Little children belong in church

Two reflections. The first, by Adam Bond, diobeth missioner for communication, parishioner at Church of the Mediator in Allentown. The second, by Canon Laura Howell, rector of Trinity Bethlehem. Both were posted by the writers on Tuesday, August 19 on our diocesan interactive list, Bakery.

By Adam Bond
As a father of a three-and-half year old and an eighteen month old, I’ve noticed a few things. Now, let it be known, that my wife, Jennifer, and I tend toward more traditional forms of worship — I don’t think we have ever attended the contemporary family service offered once a month at our parish. It is of especial note that both of my sons felt and heard the organ every Sunday in utero and responded to it prepartum and postpartum, calming down and even falling asleep to what is not necessarily the most tranquility-inducing instrument in creation… I can imagine less intense music. ;-)

Regardless, as both infants and toddlers they have responded to the best in our art, architecture, music, and prosodic traditions in a seemingly unnaturally positive way. Both Charles and Oliver are entranced by our Episcopal hymnody. When Clint Miller plays the often elaborate postlude on Sunday’s, I have never seen anyone so rapt as Ollie, who stares him down like he wants to sell him Watkin’s products out of a briefcase. Charlie recognizes church architecture on the street, he recognizes persons of the cloth, religious symbols and artl and even certain sounds spark his imagination, such as when we heard bells ringing the other day and he asked whether we would go see Jesus at the church. Sunday morning’s he is wholly aware that we should be in church and especially reminds us when we are slogging along and taking to long to leave.

Perhaps, I have taken an unorthodox approach to exposing my children to the church… I have tried to allow for immersion, even when people scowl and glare and hush my admittedly rambunctious children, rather than gradual introduction and otherwise deliberate segregation. I have many times worried that Charlie’s tendency to compete with the homily or loudly, openly disagree with a particular theological point in said homily would set a priest on edge.

When we attended the “Of Heaven and Earth” exhibit at the Allentown Art Museum — I recommend it, it runs until early September, and the museum is free every day for the rest of summer, Charles was pointing out Jesus in all of the pictures. At one medieval madonna and child he said, “Look, Mama, it’s a baby Jesus… Him’s so cute. Him’s loves his mama, right, Mama?” These things yield to children in ways that our jaded, jaundiced senses can no longer experience without a concerted effort and it is a grave injustice, in my opinion, to try and condescendingly tailor things to children in ways that disrespect their native openness to all of the wonder and complexity of creation, just because it hardly impresses our tired, world-weary sensibilities. I am always surprised for some reason when Charlie repeats back to me some complicated prayer or theological idea, because I have refused to dumb these things down and speak of them as if I respect him enough to understand it in his own time.

If I regret anything in how I have handled my children’s experience of church, it was unwisely taking advantage of the nursery program at our new parish when we transitioned from one parish to another. From the time that they were born, they sat through the entire sung service with us, but for whatever reason, we thought that they might enjoy the nursery during the lessons and then we bring them up during the offertory. I wish we hadn’t done this and we are now trying to transition them back upstairs, because immersion in the mysteries of god seems tantamount to my only real responsibility as a parent.

By Mother Laura Howell
I am not a birth-parent.  Instead, I'm one of those priests that Adam worries about disturbing.  

My extremely strong feeling (rabid, passionate, uncontrolled, you might even say) is that kids belong in church. That is where our whole family in Christ gathers.  

Nursery definitely has its place on the cranky days or the sleeping days or the parents-at-wits'-end days (and a smart parish will have the equivalent of nursery for adults, too, like coffee and tea in the parish hall well before coffee hour).  Kids squirm.  Kids respond to rhetorical questions (adults, too).  Kids yell out.  And sing out (some of them in tune, too).  So?  

My experience is that when kids say something during a sermon, it's often a great underliner of a point, or allows the crafty preacher to add an informal comment.  If they are not part of church when they are small, why would we think they would enjoy the music, liturgy, beauty when they get older?  And, we find, that kids seeing other kids carrying the torches or reading or crucifering often want to do it themselves.

