Growing Justice and Faith: Ongoing discussion with updates

To support children’s growth as God’s beloved our small group covered various topics and checked out a variety of book titles to explore children’s spiritual development and Christian faith formation through creation care and eco-justice.

We viewed a delightful video of Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, and his youth sermon on the role and vestments of the Bishop. When he showed the children the cross he wears, he stated that whether or not one wears a cross, “Jesus is always close to your heart, leading you, guiding you, and loving you. When you look at the face of people who love you, you are seeing the face of Jesus; that’s God’s promise.” Enjoy the children’s responses here.

NPR/American Public Media broadcasts the Spirituality of Parenting; and Rabbi Sandy Sasso states, “We sense that there is a spiritual aspect to our children’s natures and wonder how to support and nurture that. The spiritual life begins not in abstractions, but in concrete everyday experiences. . . provide language for this spirituality and encourage conversation so the soul’s ‘muscles’ don’t atrophy as a child develops.” . This parent guide is also worthy of a study (PDF).

For 50 years, Search Institute in Minneapolis, its more recent Center for Spiritual Development and their framework of 40 Developmental Assets help families, schools, and communities to support children’s healthy development. The assets are displayed and practiced in St. Paul’s Godly Play room; and on line here (PDF)

Please join us Tuesday, June 29 at 7:00 PM in the Fireside Room as we continue our exploration, and tie these themes together in: Session TWO: We’re All Members of God’s Household – helping children connect to the natural world to experience the sacredness of all creation; using natural surroundings, and cultural, spiritual and religious roots to help children build a sense of place within God’s creation.

-Grace van Thillo

Update 1, 28 June 2010Tuesday, June 22, was the inaugural meeting of the Growing Justice and Faith summer reading study. Inpreparation for and in conjunction with this I have been reading in several books. From one, Living Simply with Children, I picked up the importance of sharing my valuing of creation care, or of living simply, or whatever this issue. This would be different from teaching or moralizing on what I believe. Rather it is telling my own story, if you will; how I have come to decide to act in a way that I believe is in harmony with my call to be a steward of God’s creation.

In Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey, the author outlines several developmental theories – Erikson, Piaget, and includes the stages of moral development outlined by Lawrence Kohlberg. Human attachment is a requirement for moral development. “Moral development is enhanced when children are active participants in a setting where the discussion of viewpoints, values, and attitudes is encouraged, where the child’s viewpoint is taken seriously.” Communication of our “selves” is vital.

Frances Moore Lappe, writing in Liberation Ecology, describes six disempowering ideas that keep us from aligning with nature and six human traits we can rely on. Of the latter, one she calls “efficacy”, the importance for us of taking action. It is possible for even the very young to enjoy taking an action, seeing the result, and feeling competent and useful. As in gathering leaves (and in the process “feeling” nature) and picking up some trash, helping to beautify and heal the environment. Being with their families in these activities strengthens relationships with others and with God as they are able to name and experience God at whatever stage of development they find themselves.

You can join us in reading these books even if you’re not in the book study!
Carolyn Lief

Update 2: 1 July
It’s stimulating to hear excerpts from the diverse books and themes the book group is sharing. Session Two activities included an exploration of Genesis 2:4-25 linking God’s love for us and creation stewardship. Extending the theme to support children knowing they’re God’s beloved, we discussed opportunities and challenges for families and children to enjoy local natural landscapes to gain a sense of place, and to also strengthen cultural and spiritual roots.

We expressed the balance all of us need between using technology and taking time to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends; and how this helps to optimize children’s growth and their emerging identities. Local author, Richard Louv (Last Child in the Woods) vibrantly expressed, Everything Must Change on Youtube.

We are very fortunate to have Camp Stevens nearby in Julian. Check out their hands-on bio-diversity activities in agriculture/gardening that you and your family can enjoy – and Episcopal Summer Camps come alive in Coming to our Senses by Bill Slocumb (pdf).

For environmental and natural resource conservation organizations in San Diego explore here.

