Mid Councils Newsletter, August 10, 2015
musings from the road
Did you attend a Vacation Bible School this year? I was a helper on a couple of nights at the VBS at the church my husband serves. Like many churches, they used the curriculum from Group Publishing, Inc. Having done lots of youth work in the past, I often turned to Group for resources as well. They are always put together well, easy to understand, the preparation for teachers does not involve collecting toilet paper rolls (and the like) for weeks before VBS starts, and the songs are always really catchy—as in you are glad your kids or grandkids learned them but will they ever stop singing them? This year the church in Peoria also joined a kind of consortium of churches that shared all of the backdrops and stage sets—they are quite elaborate! What a good idea; much better than if each church invested in backdrops that would end up in the dumpster at the end of the week.
But the most amazing thing I saw was a piece of technology. Group always has little tags with the animal of the day on them that are handed out to the kids and put on their “clip” that they are given at the beginning of the week. This year there is a surprise. When you download an “app” onto your smart phone, tap on the picture of a particular character, and then hover your phone over that character’s tag, the character comes to life. It becomes 3-D before your eyes (only on your phone, not in real life.) And, one more surprise: if you tap on the 3-D character on your screen, it talks to you.
Ok, here is what I learned from that. First, the news about the app and the way it works went like wildfire through the adults one night. One person said, “Have you seen …,” and then the person they talked to would call out to other people, “Have you seen this?” Within fifteen minutes every adult in the room (around fifty people) had downloaded the app and was being taught how to use it by someone else who had figured it out. Oh, if only we were as quick to share the gospel! “Hey, have you heard?” “This is how you put it to use.” “Be sure you tell everyone you know.”
And then there was this: one of the children who was standing next to me watching how all of this worked on my phone said to me, “How does this work?” I had to admit to him that I had no idea. Of course, that did not make this app unique. I have no idea how anything on my phone works. I also do not know how the television works, or my car, or the computer on which I am typing. And as is true for many people, I don’t care. All I care about the car is that it does work. As the Comcast people with whom I was on the phone for thirty minutes this morning could attest to you, I am not a wizard with technology and I do not intend to devote any time to learning more than I already know about the inner working of things. I have enough knowledge to use the technology in my life in the way that makes sense to me.
Sometimes we think we need to understand everything about faith or the gospel or even the intricacies of working with groups before we are willing to test those things in our own lives. Maybe we would be more willing to share the gospel if we realized that most of us will have as little understanding of it as we have of how an app on the phone works. After all, how could we ever fully comprehend that God who created the universe and all that is in it, the one who is powerful and wonderful beyond our understanding, loves us each and loves us all so much that a son was sent so that we might know this love once and for all? Don’t worry about whether you can describe all of the ins and outs of it. Just share the gospel the way we shared that app—“Hey, I want to tell you about something that is really special!”
As you are aware, each council is now required to have a child protection policy. You are, no doubt, working with your congregations to be sure that their sessions are complying. Hopefully your mid council has completed (or is near completing) its own policy. From time to time we get inquiries about these policies; some of your colleagues would like to see what you have created so that they can work with groups in their mid councils to create their own. We would also like to have copies of these policies in the Office of the General Assembly so that we can share them as appropriate.
To that end, I would encourage you to send (electronically) a copy of your mid council child protection policy to me. You can do so by replying to this newsletter and attaching it. In future newsletters I will then list those that have been received so that others in your area will know to whom they might turn for help in developing their policies.
Polity Conference takes place October 11-12 in Portland.
The five concurrent conferences this year run October 9-11 and include: Association of Mid Council Leaders, Association of Stated Clerks, New Stated Clerks’ Orientation, Synod Committee on Representation Training, and Moderator’s Conference.
Registration opens on or about August 10, 2015.