Children’s Sermon 1
by debbie w parvin (lower case intentional)
debbie w parvin is a Quaker poet and writer. She wrote church school curriculum for the Christian Board of Publication for over a decade.
I want to tell you a brief story about a family outing:
One day a mother treated her two sons, Steve and Kevin, to ice cream cones. Steve got a cone of mint chocolate chip, and Kevin got one of Rocky Road. Yum! The day was hot, and after the family strolled outside a short distance, the ice cream got soft. Suddenly Steve gasped, and when Mom and Kevin turned to look, they saw that Steve’s ice cream was lying on the hot pavement. “Oh no!” Steve cried in shock and frustration. The ants and flies were already on their way to the scene. Instantly Mom turned to Kevin and asked, “You’d be willing to share your ice cream with Steve, wouldn’t you?”
Kevin looked at his cone. Rocky Road was his favorite flavor, and he didn’t get to eat desserts often because Mother was big on health and low-sugar diets. He stared at the chocolate scoop, the nuts, the marshmallows... “I was being careful,” Kevin said. “Steve must have been clowning around to drop his ice cream on the sidewalk like that. It’s not fair that I have to give up some of mine!”
Mom gave a little lecture (as moms often do at a time like this). She talked about how brothers should share with one another because they are family and because it’s the right thing to do. Then she instructed Kevin to offer some of his ice cream to Steve. Kevin didn’t move. He just stood there. Finally, Mom scooped some of the ice cream from Kevin’s cone and put it into Steve’s. Kevin began to cry. The End.
Well… that was a great story about sharing, wasn’t it? – Or was it? There’s a place in the Bible – in the book of Corinthians – that tells us that God loves a cheerful giver.
It’s obvious that Crying Kevin doesn’t fit that description. He also didn’t really share, because his ice cream was actually taken from him by his mother and given to his brother. That’s not sharing.
Now I want to rewrite the story so that Kevin is a cheerful giver. This time, when Mom asks Kevin to share, Kevin smiles, and with enthusiasm says, “Sure, Mom.” Even better, what if Mom never has to ask? In our revised story,let’s have Kevin think of sharing by himself! Let’s have him volunteer to give some of his ice cream to Steve!
So: On “take two” of our story, when Steve looks down and sees the yucky ice cream with the ants and flies, Kevin pops up and says, “Hey bro, don’t stick out that lip of yours and be sad. Stick out your tongue and lick some of my cone! I’ll share with you.”
Wow! How do you like this version? Kevin’s happy; Steve’s happy; and Mom, who is VERY happy, has probably passed out from the shock of it all.
In story number one, Steve receives ice cream, and in the revised story, Steve receives ice cream, but, what’s the BIG difference? The outcome may be the same, but the spirit is totally different. According to standards set in Corinthians, version two of the story is “right on” when it comes to describing the cheerful giver that makes God happy.
Mom can force Kevin to give up ice cream, but she can’t force Kevin to be happy about it. He has to be the one to make that decision. Sometimes love is a decision. Steve’s loss of spilt ice cream was a tiny loss. There are many children in the world who have lost basic needs. Some live in places of war where life is dangerous and frightening. Some are refugees fleeing from danger, and
separated from their parents. These losses threaten people’s lives.
Our global neighbors matter because we are all family. We may not live under the same roof, but we live on the same earth, and we’re brothers and sisters, because God is the parent of all of us. So choose kindness and give generously, but give from a happy heart and with a smiling face. It will make all the difference, because it will please God.
Children’s Sermon 2
by Mrs. Fe Malayang-Pia, member of the United Church of Christ
Mrs. Fe Malayang-Pia recently returned from the Philippines and shares this story with church folks who will benefit from being aware of what the worldwide church does when calamities occur in other parts of the
Good morning children! Have you ever heard of a country called the Philippines? No? Then, I will show you where it is on this globe. It is a small country made up of 7,100 islands.
On one of its islands, there is a school founded by American missionaries, named after Horace Silliman who gave $10,000 to start a school that will teach kids and young people about Jesus. This school is Silliman
University, established in 1901, and located in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental. In December 2011, and again in February 2012, Dumaguete was hit by a typhoon and then an earthquake which destroyed a lot of roads, houses, businesses and yes, churches. Many people were hurt.
