It has been National Volunteer’s Week in Australia. As many involved in Child and Family Ministry are volunteers I thought I would give a shout out today to those amazing people that bring Ministry help, programs and people power to congregations, because it is what they are called to do not what they are paid to do.
Many fine Child and Family trained personal are not paid or not working in this chosen field. They give their skills willingly and freely because it is what they are called to do. I am one of those people.
Other’s I know bring other skills, and as much passion and calling to Child and Family Ministry. Without the help of the teams I put together, while in paid or non-paid engagements, I could not have run the programs that I had envisioned, nor faced the opposition that existed as I moved congregations from a Sunday School model to an Intergenerational model, albeit it one of parallel worship. We can debate whether it really is parallel at another time. As I would argue that supplying age appropriate activities to use in Church is not parallel.
I have watched as congregations have dealt with the fall out of the Royal Commission on Child Abuse, changed social attitudes to the church and the demise of faith programs from schools. Mandatory Working With Children’s check (In Victoria, Australia), and new legal requirements for record keeping and reporting have taken its toll on faithful volunteers along with the disbelief that all their efforts could be seen as child grooming, rather than in the light of a far loftier ideal, has left it’s scares on many congregations and their volunteer workers with children.
So how can we say thank you, the simple and first thought of ideas, such as a small gift or card, or morning tea, any of these are appreciated. In fact, this year I received a thank you card for the first time, from one of the organisations I volunteer for, but not in a Child and Family capacity, and it really moved me.
These can come from any secular group. No as church we can do better, we can acknowledge our volunteers during the Prayers of the People, we can have a commissioning service, we can all stand for a volunteer blessing, as you will find most people do something around the church in that silent capacity of “church angel” How did the toilet paper get changed? Who tidied up the noticeboard? Etc.
Today is also Sorry Day in Australia. https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/australia/national-sorry-day
our day of apology for the wrongs inflicted on our Indigenous people. But most Uniting Church’s have a Day of Mourning service the Sunday Before Australia Day make this part of worship on the Sunday before Australia Day.
As church, many congregations have apologised for the harm they have done to children following the Royal Commission. Today also reminds us that there is power in an apology and that it needs to be revisited, not forgotten. We cannot forget the number of people that came forward at the Royal Commission and many more who could not or did not.
So, while we thank our volunteers and let them know they are appreciated, we also need to take on board the commissions changes to the laws and not forget the many who were harmed without these legal safeguards.
And overall, though it is important to follow the new Laws and rules, what we need to do is acknowledge the importance of all in our congregations, children, indigenous, poor, LGBTQ, those with disabilities etc. “—, for the least among all of you is the greatest, (Luke 9:47b)