Purple People of the Promise
I write this Placard article with a purple pen in a purple notebook wearing a purple shirt on a day when our nation has been encouraged to show PURPLE in support of all the bullied teens who have reached the point where they feel suicide to be their only option. This purple day was inspired by the teen suicide deaths—those many that made the news and those (far more) that did not—in September and October. Clearly, this is a topic that touches the core of my being.
I have had Plymouth members ask, “what can we do?” both to help stop the bullying that breaks down kids’ spirits and to support young people who experience bullying. It is such a multi-faceted problem that we often feel helpless—particularly if we aren’t parents, schoolteachers or counselors. But I believe we are more than any of those individual caregivers: we are the Church. We are a community of love and faith and dedication, and we are intentionally intergenerational. We can care for our kids.
As an Open & Affirming congregation, we have covenanted to enact a radical welcome to all who have experienced “second class” humanity—including children and youth. But what does that mean for us, and how can we live into it to be partners against the hurtfulness of society?
Each and every member of Plymouth has covenanted with each and every baptized child’s parent to “accept…responsibility as vehicles of grace to guide them by word and example into the fullest life of which you and they are capable,” and then we pray together: “May they develop trustful and responsible relationships with others and may they grow in their acceptance of themselves as unique and vital persons.” Practically speaking, how do we live into this promise that we—older and younger, parent and “extended faith family”—have made to our kids and youth?
By living our love for them in word and action. That looks like children’s Bibles in the pews and activities for them to read and color during worship so they can be with us, among us in all their squirming, crying, or bored energy! They are a part of our worshipping community. And it goes further than their presence (seen, but…)—it includes their participation in the passing of the peace and the prayers of the people. It’s their inclusion as ushers and liturgists and special music. But even more significant, it is our participation in their lives, not just their participation in our life!
It means saying YES when asked to give 3 hours (1 hour each over 3 Sundays) to share the gift of your love for them in a Sunday School Workshop—by dressing up as Abraham and anointing their foreheads with oil to show how very special each one is, or by baking hamantaschen with them while teaching the story of Esther’s choice to use her power to help people and Haman’s choice to use his power to make himself look better and to hurt others! It means saying YES when another adult is needed for a middle school event. It means knowing their names and chatting with them over coffee hour cookies—no matter how many they’ve grabbed from the plate. What a perfect opportunity to talk about your mutual love for Oreos! It’s your presence in their lives that reveals God’s love through you and this community.
Every adult in this congregation has a commitment to every child and teen present, to help him know he is special and loved. To let her know she is not just the “future of the church,” but a vital part of it now. YES! I am passionate about our youth and kids and their spiritual lives. Jesus himself said, “let them come to me, and do not hinder them.” You never know which teen with 10 cookies has been bullied and needs to be seen as a whole, beloved person. You never know which kid in the pew next to you has been bullying others on the school bus and also needs to be seen as a whole, beloved person. Your presence and revelation of God’s love matters to them—it matters to all our kids.
In passionate love for this purple promise,
Rev. Pink Dragon