But, you know what? People from all over the world helped by sending money, medicines, water, food and other necessities to the individuals and communities who survived the storms. Our church sent money through the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. All these were prepared and distributed by students, faculty and staff, and church folks of Silliman University.
I am telling you this true story because it shows that when people share what they have, it brings joy, not only to those who were affected but also to those who gave. Most of all, it makes Jesus happy to know that we are loving our neighbors, even if they live far away from us, and even if we don’t know who they are. Let us pray: Thank you, Jesus, for giving us the opportunity to help others in need. It makes us all a happy, loving, big family. Amen.
Children’s Sermon 3
by Charlotte Carpenter, a member of Central Christian Church, Waco, TX
• smiley-face stickers for the children
• offering envelopes of some sort, or the One Great Hour of Sharing coin box.
Good morning children. Do you know the book about Mr. Grumpy, or the song, “Don't be Mister Grouchy Face?” I’ll sing words that are good for both boys and girls, then you sing it with me. (Tune: “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”) Don't be grumpy Grouchy Face, grouchy face, grouchy face! Wear a happy smiley face; pass on a smile today. What are some things that make you happy or make you smile? (Allow time for answers.)
Have you ever wondered what makes God smile? (Possible anticipated answers: being kind, helping others, obeying our parents, etc.) Something that makes God smile is when we help people – even people that we don't know, because in God’s eyes, they are God’s children, too, just like us.
This week is a special week in our church. With smiling faces, we give an offering to help people in our country and around the world who don’t have what they most need. Maybe their town was hit by a tornado, or maybe a fire destroyed their homes or church. Maybe they don't have enough food because of drought, or perhaps fighting in their village or town meant they had to move away from their home. So, through our church, we can send food, or medicine, or we can help someone dig wells for clean water, or rebuild houses. Our money in this special offering goes with other money to send helpers, or food, or seeds, or blankets where they are needed, all year long. Each time we help God’s other children, God will smile, especially if we share with a smiling face.
Take this special envelope (or coin box) today and return it (next week) with some money you can share with a smile. Use these stickers to show that you are cheerfully sharing with others. Together, let's all put a smile on God's face.
Let's pray together: Dear God, we thank you that your love makes us smile. Help us put smiles on others’ faces and make you smile too. In Jesus name, Amen!
Children’s Sermon 4
“You Do the Math” by Kristyn Y. Reid
Kristyn Y. Reid is the Worship Department Chairperson at First Christian Church, Midwest City, Oklahoma. She is a poet who also works part-time as a substitute teacher. The mission statement for our Worship Department is, “lex orandi, lex credendi: how we worship reflects what we believe.”
Supplies: 8 oz. glass, a gallon milk jug, filled with water,
Oh, you know what? (Hold up a clear, 8 oz. glass.) My glass is empty. Could you go [across the hall to the kitchen, or wherever is appropriate…or you could have a pitcher of water nearby] and get me more water, please?
Did you know that water is one of the things human beings need to live? What else do we need to stay alive? [air, food, companionship, shelter…] Thank you,______, for getting my water.
Children need 6-8 glasses of water each day and adults need more. Here is a gallon of water. (Hold up the plastic milk carton filled with water.) It takes 16 of these (Hold up 8 oz. glass.) to fill one of these [gallon container]. So this gallon holds about enough drinking water for 2 people for 1 day. How many of these would your family need for a whole day? [answers]
But we use water for other things, too…right? Like what? [cooking, cleaning, gardens, shower/bath…] How much do you think you use in a day? [answers] The average American uses 176 gallons of water per day compared to 5 gallons per day for the average African family! [www.water.org] We just walk to a sink or a hose, but they often don’t have running water in their house, either. The average distance a person travels to get water in a developing country—like most African countries—is 4 miles!
Here—pick that up [gallon] and bring it over to_______ [someone else in the congregation who is about 20 feet away]. Do you think you could carry that 4 miles? (You could have a few others try it, too.) How many times a day would you need to go get water? (Wait for answers.)
One Great Hour of Sharing provides water wells and other help to people in areas all over the world that are wrecked by disaster, war, or poverty and need a hand to survive. If something awful happened to your neighborhood, like a tornado or fire [whatever is appropriate for your area], and suddenly you couldn’t go to the kitchen every time you wanted a drink of water, where do you think you would go? (Wait for answers.)