If someone (child or adult--not joking--it happens) is shrieking and having a meltdown, then a timeout is a great idea. But they shouldn't be kept out of church because they *might* bother someone.  Where would this end?  X should not be in church because they talk to themselves.  Y shouldn't be in church because they have allergies and sneeze.  Z shouldn't be in church because they cry at the beautiful music.  I could paraphrase a quote from Kazantsakis: "Life is unexpected and messy, only death is not."

My opinion. YMMV, of course.

Chancel Opera of Naaman the Leper to be performed February 12th at Church of the Mediator, Allentown

[ From Jo Trepagnier]

The Episcopal Church of the Mediator in Allentown is proud to announce a special addition to our Sunday service on February 12th (8 & 10:15am). A new sermon-length chancel oratorio in costume called “Naaman the Leper” (based on 2 Kings 5:1-19) will be offered. The parish has tapped some of its own choir members and parishioners including children to stage this new opera, with score and libretto by Susan Hulsman Bingham. Susan and Timothy Bingham are members of the Church of the Mediator.

Susan composes the scores (sometimes with the creative support of children) and her various pieces can be explored at The liturgical (or "church" or "chancel") operas are short pieces designed to replace the sermon in the worship service. Action takes place in the "chancel" -- that is, the elevated area approaching the altar, between the choir stalls in most churches.

Naaman is a prominent political and social figure who stands in high favor with the King of Aram. However, he has leprosy. Though his arrogance prevents him, at first, from heeding a suggestion by his young Israelite slave girl to seek help from the prophet Elisha, his illness wears him down. He grudgingly seeks Elisha’s help, even more grudgingly follows his simple prescription for a cure, and is healed of both inner and outer ill health.

Mediator welcomes all to explore this virtual way of hearing this great Bible story. The church is located at 1620 W. Turner Street and on-street parking is available., as well as parking at the Masonic Temple on Linden Street. A nursery for children under age 3 is open at 9:00am.

Diocesan Life for November 2011

Open publication - Free publishing - More bluegrass

Want the .pdf version instead? You can download load the 2.3 MB file here: Download November2011_DiocesanLife_SMALL

St. Paul's, Montrose announces Under a Harvest Moon Dinner and Jazz Performance October 22

[From Paul Walker]

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Montrose has announced “Under the Light of the Harvest Moon,” a program of dinner and live jazz to celebrate the return of autumn to Susquehanna County on Saturday, October 22.  The dinner will benefit The Adventure Club, a free after-school program located at St. Paul’s Church for students in the area .  The doors will open at 6:30 P.M. and dinner begins at 7:00 P.M.  The tickets are $15, and may be purchased by calling the church office at 278-2954.  Joe Welden and his friends will offer jazz music between the main course and dessert.

St. Paul's, Montrose announces Adventure Club after-school program

[From Paul Walker and Randy Webster]

Historic St. Paul’s Church is offering The Adventure Club, a free after-school program.  The program runs from 3:15 to 5:00 P.M. every Wednesday, beginning October 5.  All students in Kindergarten through the 8th grade are welcome to participate.
Each month will have a unique theme for the program. The monthly themes are:

  • October— “All things bright and beautiful”
  • November— Sharing and Caring
  • December— Christmas Crafts
  • January— Movement
  • February— The Diversity of God’s Family
  • March—Making a difference in the world around us
  • April— The Fine Arts
  • May— Cooking

The year will finish with a big celebration!
Snacks and homework assistance will be provided.

This year the students will have the opportunity to participate in a youth choir which will make public appearances about every six weeks, sometimes singing at the morning service at St. Paul’s, and sometimes singing at various public events.  The choirs will rehearse from 4:00 to 5:00 P.M.

If there is enough interest we will also offer the ability to participate in a handbell choir.
If you wish to register, please call the office at St. Paul’s at 570-278- 2954.

