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Church's youngest members find convention home

By Sally Vallongo
[Convention Daily]  The clear soprano of Brenna MacDonald, 9, reading from Galatians was the most distinctive and historic of the 3,500 voices raised in praise during opening Eucharist Wednesday. Brenna was one of dozens of children age 6 to 12 formally invited for the first time in General Convention’s long history not only to attend but also to participate.

Joining her in worship were Jarbari, Will, Camille, Toby, Sophia and Hattie, among others. At their tables, clay, crayons, paper and other craft materials were offered along with worship folders.

Is it a no-brainer that the church needs to woo this generation? Yes, indeed, said the Rev. Sandra Wilson, priest of nearby Gethsemane Church, where the children adjourned for Vacation Bible School while their parents slipped into hearings and legislative sessions. “It’s a critical aspect of life in the church – so that there can continue to be life in the church,” Wilson said, noting that of all efforts to promote diversity of membership, recognizing the need to welcome the youngest is absolutely essential.

Challenged by a 2000 resolution and a later program, “Will Our Faith Have Children,” Vicki Garvey, Anne Tuohy, MerLynne Bern, Joanne Davidson, Helen Barron, and Kathy Lutes, among others, dug into new ways to make church life relevant and inviting to tomorrow’s members.

Their collection of portable, adaptable, and inexpensive ideas, programs and activities is on display in booths 198-199-237-238. They hope parishes will borrow their results, whole or piecemeal.

One of the first lessons they’re propounding is the new name for what they’re doing: spiritual formation. “The premise is that throughout our lives we’re not only growing in faith but also in our ability to know our story and share it, to fully experience what it means to be a Christian in today’s world,” said Tuohy, also a deputy from Province V.

Garvey, a biblical theologian, author and teacher, concurred. “You never graduate from Christian formation. I’m in the 87th grade.”

Their goal is to make spiritual formation not only accessible to young Christians but to adults who will lead them, whether at home or at church. “You don’t need to be professionals in Christian formation or education to adopt our programs,” Garvey said.

They invite convention-goers to drop by the booth daily, particularly around 1:30 when special events such as storytelling, Tai Chi and beadwork demonstrations are planned, and a parade is set for Tuesday.