One Great Hour of Sharing brought water, food, and blankets to tornado victims in Joplin, MO [or name someplace that is close to you - See Your OGHS Dollars at Work]. The offering also helped people affected by floods, fires, wars, hurricanes, droughts… those disasters that happen at times all across the world. (You could name specific instances in which areas near you were helped in a time of disaster.) The Bible tells us that people will praise God when they see you sharing with others. (from 2 Corinthians 9:13)
When we give money to One Great Hour of Sharing we are truly Jesus’ disciples. This is a great way we can be more like him and help our worldwide neighbors!
Let’s say a prayer.
God, thank you for giving us a world with water. We know that sometimes though, people have a hard time finding enough clean water. Help us to help our neighbors around the world have the clean water they need. Amen.
"I will pour down rain on a thirsty land, showers on the dry ground. I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring and my blessings on your children. They shall spring up like a green tamarisk, like poplars by a flowing stream." —Isaiah 44:3-4
The promise of God's blessings for children has been affirmed down the generations of faith from the time that God first promised to Abraham and Sarah that their offspring would be as numerous as the stars. Jesus not only welcomed the child, but asked everyone to enter into the eternal realm of God's blessings as children. Children are not only invited, but show us the way.
Children have the right to develop spiritually, intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally, and to live in conditions of freedom and dignity. Because children are powerless and often live with adults who are poor and have little voice, there is a tendency not to see or hear them. Too often, their basic needs go unfulfilled.
The United Church of Christ has a long tradition of affirming public policies that generate and distribute resources in ways that provide all people, including children, with the potential to live healthy and productive lives. The covenant of God is with all children of our nation and the world, not just with the children who share our church life.
Homegrown Faith and Justice: Conversations on Faith Formation at Home
What is the unique role parents and guardians play in the faith formation of their families? What are the joys and challenges parents encounter as they try to raise children with faith, empathy, a sense of fairness and the courage to act justly? How is the church supporting them, and how might we further support their efforts? Join us for this conversation with a panel of colleagues on the intersections of faith formation, justice advocacy, and the unique role of parents as the primary faith teachers of children in day-to-day life. Learn about Homegrown Faith and Justice, a use-at-home resource for families that's been published thanks to a sponsorship from the United Church of Christ Minnesota Ashley Endowment Fund.
Bullying and What We Can Do to Stop It
Bullying is a form of abuse of power, when one young person or a peer group abuses a vulnerable young person over a period of time. Bullying happens among young women and young men, among boys and girls. It can be physical or emotional.
There is evidence that a community or a school or a church can take steps to create a culture of respect that reduces bullying significantly. As people of faith we are called to help our communities reduce bullying. Learn more.
Tracking Child Poverty
Our 2012 Message on Public Education explores, in depth, how poverty impacts children's performance at school.
Additional UCC Web Pages that Address Justice for Children
Community organizing has long been recognized as an effective way to improve lives and bring justice to places where it is lacking. For churches, community organizing offers a tangible means for being disciples engaged in the public square while strengthening their congregational life and mission.
Congregation-based community organizing (CBCO) is community organizing rooted in faith bodies that come together in answer to God’s call to love our neighbors, stand with the marginalized, and work with God for a more just society.
Numerous UCC congregations around the country are members of local CBCO efforts. These ecumenical or interfaith networks of congregations work to address the needs and injustices present in their communities. Pastors report that participation in CBCO can be a transforming experience for congregations, individuals, and communities. Congregations gain new vitality and, often, new members.
According to research, participation in CBCO:
- equips church leaders to more powerfully engage with their congregations and communities for the sake of justice and on behalf of all that God is creating;
- strengthens participants’ leadership skills in ways that benefit both their congregations and communities;
- teaches organizing skills and ways to use these to build strong congregations and religious organizations;
- sparks renewed vitality both within congregations and the larger community; and
- provides a way to work together ecumenically and across faiths to transform our communities, states, and nation to more closely reflect God’s vision for God’s people.
Read a UC News report from March, 2016, about Plymouth Congregational UCC's experience (in Lawrence, KS) with a newly formed CBCO organization.