Diocesan Life for October 2011

You can download the 2.4 MB .pdf here: Download October2011_DiocesanLife_SMALL

St. Peter's, Tunkhannock to host benefit concert for H.A.N.D.S. of Wyoming County

Breakout_pic [From David Martin]

A free concert by an award winning a Capella quartet will take place Sunday September 18, at  5:00 PM at St Peter's Church, 3832 Route 6, a mile east of Tunkhannock. “Breakout” is a quartet with members from both New York and Pennsylvania.  Formed in 2007, their first onstage performance occurred at the Barbershop Harmony Society Seneca Land District Competition in October of that year, where they won first place.   They went on to win another District Championship, and in 2010 the quartet represented the Seneca Land District at the international quartet competition held in Philadelphia.

The members consist of Kevin Jones  - Bass, Jerry Schmidt – Tenor, Dave Scott – Baritone, and Mike Spencer – Lead.  Each of the singers has appeared with numerous other award winning quartets, and they have also performed similar benefit concerts for other worthy causes.  Collectively, they have about 100 years of Barbershop quartet experience. The Endless Mountains Barbershop Chorus of Wyoming County will also present a  selection of songs.

H.A.N.D.S. (Helping Area Needs for Diverse Early Child Care Services) of Wyoming County is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality and availability of early care and education in Wyoming County.  H.A.N.D.S. implements planning strategies that allow growth and development of quality early child care and access to education services.  The proceeds of a free will offering will go to support H.A.N.D.S. Projects for Wyoming County children.  Refreshments and a reception will follow the concert.  For further information call 836-2233.

TCC – Many thank you all

By Bill Lewellis

"Due to declining enrollment and a lack of funding," the story began in today's Republican Herald, "the preschool[Trinity Center for Children] at Trinity Episcopal Church in Pottsville will close June 3."
How sad. In its heyday, TCC's enrollment surpassed 30. Today, 14 children, five full-time and nine part-time, are enrolled, with a staff of four, two full-time and two part-time people.

Sad, indeed, but might we not thank God and many groups and individuals for 20 years of this wonderful ministry.

I thank God for the vision and unselfishness of the lay and clergy leadership of Trinity Episcopal Church who sought back in 1991 to provide quality education and spiritual nurture for children beyond the bounds of their membership, for the Diocese of Bethlehem, the diocesan community's provision of financial and other important resources at TCC's launch and periodically thereafter, for the board volunteers of TCC, often recognized only when criticized, who over the years provided crucial governance, expertise and insight in hiring dedicated staff and keeping the ministry afloat. I thank God for the teachers who have loved the children and for the parents who have appreciated the teachers, the board, the Diocese of Bethlehem and the vision and leadership of Trinity Episcopal Church. Indeed, it took a village to raise 20 years of precious children. Many of us thank you all.

Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem, retired
Communication Minister/Editor (1986-2010), Canon Theologian (1998)

Book drive to benefit children whose families come to the Grace Food Pantry

[From Elizabeth House, director, Grace Montessori School and senior warden, Grace Allentown]

Grace Church Allentown’s Grace Montessori School is holding a book drive to benefit children whose families come to the Grace Food Pantry, located at the church, for supplemental groceries.  We invite you to ask your child, grandchild, godchild, niece, nephew, or neighbor to look around the house for a gently used children’s book that he or she has outgrown and which they would like to donate to a child in need in the Allentown community.
The food pantry serves about 200 families (including 350 children) per month.  The school’s goal is to be able to give each one of those children a book to take home. Please ask a child you know to pick out a book they would like to share with another child. Such a simple gesture can make a big difference and put a smile on a child’s face.
If you would like to donate more than one book, or would like to purchase a new book for the book drive, that is fine as well.  All donations will be gratefully received, and you can be assured the books will be put to very good use. Thank you in advance for your support.
Books may be donated Monday through Friday
May 16th – May 20th
Collection bins will be available at the primary school site (814 W. Linden in Allentown)
and at the elementary school site (located in the administrative offices of the church).
You may also drop off donations or mail them directly to
Grace Episcopal Church, 108 N. 5th Street, Allentown, PA 18102.

