Durham News: Community

July 22, 2014

On Faith: Epworth rethinks church experience for children

Children’s Church has been around for years in most Christian congregations. Although it varies from church to church, it usually means that young children leave the regular Sunday worship service and attend one that is more age appropriate in another part of the building.

Children’s Church has been around for years in most Christian congregations. Although it varies from church to church, it usually means that young children leave the regular Sunday worship service and attend one that is more age appropriate in another part of the building.

Many church educators, however, have never been totally sold on the notion that separating children from their families for worship was the best way.

On the other hand, it is unrealistic to expect children to be engaged in lengthy liturgical practices they do not understand, and giving them crayons and puzzles to keep them occupied may well be giving the wrong message that worship is something to be endured instead of a joyful experience.

For the past couple of years, Bishop Hope Ward of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church has encouraged churches to find ways to engage children in worship without just removing them from the service.

The Rev. Laura Wittman, associate pastor at Durham’s Epworth United Methodist Church, 3002 Hope Valley Road, is in charge of children’s ministry and is experimenting with new ideas.

“The conference has a task force at work right now talking about ways to make worship an experience that isn’t just for adults in the congregation but that speaks to the children too,” she says. “It’s kind of a process of trial and error, figuring out what works for the children and what doesn’t.”

Epworth is making some changes.

On Aug. 3, the church will have a liturgist training Sunday School camp for all its children. Topics will include what happens in worship, why the church does what it does and what the prayers and creeds mean.

“I’m also going to talk to them about how to read Scripture, how to say prayers and how to lead one another in worship,” Wittman says.

On Aug. 10, the last day of Vacation Bible School, the church will have a Children’s Sabbath in which children will sing and even help lead worship.

Earlier this year, special worship bulletins were offered to children to keep them engaged with Scripture. There is also a trivia challenge each month that uses questions from the church’s Scripture lessons each week.

In September, the church will resume Children’s Church but with some changes.

It will be a Worship 101 course for children from 3 to 5 years old in which they will hear the same Scripture lessons as the rest of the congregation, will have prayer and hear a message that is appropriate for them, and will learn about the parts of worship and how to participate.

“All of this is preparing them to be in the worship service and to know that the sanctuary is their sanctuary too,” the pastor says.

The church will continue to encourage children to be in worship with their families, and families will be encouraged to sit toward the front so children can see what is going on.

Church yard sale

The Women’s Missionary Society at Emmanuel AME Church, 2018 Riddle Road, is sponsoring a yard sale from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Rain date is Aug. 2.

Toys, household items and clothing for men, women and children will be available. Space for personal sells will be available for a $25 donation.

Back from Scotland

A group of 11 youths and six adults from Westminster Presbyterian Church, 3639 Old Chapel Hill Road, has returned from a 10-day spiritual pilgrimage to Scotland.

Their journey began in Glasgow where they explored the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow Cathedral and the St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art.

From there, they traveled to Edinburgh and worshiped at St. Giles Cathedral, the “mother church” of Presbyterianism.

Touring the cathedral, they gained a greater understanding of their Presbyterian roots as they heard about John Knox, a leader of the Protestant Reformation who preached at St. Giles from 1559-1572. They also toured Knox’s home and Edinburgh castle.

The height of the pilgrimage was a journey to the Isle of Iona. This small island on the western coast of Scotland has been a destination for pilgrims for centuries. It is the site of an ancient monastery founded by St. Columba shortly after his arrival on the island in 563. The abbey church, dating from the 14th century, was rebuilt shortly after 1900.

The island is also home to the Iona Community, a dispersed ecumenical Christian community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship. Twice daily worship services are held in the abbey and in between those services the Westminster group was invited to explore the nature of their own spiritual lives through silence and in conversation, in rest and spiritual practices.

The Rev. Chris Tuttle, senior pastor at Westminster, helped plan and lead the trip.

“What better gift could we offer these young people than space to explore who they are, to gain a better understanding of our Presbyterian and Reformed heritage and to listen, in the midst of an extraordinarily beautiful place, for the love of the God who claims them? It was a powerful 10 days,” the pastor said.

Spiritual Presence

A unique religious shop called Spiritual Presence, offering religious goods and ministry support has opened at 108 W. Rosemary St. in downtown Chapel Hill.

The store that will serve the Chapel Hill and Durham area, offers various gift ideas, including gifts and attire for baptism, communion, confirmation and other special religious occasions. There is also a diverse array of new and used books, crosses, Bibles, pyxes (containers in which wafers for Eucharist are kept), rosaries, church supplies and cards.

The store is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. It is closed on Sunday and Wednesday.

Stopping deportations

Several interfaith partners have invited Unitarian Universalists to participate with them in a Faith Summit on Stopping Deportations called “Pray for Relief: Not One More Family Separated” to be held in Washington, D.C. July 31 through Aug. 2.

The Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist is organizing a bus to take any of its members, members of other congregations and members of the general public in the Triangle on a Greenway Transit bus to Washington on Saturday, Aug. 2, to witness for calling on the White House to stop the deportation of immigrants.

Interested persons are asked to RSVP to 919-942-2535 for a seat on the bus and/or to donate $50 so someone else can ride. Make checks to the Community Church and send to 106 Purefoy Road, Chapel Hill 27514-4853. Checks must be received by July 30.

The list of supporting churches and agencies includes the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, Church World Service, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Annual General Assembly of Unitarian Universalists as well as immigrant rights activists, including the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

Conntact Flo Johnston at flo.johnston314@gmail.com or call 910-361-4135.

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