The collective impact of CBCO efforts is a powerful reshaping of communities and wider society, according to the Building Bridges, Building Power report published in 2012. The study found that currently, organizations comprising institution-based community organizing in the U.S. include “approximately 3500 congregations and 1000 public schools, labor unions, neighborhoods associations, faith –based organizations and others (and) collectively represent over 5 million Americans.” Community organizing, according to the report, “has the organizational capacity to make a powerful impact on democratic life, especially if best practices spread across the field.”
CBCO is a natural fit for UCC congregations given our strong commitment to justice as well as to ecumenism and interfaith work. While many UCC congregations are already engaged in CBCO, countless others would benefit from participation in this method of developing leaders and building congregations while simultaneously increasing the presence and power of our values in the public square.
There are four larger CBCO networks and two smaller ones that support local interfaith or ecumenical coalitions across the country. The networks provide training opportunities for congregations and organizers, and facilitate work among the local coalitions. There are many valuable resources on their web pages.
Direct Action and Research Training Center (DART) : 20 organizations in six states, primarily in the Midwest and FL, based in Miami.
Gamaliel Foundation : 60 affiliates in 21 states, based in Chicago, IL. (Barack Obama worked as a community organizer with this group)
Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF): 57 affiliates in 21 states, based in Chicago.
People Improving Communities Through Organizing (PICO) : 50 Federations in 17 states based in Oakland, CA. Also works in rural areas.
Intervalley Project : 7 affiliates in New England, based in Newton, Mass.
Other Resources on CBCO
The Unitarian Universalist Association has an excellent webpage on CBCO with many good resources.
In Praise of Faith-Based Community Organizing by Heidi J. Swarts in Shelterforce, Fall 2008, the journal of the National Housing Institute (“The journal of affordable housing and community building”)
Saul Alinsky goes to Church, March/April 2000, Sojourners Magazine
Barack Obama’s 1990 article on community organizing
The disciples on the road to Emmaus encountered the risen Jesus as they walked (Luke 23:13-35). They were so absorbed in their problems that they did not recognize Jesus among them. Our lives are a journey with places along the road where we encounter the risen Jesus in and through the eyes of all those we encounter along the way. The disciples' eyes were opened as Jesus taught them, and then took bread with them. Our eyes will also be opened when we are willing to be taught and to break bread with the strangers who live among us.
As children of God traveling the same road on this journey that is life, all are at different places in life. There are those who live in homogenous communities where they rarely encounter individuals who do not look like them. There are those who are in mixed communities, consider themselves as finished with the work against racism, and see no reason to work anymore at changing the world. Yet there is the call to be ever mindful of the need to be engaged regardless of the experience or the time given to learning and being aware of race, because racism mutates.
There is work for all to do
There is much to be changed in global racial dialogue which begins with the need to engage this issue of race based on where individuals are, realizing there is work for all to do. Incidents of structural racism are rising in the U.S. even as explicit intrapersonal racism may be declining, for many of the policies and practices that produce disparities appears "race-neutral," but they impact non-Whites disadvantageously.
Hate crimes continue to be present among us and abroad. Young men and women continue to be unfairly and unjustly incarcerated because of the color of their skin. Mothers and fathers are still denied the right to a proper education for their children because of their race and where they live. Parents are denied the right to care for their children because of immigration status.
We are a society of inequities, where we claim justice, but no justice abounds for many. Our conversations must continue based on where we are on this journey.
A call to action
In this next stage of Sacred Conversation on Race, there is a call to action beyond the scope of the many discussions we will have, as we look carefully at the intersections of race and many social issues (criminal justice, sentencing, medical care, education, immigration, economics, etc.), and advocate for those who have less than we do, are underrepresented and experience marginalization based on the color of their skin.
There is a call for individuals to reflect on where they are and actively engage in the continuum which does not bring us to a place of finality, but places us on a track of life-long learning and discovery of where we are at and how we can help make a difference in seeing racial justice for all. The call to conversation is not passive, but an active call to care and concern for all.