Exploring nature together enables creation to speak to our hearts with wonder and comfort. The book study continues with readings and discussion of Ubuntu – Self identity formed interdependently through community (Battle, p.1); and how collaborating for the common good helps to transform lives toward justice. Come join us – 7PM, Fireside Room, July 6 and 13.

Update 3 , 7/7/10
Comments on A Wing and a Prayer by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

On p.112, she asks, “What stories can you tell about your experience of new life, abundance, and the overwhelming love of God”?

When I became an Episcopalian, I received “new life”…….It made it possible to “come out”, acquire a sense of spirituality for the first time in my life, acquire a whole new group of healthy friends, and address various unhealthy behaviors. I had scoffed at Jimmy Carter’s “born again” sensibilities, but I experienced it one Sunday at St. James Epis, Capitol Hill in 1984. When Fr. Downing said, “Come all ye who are heavy-laden…………and I will refresh you” (Timothy)…….I said “help”, possibly the first sincere prayer of my life, and I felt the Holy Spirit wash over me! I’m convinced my life changed from that moment on. It was “overwhelming”! I hadn’t been in a church in 10 years, and would have said I had no use for organized religion or spirituality. But after that day, I believed! I’m still not quite sure exactly what it is I believe, nor can I fully explain the unquestionably mystical nature of it all, but I know it’s there!

p. 100, “Most of us spend our lives learning what the reality of resurrection looks like, feels like, sounds like and tastes like–because it keeps happening in new ways every day of our lives”

I think I’ve been metaphorically “resurrected” hundreds of times. Every Sunday at St. Paul’s (renewed and reinvigorated), through “Listening Hearts” when I witness that clarity of thought and the communication of the Holy Spirit that a discerner invariably displays at the end of a session (I just know that “something happens” in that room!), when my partner used to hug me and whatever anguish or non-spiritual discord I was experiencing simply flowed out of my body and left me utterly refreshed…………the music at St Paul’s “sounds like” it to me, as it carries me to other places and sometimes literally brings tears to my eyes….

From “An American Childhood” by Annie Dillard: p. 150, paragraph 3, as to what it feels like to be alive, “Knowing you are alive is watching on every side your generation’s short time falling away as fast as rivers drop thorough air, and feeling it hit.”

To me, this is “stay awake” or you’ll miss it! Live in the moment, or miss the opportunity which may never come again. As with a river, we see this in nature everywhere, as it constantly changes.

Terry Kelly

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2 thoughts on “Growing Justice and Faith: Ongoing discussion with updates”

  1. Our study of children's spiritual development and the appropriate Christian response brings together the two themes of social justice and ecology.

    Children are NOT just small adults; they have separate needs and we, as a Christian society, have an obligation to create the correct and grace-filled ecology for their spiritual growth.

  2. James Garbarino in "Raising Children in a Socially Toxic Environment" provides the following attributes as necessary for a child to acquire a sense of stability. In each instance, we can see a connection to nature and how children can be "empowered with experiences in the natural world."
    Appreciation: "It is a wellspring of self-esteem." Children develop self-esteem when they become knowledgeable about and comfortable in nature.
    Spending Time Together: "Strong families spend time together and enjoy it." Children acquire an increased sense of stability by spending time in nature on a regular basis.
    Good Communication Patterns: "Families with huge domains of silence become vulnerable to serious disequilibrium." Children need to communicate their relationship with the natural order, their fears, joys, disappointments, and expectations.
    Commitment: "Many tempting but essentially solitary activities lure family members apart." Family activities in nature can provide a solution. Hiking, for example, provides for solitary time within a family activity.
    Religious Orientation: "Caring for the soul is an important function of a strong family." The beauty and awesomeness of creation allow children to strengthen their spiritual sense and provides the child with a sense of both the transcendence and immanence of the divine.
    Ability to deal with crises in a positive manner: "Life always has thorns as well as roses." Preparing children for the realities of spending time in nature, prepares them for life as a whole.
    (Garbarino, Chapter 3: Stability, pp.41-62.)


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