What Really Matters: Alleviating Poverty Among Children
by Mary Beth Coudal
New York, NY, October 10, 2008--As global financial markets ebb and flow, one thing remains constant--the need to care for children. In light of the current fiscal crisis, United Methodists have an opportunity to affirm their commitment to what really matters. And it's not the state of one's stock portfolio; what matters is the state of the world's children.
"When we look at fiscal matters without asking what is best for children, we take our eye off the ball. When we ask what is best for children, we're talking about what's best for the future and for generations to come.… We want to take every opportunity so that we can live out all of our call to love and protect all of our children," said Matt Rosen, Deputy Director of Religious Action for the Children's Defense Fund (CDF).
To address the systems that cause poverty among children, United Methodists and members of the interfaith and ecumenical family can hold a Children's Sabbath the weekends of October 10-12 and October 17-19.
A Children's Sabbath is an opportunity to learn about, pray for, advocate with, and act on behalf of children. Hosting a Children's Sabbath with the theme "Ending Poverty" during Sunday worship in October is one way church members can stand up for children.
The booklet, "'When Will We Hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Call to End Poverty in America?'--a Multifaith Resource for Year-round Child Advocacy and the National Observance of Children's Sabbaths Weekend, Vol. 17," is available from the Children's Defense Fund. The booklet is chockfull of prayers, worship ideas, advocacy plans, action steps, and music suggestions.
Marian Wright Edelman, director of the Children's Defense Fund, writes in the introduction: "Dear Faithful Friend of Children, What would Dr. King think if he returned to be with us for just a day?"
Ms. Edelman then answers that we are "to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal opposition to poverty, racism, and militarism."
To redress the wrongs of childhood poverty, one can look to the leadership of Dr. King, Ms. Edelman, and United Methodist churches across the United States. Among Christian denominations, "United Methodists do the most [for Children's Sabbaths]," acknowledged Mr. Rosen. He says it's not a competition "but a source of pride."
A glance through the Christian Resource section of the Children's Sabbaths booklet highlights creative celebrations from:
On the Children's Defense Fund website, among the list of ten suggestions for how to celebrate Children's Sabbaths, the number-one suggestion comes from a United Methodist congregation:
Fulford UMC, in Miami Beach, Florida, included in their bulletin a history of the Children's Defense Fund and highlighted the quote from Marian Wright Edelman: "If every one of us looked at each child as a child of God, we wouldn't stand for the injustice that kids suffer." They observed a moment of silence at the start of the worship service. The church bell chimed once at 10 seconds, then at 35 seconds, at 36 seconds, 41 seconds. Next, someone stood and stated: "Every 10 seconds a high school student drops out. Every 35 seconds a child is abused or neglected. Every 36 seconds a baby is born into poverty. Every 41 seconds a baby is born without health insurance." The service concluded with a blessing of the children at the altar. Resources and representation from various community organizations that meet children's needs were available after worship.
"How do we live out our priorities? How do we care for all of God's Children?" asked Mr. Rosen. "What I hope is that people see this isn't just a one-time-a-year activity. Caring for our children needs to be a year-round activity. The Children's Sabbath is a doorway to strengthen advocacy."
Advocacy may range from supporting health care for all children to reducing children's access to firearms.
Rosen quoted from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children." This month, many in our society focus exclusively on finances. But many United Methodists can seize the moment and focus rightly on what churches and individuals can do on behalf of children.
For the "2008 Children's Sabbath Christian Lesson Plans for All Ages," click on: Children's Defense Lesson Plans.
Mary Beth Coudal is the staff writer for the General Board of Global Ministries.
Date posted: Oct 09, 2008