"No matter who we are or where we are on our journey …” all are welcome to the table to participate in Sacred Conversation on Race and to engage in meaningful, life-changing dialogue on race. The invitation to engage in this dialogue is an acknowledgement of the legacy and tradition of the United Church of Christ in combating racism and racial injustice, and the desire to live out Jesus’ desire for the world, “That they may all be one.” John 17:21
The differing levels where individuals enter this dialogue and engagement of race can be expressed on a continuum. The continuum speaks to where we are on the journey, and offers the possibility of more learning on every level to re-encounter the self and others as we seek to change the world around us.
SEEKER –– New to race and racial justice dialogue. Ready to be involved in first, basic level conversation on race. Curious and seeking to know more about the issues. Ready for Sacred Conversation on Race.
LEARNER ––Participated in first Sacred Conversation on Race. Is concerned with learning more and wants to be engaged in deeper, more meaningful conversation to learn how s/he can make a difference in impacting the social construct of race and racism. Ready for Sacred Conversation on Race and how race intersects and permeates all areas of life.
FACILITATOR –– Served as facilitator for Sacred Conversation on Race. Received training as facilitator and is able to engage with others in dialogue, as well as lead dialogue on race. Has heightened sense of self-awareness around issue of race. Ready for “White Privilege,” “Internalized Oppression” and other focused dialogue.
ENGAGER –– Moved beyond basic dialogue. Desires to be in dialogue around changing systems and structures to have long-range impact on race dialogue and issues. Ready for Anti-Racism Training.
MOTIVATOR –– Received training on different aspects of race and racism. Desires to know more about living out the tools received in training. Ready for Diversity Training.
EDUCATOR –– Received many different levels of training. Realizes that there is the need to learn more from those who are on different levels of the journey. Actively seeks to participate with others on their journey as participant or facilitator. Ready for lifelong learning which re-engages conversation and training.
Creating the Beloved Community: Invocation, Confession and Assurance of Pardon For Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend
|Download Prayer Resources|
Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives. - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
O God, all people are your Beloved,
across races, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations
and all the ways we are distinctive from one another.
We are all manifestations of your image.
We are bound together in an inescapable network of mutuality
and tied to a single garment of destiny.
You call us into your unending work
of justice, peace and love.
Let us know your presence among us now:
Let us delight in our diversity
that offers glimpses of the mosaic of your beauty.
Strengthen us with your steadfast love and
transform our despairing fatigue into hope-filled action.
Under the shadow of your wings in this hour
may we find rest and strength, renewal and hope.
We ask this, inspired by the example
of your disciple, Martin Luther King, Jr.,
and in Jesus’ name. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
O God, we long to co-create with you the Beloved Community
which looks to the common good; privileges all equally,
and creates societal systems
which celebrate the humanity and the gifts of all.
And yet we focus on our differences, envy each other’s gifts,
devalue manifestations of you, O God, that are not like our own.
Perhaps our sin is a slow wait for justice:
We allow the voices of brothers and sisters
who do not look like us, love like us, or worship like us
to be silenced.
We have told them to wait for freedom, justice and equality.
We foster in them a denigrating sense of nobodiness. Lord, have mercy.
Or perhaps we have kept silence ourselves
in the face of their struggle for full human life.
For it is not solely hateful words and actions,
but also appalling silence that follows the path of oppression. Christ, have mercy.
Perhaps our sin is to give in to weariness, discouragement, bitterness:
You have called us to be drum majors for justice, peace and righteousness,
Yet the work of peace and justice overwhelms us at times,
To build with God the Beloved Community seems impossible,
and we grow weary.
We cry, “Peace, peace,”
but there is no peace within us or around us.
We find ourselves on the path
of hatred and oppression, violence and war. Lord, have mercy.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON (Isaiah 62:1-5)
Sisters and brothers, God is at work in us and with us!
God has promised:
“I will not keep silent and I will not rest
until the vindication of my beloved people
shines out like the dawn and their salvation like a burning torch.
My people shall no more be termed ‘forsaken’
and their land shall no more be termed ‘desolate.’”
We remember that you have given your Beloved people a new name:
“My delight is in them.”
Thank you, God for delighting in us even now,
for forgiving us our slow action, our silence and our weariness,
for empowering our work
and inviting us once again
to create with you the Beloved Community you long for.
