A visit to almost any North Carolina beach during August and early September will offer a likely encounter with volunteers overseeing sea turtles hatch. The protective patrols are trained to safe guard nests from predators and often assist guiding hatchlings safely to sea. I learned about this delicate ecosystem during a remote learning science class last year and excitedly watched the lesson unfold during a recent vacation. Observing this rhythm of nature and the care taken to preserve and protect the well-being of God’s creation, made me reflect on the collective work of congregations the past year with children, families and schools. Words from the hymn for the daily devotion O for a Faith That Will Not Shrink (AME Hymnal #468) resonated profoundly.
Though pressed by every foe,
That will not tremble on the brink
Of any earthly woe!
The faithfulness of volunteers walking along the beach daily ensuring the safety of sea turtle off-spring resembled countless lay and clergy efforts to safeguard learning pressed by school closures and remote learning. High quality care and education environments beginning at birth are critical to the well-being for all of North Carolina’s children. Efforts ensuring a strong foundation are key to successes in school and beyond. I am thankful for the faithfulness exhibited in all Western North Carolina Districts to support critical learning needs over the past year and half. Adhering to Cabinet guidelines for mission and ministry, churches offered protective barriers encouraging children to stay on course in safe and protective environments. This was a faith that did not shrink in the midst of an earthly woe.
One of the four focus areas with Congregations 4 Children is K-3 literacy. North Carolina’s challenges with early learning and literacy prior to the pandemic were exacerbated during the COVID-19 crisis. “Recent research suggests only half of all parents were able to access any type of center-based or formal early childhood care and six months into the pandemic and the rate fell to less than one in-three over the past year and half (1). As all NC school systems have now returned to in person learning, stories of school shootings, staff shortages and challenges managing virus outbreaks in our districts, give pause to meditate on another verse from William H. Bathurst’s hymn:
When tempests rage without;
That when in danger knows no fear,
In darkness feels no doubt.
As Bishop Kenneth Carter begins his tenure with the Western North Carolina Conference, the Congregations 4 Children team desires to hear about faithful and fearless witness countering the darkness of education challenges in your communities. Submit pictures, video clips (3 minutes or less) or a 500 word-story highlighting the work of the Holy Spirit through the gifts and talents of your church the Congregations 4 Children Team can feature on its website page.
Your stories are testimonies on how you have leaned on God to grow in a never shrinking faith or what John Wesley would call Christian Perfection. Sea turtle patrol volunteers seek evidence for hatched eggs in known and unknown nesting sites. Likewise, in sharing your experiences, the Congregations 4 Children Team can better assist your work of discipleship hatched through your church-school community engagement. Click here to share your story, photos, or video.
When sea turtles are ushered to the comfort of their home at sea, I am reminded of how being in mission with children during this pandemic has but one purpose for all of us which is found in yet another verse of O for A Faith That Will Not Shrink: A faith such as this, gives a foretaste to the hallowed bills of our eternal home.
(1) Supporting North Carolina’s Public Schools From Covid Relief to Covid Recovery (Forum 2021)
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