish.
I believe that in so far as volunteers can model virtues of love, compassion, humility, trust, and faithful dedication to children, they can be sure that at least one seed will fall on good soil and bear fruit... fruit that will last.
I know you can model these virtues, and I invite you to close your eyes and be the teacher who found the stolen watch and also affirmed the dignity of that child.
I invite you to consider being a Sunday School teacher.