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October 8, 2017: Things We Do Often
When working with children, the down time is when big questions come up. I first learned this lesson in my early twenties as a counselor at an Arts and Sciences camp, when I found myself debating cold fusion with a twelve year old boy, while we were just hanging out in the dorm before lights out.

by Brian Smith, Christian Formation Leader


When working with children, the down time is when big questions come up.  I first learned  this lesson in my early twenties as a counselor at an Arts and Sciences camp, when I found myself debating cold fusion with a twelve year old boy, while we were just hanging out in the dorm before lights out. Recently, as Spiritual Life Coordinator at Incarnation Camp, a ministry of the Episcopal Church and the oldest co-ed summer camp in America, it was confirmed again and again. The most memorable instance was one night, towards the end of camp, after dinner had been served and dessert was a far distant ten minutes away. A much beloved and regularly bedevilling young camper stopped me as I walked by, looked at me earnestly, and asked:  “Brian, what do you do often?”  I was taken aback—what a strange question! Thankful I was not being called on to help solve a problem in nuclear physics, I collected myself and answered:  “I think.” “Fail,” I thought, immediately questioning my response. Was that a good answer? Should I have said that I meditate and struggle with burning issues of the day,  or that I have fun, or something more thoughtful?

It doesn’t matter how much time we spend with children—our own and those who are placed in our care—there are moments when we are going to be caught off guard.  Even in a structured setting like Sunday School, where we’re doing our best to educate, inspire, and transform the lives of young people through the love of Christ, a lesson plan is not enough. This is not to say, of course, that thinking deeply about our relationship with God and having a good strategy in place are not vitally important to the work of Christian formation.  But when we are present to the mystery of faith and let the spirit of our children do the talking, the really big questions—delivered with crystal clarity—emerge in moments when they are least expected. Hopefully we have a good answer, if not the answer. 

Balancing the wisdom of tradition with an openness to spiritual discovery is at the heart of Christian formation, and it is what inspires me most about the community of All Souls. Indeed, through prayer and outreach, studying, and listening to beautiful music—things we do often—we come to a deeper understanding of what being the Church, and being Children of God, are all about.

Last Published: October 5, 2017 9:09 AM
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