Written by John H. Thomas
As you read this, several weeks have passed since school resumed for the fall. However, as I write these words, I have just walked to my train past children waiting for the bus to deliver them to their first day of classes. With our younger son starting college, I found myself thinking that, for the first time in over 15 years, we have no child in public school. No more teacher conferences, no more open houses, no more concerts to attend, no more fruit to sell or sporting events to support. Life will be different!
Some responsibilities continue. I will pay taxes to support public schools for my neighbors. With others in the United Church of Christ I will be involved in protecting the central place of public schools in the life of our nation. I will continue to pray.
Prayer in public schools is a hot topic, especially during an election season. While no person of faith argues that prayer in schools by students and staff is unimportant or inappropriate, even members of our own church do not always agree about the most appropriate way for that prayer to take place. But about one thing there can be no doubt: Prayer for our public schools is an obligation for each of us.
As we move toward "Children's Sabbaths" on the weekend of October 20-22, I invite you to pray for your schools.
Give thanks for the teachers, administrators, nurses, custodians, cafeteria workers, coaches, counselors, librarians and school board members who embody the hope we have for all our children.
Confess that since many if not most of us are able to live in communities that have ample resources for quality public schools, we have often been silent about the injustice many children experience who must attend schools that are physically inadequate and insufficiently staffed, using outdated textbooks, libraries and equipment.
Intercede on behalf of the entire public school community, that they may experience God's wisdom and grace amid the challenges and rewards of their teaching and learning.
Seek God's courage and generosity for your own continued commitment to the health and vitality of public schools for every child in every community, whether you have a child in those schools or not.
The town where I live uses the motto, "A community is known by the schools it keeps." My children have moved on from the public schools. But my responsibility continues, and so does yours.
The Rev. John H. Thomas is General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. For information, resources and an evaluation form on the 9th annual observance of Children's Sabbaths, visit the Children's Defense Fund website at www.childrensdefense.org/sabbath.html.