Phrases from the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. have been woven into the prayer texts. They are identified by italics. Texts of King’s work are available in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington; © 1986 Coretta Scott King. A brief essay on King’s understanding of the term “Beloved Community” is available at http://www.wilpf.org/mlksbelovedcommunity.
Creating the Beloved Community: Invocation, Confession and Assurance of Pardon was written by the Rev. Dr. Cari Jackson, Senior Pastor of First Congregational Church, Stamford, CT. It was originally published in Worship Ways, volume 9 number 1, © 2010 Local Church Ministries, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team, United Church of Christ.
An average election in the United States has around 60% of the eligible voting population turning out at the polls. There are a variety of reasons why people don’t get out and vote: their job schedule does not allow it, they are away and didn’t apply for an absentee ballot, disillusionment with the political atmosphere, among others. With the rise in popularity of suppressive voting legislation, we may see an even lower turnout than normal in this election. What can we do to get out the vote?
Tell your neighbors
Remind your friends, neighbors, family members, and congregations to vote on November 3rd. Let them know that voting is one of the best ways to make our voices heard. If the political system is not what they’d like it to be, they can change it through voting. Remind them that Election Day involves voting far more than the presidency - important local issues are also at stake. A group of you and your friends can get together and organize a night of phone banking before the election to call the families in your church directory and remind them to vote.
Some people you know may not be able to make it to the polls. If you know of someone who does not drive, offer them a ride to their polling place on Election Day. If you know many people who don’t drive, ask a few friends to volunteer. Single parents or working parents may not be able to leave their children alone to go to the polls. Offer to babysit. If you have a teenager who is not old enough to vote but can watch younger children, ask them if they’d be willing to volunteer to babysit so parents can go out and vote.
Know your laws
With the rise of restrictive voting legislation, people may not vote because they aren’t sure what identification they will need at the polls, or they feel it will be too much of a hassle. Find out the requirements in your state for registering, voting, early voting and more via the Election Protection web site.
Teach your kids
The largest block of eligible voters who don’t turn out at the polls are young people. Start talking to your children (and nieces, nephews, friends’ children, and grandchildren) about voting. Explain to them why you believe it’s important to vote, and get their ideas on why some people may not vote. Let your children know that their political opinions and their vote matters so future generations will turn out at the polls.
Spread the word about Election Protection Resources
The national, nonpartisan Election Protection coalition of which the United Church of Christ is a member, was formed to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. Made up of more than 100 local, state and national partners, Election Protection works year-round to advance and defend the right to vote.
Election Protection provides Americans from coast to coast with comprehensive voting information on how they can make sure their vote is counted. If you have any questions about voting or encounter difficulty when attempting to cast your ballot call the Voter Helplines
- 866-OUR-VOTE (administered by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law)
- 888-Ve-Y-Vota (administered by the NALEO Educational Fund),
- 888-API-VOTE (administered by APIAVote & Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC)
Throughout the election, our volunteers collect information to paint a picture of election irregularities. Election Protection focuses on the voter - not on the political horse race - and provides guidance, information and help to any American, regardless of who that voter is casting a ballot for.
"When children grow up in poverty, they are more likely, later in life, to have low earnings, commit crimes, and have poor health... There is significant evidence that poverty has lasting consequences for kids, including educational achievement, cognitive development, and emotional and behavioral outcomes." —John Irons, economist, Economic Policy Institute: "Economic Scarring: The Long-Term Impacts of the Recession," September 30, 2009
Children, unable to support themselves, count on their families, their communities, their states, and their nation to ensure their well being. Taxes are the way we have historically provided quality education, safe and vibrant communities, healthy families, and broadly-shared prosperity, especially when families are unable to provide economic security for children.
Although the federal government can borrow in hard times, states and localities must balance their budgets every year. In order to balance their books, states have been slashing programs including many that provide essential services for children and youths. Early in 2009, the federal government stepped in with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the huge federal stimulus that made large grants to stabilize state and local programming. However, this infusion of funds has run out, and state governments continue to eliminate or seriously reduce services we all take for granted.