Trinity, West Pittston to host MUSICare Project Concert

[From Fr. John Major]

On Wednesday, December 8 at 5:15 p.m., children from infant through age 5 and their parent or other adult caregiver will have a chance to experience the joy of  making music in a playful, age-appropriate way.  The event will include a free demonstration of  Music Together ®, a relaxed music program where infants, toddlers, preschoolers and the grown-ups who love them learn to share and appreciate songs, rhythms and simple instruments in a fun, interactive way.  Santa Claus will also stop by for a sing-a-long and visit with the children.
The evening of fun and music is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested.  Trinity Episcopal Church is located at the corner of Spring Street and Montgomery Avenue in West Pittston.  For more information or reservations, call 570-654-3261.
For more information on Trinity's MUSICare Project featuring Music Together visit

Talbot Hall Grants

Talbot Hall Grants

To the Clergy of the Diocese of Bethlehem
From the Archdeacon

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

The Mission Statement of Talbot Hall is to provide spiritual, emotional, educational, cultural, physical and social opportunities for children who may not have experienced these blessings.  This year the Fund will be awarding grants up to $5,000.00.

If your parish or diocesan organization has a program that meets the criteria of this statement, please fill out the attached grant application and return it to me no later than October 30, 2010.  Electronic applications are preferred.  Just answer the questions on the application and email it to me, and I shall distribute it to the Talbot Hall Committee.

Word Format: Download 101030 Talbot Hall Application
PDF Format:
Download 101030 Talbot Hall Application

The Committee will meet in November to review all grant applications for 2011.  Applicants will be notified in writing as to the Committee’s decision.

Please feel free to contact me if further assistance is needed.

Howard Stringfellow

Preventing child accidental injury

Over the past few months, nine children have died while alone in a vehicle. A child’s body heats up 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s. It takes only a few minutes before a child can become dangerously overheated.

Every year, more than 30 children die because they are alone in a car. In just 10 minutes a car’s temperature can increase by 19 degrees – and it continues to rise. There is no evidence that cracking the windows helps prevent the temperature in vehicle interiors from reaching dangerous levels. In fact, sunlight coming through car windows makes the car work like an oven.

Continue reading "Preventing child accidental injury" »

Good Shepherd Child Care Center is a Rising Star

[From Bill McGinty]

The Good Shepherd Child Care Center in Milford just received news that it has been awarded STAR 3 Status from the Pennsylvania State Star Program. This means so much to the center in terms of grants. Angela Smith and her team, worked for months with parishioners to fill all the State requirements. The Good Shepherd Child Care Center is in its 25th year and cares for poor and single-parent families. As a part of Good Shepherd and St. John's Shared Ministry Outreach Program, the center cares for some 72 children each day. Suzanne Geisler is the center's vestry co-ordinator. From almost closing in July of 2005, this is a monumental achievement for the center and the vestry's restoration program.

Kajo Keji fundraiser at Mediator Sunday School

[From Mediator Allentown rector Maria Tjeltveit to the families of Sunday School Children]

I wanted to give you a final snapshot of the November Soccer Fundraiser results. As I mentioned last week, through your generosity and with the help of the parish we were able to double our intended target of $252 to a final sum of $505.56. The money is paying for the following items for the Loopo Primary School:  22 soccer uniforms (whole team), 1 wooden table (they don’t use desks and several students sit at a table), 2 wooden chairs, 6 jump ropes, 6 yards of fabric (used to make school uniforms), 1 soccer ball and 2 net balls. That is an amazing accomplishment for one church Sunday School and I hope you will find a way to convey to your child how much this effort will mean to the students of the Loopo school. My hope is that this spirit of doing for others will last a lifetime for them.  A very sincere thank you to all of you. If you missed the opportunity to give to our fundraiser and would still like to participate, the 12 Days of Christmas diocesan effort will continue until 12/15.

Mediator board 

Click image to enlarge

To promote Allentown and benefit Grace Montessori School

A project –– traditional and fine art photos taken within Allentown by aspiring local artists –– sponsored by Dan’s Camera, Allentown Brew Works, The Morning Call, and Nikon Cameras will benefit Allentown and Grace Montessori School. GMS, an outreach ministry of Grace Church Allentown which provides scholarships to 30% of its student body, including inner-city children, was selected by a group of local businesses and Mike Woodland, co-owner of Dan’s Camera City in Allentown, to receive a substantial donation from a project designed to promote Allentown and a specific non-profit organization.

