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Faith of A Mustard Seed  

by Barbara Woods-Washington
Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

The ‘Testing of Faith’ is so very real in our times.  No longer do we have to look in other places to see and feel the shock, the fear, the anxiety, the anguish, the hopelessness and confusion of Life.  The “Six Degrees of Separation” are now down to perhaps… Two!  We know the difficulties, as adults, in maintaining a level of Faith in the constant crisis of life and death; but now that it has reached the level of ‘childhood’ —what have we done?

I have long been an advocate of Full-Time Children’s Ministers and Full-Time Youth Ministers in the Church.  When I graduated from Seminary in 1981 I was clear about my path in Ministry.  I had already incorporated into my ‘model for Church’ the Peachtree Road, Atlanta Church’s then ‘Twelve Pastor’, all Full-Time Paid pastoral appointments serving the various life levels; to include each of the Age Level Ministries as well as “Death and Dying” and more.  A “Full-Time Children’s Minister”, yes, my path was clear to me.

What I found was NOT ONE BLACK Church in the United Methodist Conference serving Atlanta and North Georgia had committed to a FULL-TIME Paid Children’s NOR Youth Minister!  Even THEN, in the midst of the historical crisis in Atlanta of 28 murdered Black male children and youth.  The ONLY FULL-TIME ministerial position were PASTORS!  So I went forward in service as Pastor to the Gordon Road Church (now Headland Heights) in Atlanta; DOING ministry to the children and youth of that Church’s community in a way in which we continue even now to see the fruit.

In 2013 The American Civil Liberties Union reported their findings, suggesting by their Title that America has an addiction to Juvenile Incarceration.  “On any given day, nearly 60,000 youth under age 18 are incarcerated in juvenile jails and prisons in the United States.”  When the constant crisis of life and death reaches the level of ‘childhood’ —what have we done?

Where is ‘The Church’s Calling’ into the epic proportion crisis of Ministry to Children; which must no longer be lumped with the epic proportion crisis of Ministry to Youth?  In looking around the Black Church Community in Nashville what I STILL find IS NOT ONE BLACK Church in NOR outside the United Methodist Conference serving TENNESSEE and Nashville has committed to a FULL-TIME Paid Children’s NOR Youth Minister.  Even NOW in the midst of the historical crisis  known as the “School to Prison Pipeline”!!!  With upward of 1,300 KINDERGARTEN students suspended from School in Tennessee in 2018…

Last year The ‘Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy’ polled the top ten concerns parents have related to child health and well being.  While those parents polled most always represent a very different socio-economic culture than the Black community, the crisis is yet alarming.  Director Stephen Patrick said that mental health concerns have increased, especially since receiving help can be challenging.

I suspect that the use of the word ‘celebrating’ gives rise to the challenges of… change.  Who knew that February is now “Mental Health Awareness Month” and that in 2023 the .gov site bills the proceedings as “Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month 2023″.  Worth noting is the $185 million granted to several areas of mental health;  inclusive of a very large amount granted  to ‘The National Child Mental Health Traumatic Stress Initiative’.        

I have, across my years of Ministry, seen clearly the “two-faced” relationship that the Church has had with Children and Youth.  I have on numerous occasions in my Preaching made this statement, “It is ‘Time Out’ for VOLUNTEER Work with Children and Youth in the Church”. The ‘measure’?  The large volume number of Churches where NO Children and NO Youth are present!  You figure out the ‘WHY’? and the ‘HOW’?  I’ll wait… NO!  NO more… Waiting!  “Suffer”, Jesus says, “the children to come” to the place where WE SAY God is.. “for such BELONGS” The Kingdom…”. Oh, and that “Where your Treasure is, your HEART IS..” thang!

By email: myfathersmansionpress@gmail.com

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