The UCC’s General Synod 25 declared, “that societies and nations are judged by the way they care for their most vulnerable citizens; that government policy and services are central to serving the common good; that paying taxes for government services is a civic responsibility of individuals and businesses; and that the tax code should be progressive, with the heaviest burden on those with the greatest financial means…”
Although the economy has begun to recover, states find themselves in the midst of a serious and continuing economic recession. One impact of the recession is that tax revenues have declined along with the decline in the overall economy: foreclosures have reduced revenue from property taxes; job losses have decreased revenue from income taxes; and the economic slowdown itself has diminished revenues from inventory and sales taxes.
Poverty, Inequality and Public Education
April 27, 2013: Sean Reardon, the Stanford University educational sociologist who has done more than most anyone else to challenge the test-and-punish philosophy of current education reform, writes here in a friendly, informative piece, No Rich Child Left Behind. His point: we live in an era when income inequality privileges wealthy children and contributes to an enormous wealth-inequality achievement gap. Reardon's academic research documents that children growing up in extreme wealth and children growing up in extreme poverty are more and more likely to be segregated in very wealthy or very poor communities and much less likely to live in mixed income communities than was true forty years ago. A growing income-inequality school achievement gap tracks this growing segregation. UCLA professor, Mike Rose, who has been writing about educational inequality for a long time responds to Reardon's article here.
March 25, 2013: What Will the Sequester Mean for Public Education?
February 16, 2013: Here is Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz writing about declining social mobility, growing inequality, and the danger of losing the American Dream and a related Economic Justice Note from Edie Rasell, the UCC's Minister of Economic Justice. Also related is a recent UCC Witness for Justice column, American Fantasy.
February 19, 2013: A Congressionally appointed Equity and Excellence Commission that has been meeting for two years released its report, For Each and Every Child. Acknowledging that test-based accountability has not sufficiently improved public schools in America’s poorest communities, members of the Commission declare that our society must address what is a deplorable 22 percent child poverty rate, highest in the industrialized world.
October 2012: Here is an important new article from education writer and respected researcher David Berliner, Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America's Youth. This is a plea to our society to address the devastating impact of family poverty and economic inequality on the life chances of too many of our children. Child poverty in the United States remains 22 percent, far higher than any other industrialized nation, and economic mobility has declined in our society that has become increasingly stratified along economic lines.
The 2012 Justice & Witness Ministries Message on Public Education, "Why the Conventional Wisdom on School Reform Is Wrong and Why the Church Should Care," examines school achievement through the lens of two issues of particular importance as the economy lags: family poverty and racial isolation.
Budget Cuts Threaten Public Education
May 23, 2013: Ongoing inequality in Pennsylvania school funding, debates about union contracts, and discussions of privatization wreck havoc on the public schools in Philadelphia: Who's Still Killing Philly Schools? The Status Quo is Now State Control and Permanent Crisis.
March 25, 2013: What Will the Sequester Mean for Public Education?
Pre-Kindergarten and Early Childhood Programs: Will We Cut or Enrich Programming?
February 13, 2013: In his State of the Union message, President Obama proposed expanding government subsidized pre-Kindergarten for children in poor and moderate-income families. Expanding access to early education should be a priority, as it is known that the achievement gap widens well before children enter Kindergarten.
- Here is the NY Times report on the President's proposal.
- Here is a very moving commentary on the history of the debate on federally subsidized pre-school.
- And here is a commentary by Harvard's David Deming on why expanding access to pre-school must be the priority: our society serves far too few children.
November 2012: William Mathis, at the National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado at Boulder, briefly summarizes the research and makes a strong case for expanding Preschool Education to make it universally available across the states. Mathis warns, "However, in inflation adjusted dollars, overall funding per child served is lower than a decade ago."
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) State of Preschool 2011, an annual report, describes cuts in funding, for the second straight year, in 26 of the 39 states with public prekindergarten programs. These cuts are due to state budget shortfalls.
Writing for The Center on Law and Public Policy, Hannah Matthews reports Recent Child Care Growth to Fade; Startling Drop in Assistance Projected.
Public Education Justice Resources from the National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy
The National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy has created resources to be used in ecumenical settings and local congregations in the many communions of the National Council of Churches to support work for justice in public schools.
The Committee's work is grounded in a policy statement passed in 1999 by the NCC General Assembly, a policy statement that was reaffirmed in a resolution adopted on November 5, 2003 by the NCC General Assembly.
