After welcoming The Kensington School, an independent child development center, on to the Hickory Neck property, the two communities have sought ways to enter into mutual relationship. One of those efforts has been offering a voluntary Godly Play class for students of the school. We began the class in the fall, and have had over 18 children registered for the class. We recently changed the day of the week the class is offered, and so yesterday, I was finally able to join the class. The children were full of life and wonder, and I loved to watch them engage in the story. But probably one of my favorite parts was singing Jesus Loves Me with the children. They clearly knew the words, and it was fun to sing such a familiar childhood song – so simple and, especially in these days, so profound.
My day carried on like any other adventurous day in ministry, and that afternoon, I celebrated Eucharist at a local retirement home. We usually sing a few songs, and the chaplain always reminds me that familiar songs are important, as they bring up many fond memories for the residents. So, without thinking, I chose two, and midway through the final song, I realized I had subconsciously chosen the very song I had sung early that morning – Jesus Loves Me. The same feelings emerged, especially as many of the retirees in that space are in bodies that no longer do all the things they used to do. But they can sing about the love of a Savior – that they, even in their weakened states, are loved.
I have been thinking about a couple of things since then. Hickory Neck has been articulating its mission in Upper James City County, and one of the tenets of our mission is to engage in intergenerational ministry. Knowing our unique setting – a community comprised predominantly of young families and a large retirement community – our parish seeks to minister to both, and in fact, we believe our ministry will be richer as both young and old walk together in Christ. Yesterday’s convergence of three and four year-olds singing the same words as ninety-three and ninety-four year-olds made me hopeful about the potential of Hickory Neck’s ministry.
But yesterday’s experience also made me think about all of us in the middle – those of us who are twenty-three and twenty-four to sixty-three and sixty-four; those of us who are busily going about life, trying to do our part to make the world a better place, and trying to find meaning and joy in this world. For those of us in the middle, I wonder if we might hear the words of a song that seems almost childishly simple as instead something profoundly important about ourselves and our neighbors. Yes, Jesus loves me. But, Jesus also loves you. And, from what I know about Jesus, he especially loves those whom we would like to deem “other,” or as unworthy of God’s love. Jesus loves them too. Perhaps we in the middle can take a cue from those at the beginning and those near the end and remember the simple, profound words that can hold us together, and help us love better.