Throughout the summer and fall, Dan’s Camera City, described in the NYTimes as "one of he most innovative camera stores in the country," had offered three six-week photo journaling classes for which the primary subject was the City of Allentown. Approximately 45 students took photographs and met with their instructor to create photographic stories of Allentown while improving their camera skills.

Products featuring the photos of Allentown donated by the students have been created by Dan’s Camera City and will be offered for sale in the community. The products include a hard cover book, a 2010 calendar, note cards and framed photos. Depending on the specific product, GMS will receive 30 to 50 percent of the sales price. Dan's Camera City has produced and is providing these at cost.

The Morning Call and the Brew Works and Grace Church are providing publicity and hospitality for various aspects of the project. Nikon is donating five SLR cameras to GMS.

A password-protected website will be made available for GMS parents. The site will contain many candid shots of the students and the school of particular interest to parents. Those shots are not featured among the other products.

Identity and Diversity at Grace Montessori School

Identity and Diversity
By Libby House, Executive Director
Grace Montessori School, Allentown

In a book titled Learning from School Choice, authors Peterson and Hassel make the observation, “Stronger self-esteem produced by strong identity is associated with greater tolerance for others.” It is interesting that these three characteristics are so closely related and so mutually reinforcing.
Both the Montessori Method and the Episcopal Church of America embrace and celebrate diversity andpromote tolerance and inclusion. The principles of both Dr. Maria Montessori and Grace Episcopal Church, as a part of The Episcopal Church, are at the heart of Grace Montessori School where those beliefs play out each day as our classrooms serve as models for inclusion, acceptance, and tolerance, for respect of the individual child and development of self-esteem and self-identity.

Continue reading "Identity and Diversity at Grace Montessori School" »

Xtreme Faith Stories shared at Bishop's Day

By Rev. Canon Anne E. Kitch


A large group of children sat on the floor in matching T-shirts, with which they were newly adorned, attention riveted on the figure of Moses. This great hero of the faith stood among them telling his life story, a story of Xtreme faith. OK, so actually it was Father Joe De Acetis. Nevertheless, the children, ages ranging from seven to eleven, were enthralled by the telling.

After all, it is an exciting story: the burning bush, the plagues, the Passover, and finally the great escape through the parted waters of the Red Sea. For some of the children gathered, this was all quite familiar. Others heard aspects of this great hero’s life of faith for the first time.

Continue reading "Xtreme Faith Stories shared at Bishop's Day" »

Biggest, Boldest, Best Block Party Around

posted by Kat Lehman

Check out the Block Party "A Celebration of Gifts" this Saturday, September 19th from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. on Market Street between New and Center Streets in Bethlehem. Trinity, Bethlehem has been actively planning this event in conjunction with other churches, social agencies, community groups and the city government for about 8 months.

There are over 30 groups performing including the Bethlehem Bagpipe Band, Trinity's own Singing Priests, musicians and singers from Holy Infancy, Moravian Academy band and choirs, the O'Grady-Quinlan Academy of Irish Dance, storytelling by Mayor Callahan and MANY, MANY MORE! There are also games and crafts for kids plus food and lots of fun. What an awesome way to spend Saturday!

Come celebrate!!

Ann Mickus, Lay Missioner for Children and Youth Formation at the Cathedral

Ann Mickus, who has been lay missioner for children and youth formation at the Cathedral since March 1, holds a Masters degree in Education from Widener University, and has been teaching high school math for the past eight years. She is a graduate of the Education for Ministry program of the School of Theology of the University of the South.

Ann has been actively involved in children and youth ministry serving as a Rite 13 mentor and teaching Sunday school. She is participating in Godly Play ministry at Trinity Church, Bethlehem. Ann and her husband Bob are members of Trinity Bethlehem. Ann’s ministry will focus primarily on the support and development of Cathedral's many ministries involving children and youth.

She will be present on Sunday mornings beginning March 1, and her time will increase to 20 hours a week at the conclusion of the school year and then into the next program year. A funding gift made this position possible.