An Alternative Vision for Public Education: Four Short Video Conversations with Dr. Diane Ravitch and Dr. John Jackson along with a study guide for congregational use (2011)
A Pastoral Letter on Federal Policy in Public Education: An Ecumenical Call for Justice This letter was adopted unanimously by the NCC Governing Board. (2010)
Public Education Justice—Where Do Charter Schools Fit In? A set of questions to guide discussion. (2008)
Ten Moral Concerns in the No Child Left Behind Act (2005, revised in 2008)
A Study Guide for congregations to discuss Linda Perlstein's TESTED, an expose of the problems in federal policy dominated by high stakes testing. Perlstein tells the story of children and teachers during one school year in a Maryland elementary school. (2008)
Journey to Opportunity, Journey to Learn: A Reflection on Public Education in God's World Today. This is a 40-day study guide for personal devotion and/or group study. (2011)
March 13, 2009, Transforming No Child Left Behind conference frames agenda for public policy.
March 9, 2007, Fixing No Child Left Behind conference informs faith leaders for advocacy on federal policy.
Philip F. Anschutz is a conservative patron and former oil and gas baron with an estimated net worth of $6 billion. He operates one of the largest nonprofits in the United States, and has a variety of media holdings including Anschutz Entertainment Group, Walden Media and the daily The Examiner. Given Anschutz’s ties to the extreme right—including the funding of homophobic groups, anti-union organizations, and climate and evolutionary science deniers—his recent foray into education reform is very troubling.
Walden Media Owner
Walden Media is the film production and publishing company behind the anti-teachers union movies “Won’t Back Down” and “Waiting for ‘Superman.’” Walden Media is owned by Anschutz, whose business partner has made clear that he wants the film company’s output to be “entertaining, but also to be life affirming and to carry a moral message.” With “Won’t Back Down,” Anschutz continues his anti-union advocacy by underwriting a fictional film that misrepresents teachers unions and highlights controversial “parent trigger” efforts.
- Helped fund the Discovery Institute through a $70,000 donation from the Anschutz Foundation in 2003. The Discovery Institute is one of the leading think tanks challenging evolutionary science.
- Greenpeace notes that media companies owned by Anschutz figure prominently in the denial of climate science and the promotion of climate-change skepticism.
- Between 2003 and 2010, the Anschutz Foundation donated at least $210,000 to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a think tank that opposes labor unions.
- Anschutz supported Colorado’s 1992 anti-gay Proposition 2, which allowed private property owners and employers to discriminate against homosexuals and lesbians, by donating $10,000 to the campaign.
- Between 2003 and 2010, the Anschutz Foundation gave $125,000 to the Media Research Center. The Media Research Center recently attacked various media outlets for covering protests against Chick-fil-A that stemmed from anti-gay statements made by Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy.
- Since 2008, the Anschutz Foundation has donated $175,000 to the Mission America Foundation, a far-right organization whose president considers homosexuality to be a “deviance” and has railed against the removal of HIV-based travel restrictions, warning that “‘the U.S.’s liberal homosexual culture’ will attract HIV-positive immigrants.”
Backer of Corporate Interests in Public Education
- The Anschutz Foundation donated $110,000 to the Alliance for Choice in Education between 1998 and 2008.
Anschutz’s Walden Media produced and promoted both “Waiting for ‘Superman’” and “Won’t Back Down.”
- A natural gas exploration company owned by Anschutz, the Anschutz Exploration Corporation, sued the town of Dryden, N.Y., over the town’s regulation of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a process that has been blamed for severe environmental damage. A judge upheld the town’s ban, but Anschutz’s lawyers have pledged to continue their claim.
- Anschutz Mining Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Anschutz Corporation, is the former operator of Madison County Mines in Fredericktown, Mo. Madison County Mines is an EPA Superfund site, contaminated with cadmium and lead.
A Sample of Anschutz’s Donations
Donation total (1998 - 2008)
Alliance for Choice in Education
American Spectator Foundation
Americans for Prosperity
America's Future Foundation
Association of American Educators Foundation
Denver School of Science and Technology
Evergreen Freedom Foundation
Free Congress Research and Education Foundation
Freedom Works Foundation
KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy
Mountain States Legal Foundation
National Right to Work Legal Defense
Pacific Research Institute
Washington Legal Foundation
Young America's Foundation