My family hasn’t stepped foot inside our church building since February, 2020. Back then we had a lingering cold that we didn’t want to pass off to anyone. Maybe we had COVID. Maybe not. Testing wasn’t available at that time. A little over a month later, our church, like many others, went completely virtual. This didn’t only mean the main worship services though. During those first few panicky weeks, our youth ministry team offered Zoom gatherings for kids several afternoons a week, with games, stories, and singing. And shortly after that, they ramped up to offering weekly kids church programming on Zoom prior to the start of the adult services on YouTube. It was an incredible operation. Their message: we don’t stop church for a pandemic.
Many people found our online church community during the past year. It was an appropriate time to seek faith and ask big questions! But in our house, we grew tired of the online format. It was harder and harder to connect, harder and harder to keep up our stamina for electronic engagement, especially after the toll of remote schooling. Given all of this, I had mixed feelings when our family ministry pastor emailed in May of this year about the upcoming second grade Bible Milestone.
Every year in our church, second graders (and any third graders who missed it) are invited to participate in a Bible Challenge: memorize Bible verses and/or the order of the books of the Bible and/or read The Story for Kids. In return for their efforts, the kids can earn “stones” to “purchase” candy and trinkets at a makeshift store. The month-long activity culminates in a Bible ceremony during which each child is honored and presented with their very own Bible. Second graders are targeted for this milestone because it’s a way to acknowledge their (likely) newfound ability to read and to show them how they can use this skill to access the greatest (selling) book of all time: the Bible.
I remembered going through this process with my daughter two years earlier. I remembered what a challenge it was to get her to memorize verses or learn books of the Bible, and I remembered how we didn’t even get to participate in the ceremony because it occurred on the weekend we were away at Camp Berea for our first mother-daughter retreat. Still, the retreat was it’s own gift, and I did get to give her the Bible myself with a prompted blessing provided by our pastor. We marked it in our own way, I decided.
Some they (and you) like more than others, but what’s most fun, I’ve found, is the discussions of why we have these preferences. As for The Story for Kids, they each read it eagerly.
Building off of that enthusiasm this time around, I copied several Bible verses onto cardstock with a black Sharpie and posted them on bathroom mirrors and at the head of my second grade son’s bunk bed and in the hallway. Then I smiled when I heard him read the words out loud as he washed his hands or passed through on his way to another room. I told him: Just keep saying them over and over and you’ll memorize them. And he did! Three of them anyway.
Then it came time to RSVP for the ceremony, to be held at another second grader’s home, and I balked. I was still feeling jumpy about attending social events. Things were really starting to open up around us. Yet, we were encouraged to only bring part of the family. Who would stay with the rest of our kids? Who should attend?
“You may think you’re supposed to start with Genesis, but start with Mark. It will give you a great overview of Jesus’s life,” he advised. “We’ve included more ideas on how to read the Bible in a reading guide tucked into the pages as well.”
We smiled and thanked him, and that evening at bedtime my second grader was curled up in his bunk bed with his new Bible, aware of his new gift, that this book was truly given for him.
I ran out of stamina during this pandemic for many things that are normally routine, like attending weekly worship services at church, but that night I was incredibly thankful for the faithfulness of our family pastor and the rest of the staff. I had groaned when they had asked me to do “one more thing” during such a hard season, and yet, they provided that gentle reminder that it’s worth it. This spring, time seemed to move on in such a haze, but this was a reminder that we can still mark these days. We can remember this moment. Those Bible verses are still on the bathroom mirrors, reminding us that we aren’t forgotten either. We are still here, pressing on through the fog and searching for what matters most.
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.