My oldest daughter attends a Lutheran preschool. During the summer the school runs a camp that is more play-based. What our family loves is that they keep the religious content present in both programs. What I especially enjoy is discovering my daughter singing a religious song that I remember from childhood, but have not yet taught her myself. Last week it was “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…” When I shouted out in response, “Where?!?” she started laughing. Then I told her how her father knew the same song in Spanish, since he had learned it on a mission trip in high school. All of a sudden the room was filled with bilingual singing about the love of Jesus being in our hearts.
What my daughter’s singing reminded me of is how dependent we are upon the community of faith to raise up our children. Many of you may be thinking, “She’s a priest. Does her daughter really need anyone else to teach her stuff about God?” The answer is an emphatic, “Yes!” Though my vocation involves teaching and preaching, it is the community of faith combined with our efforts at home that will expose our children to and reinforce for them the love that God has for them. I cannot do it alone.
This past Sunday, our youngest daughter was baptized. The bishop asked us and her godparents if we would be “responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian faith and life.” We responded by saying “I will, with God’s help.” But the bishop also asked the congregation gathered, “Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?” Their response was the same. I came away from the baptism feeling deeply appreciative of the fact that we have a community of people who have committed to helping us raise our child to know the love that God has for her and to help her live into Jesus’ life and example. It was a deeply affirming and encouraging experience for us all.
That is the joy of belonging to a Christian community. Though we all have individual responsibilities, we also regularly acknowledge how none of us can do this alone. The community of faith comes together to raise us up, encourage us in doubt, comfort us in suffering, and then partner with us in raising our children. I am grateful today for the blessing of Christian community both in my life and now in the lives of my children. Thanks be to God!