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Home > Interpreter Magazine > Archives > Archives Web Exclusives > Childrens Sabbath includes prayer, service and advocacy

An origami boat calls attention to the needs of children during the 2007 observance of Childrens Sabbath. Photo courtesy of Marian Whetstone.

Childrens Sabbath
includes prayer,
service and advocacy    

By Deborah White

Colorful origami boats decorated the sanctuaries of two neighboring churches on the New Jersey shore during Childrens Sabbath in 2007.

The boats represented children who need
a safe harbor, said Marian Whetstone, a
leader of the joint United Methodist Women's group for First United Methodist Church of Beach Haven Terrace and Kynett United Methodist Church.

During the childrens sermons, she folded an origami boat as she talked about the nine million children in the United States who lack health insurance.    

Each child received a boat to take home as a reminder to pray for children in need. The boats not only attracted the attention of children, but they also motivated adults to advocate for childrens health insurance.

"We have written hundreds of letters to our elected officials concerning health care," Whetstone said. "I am delighted to say that in July of this year our state expanded its FamilyCare program and established mandates for health care coverage for all children."

Participating in a national observance of Childrens Sabbath is spiritually powerful, she said. "It underscores the magnitude of the problem. It also helps us connect in prayer with other people who recognize the problem and are also trying to solve it."
Childrens Sabbath, sponsored by the nonprofit Childrens Defense Fund, is an interfaith event that seeks to inspire congregations to help children through prayer, service and advocacy. The United Methodist Church and more than 200 other denominations and religious organizations support it.

The United Methodist Church observes Childrens Sabbath during the second weekend in October, which is Oct.10-12 in 2008. The interfaith observance of Childrens Sabbath is the third weekend in October.

"Children's Sabbath gives churches a chance to look at the real needs of children in the pews and outside the walls and it invites advocacy on their behalf," says Julie Taylor, executive secretary of Children, Youth and Family Advocacy in the Women's Division. "It helps us welcome the child while simultaneously calling us to act to care for all God's children."

The United Methodist Church is the top celebrant of Childrens Sabbath, said Matt Rosen, deputy director of religious action at the Childrens Defense Fund. Thousands of congregations are involved.

"Childrens Sabbath is a great entryway for congregations to strengthen their childrens ministries, particularly in advocacy," Rosen said. "We need to meet the needs of children at this moment. Also there are institutional barriers that keep children in need, and we need to address these."

Young dancers help celebrate Childrens Sabbath at Wesley United Methodist Church in Lexington, Ky. Photo courtesy of Rev. Chrysanthia Carr-Seals.
At its first Childrens Sabbath celebration in 2007, Wesley United Methodist Church in Lexington, Ky., focused on childrens health in several ways, said the Rev. Chrysanthia Carr-Seals, who served as youth pastor. Church members created health bags for children, distributed them to low-income families in the community and provided information about how they could enroll children in Medicaid.

On the Saturday of Childrens Sabbath, the church invited legislators to the church to pray for uninsured children in Kentucky. Two worship services on Sunday focused on childrens health care needs.

This year, Carr-Seals serves in the Lexington District office as the African-American Children's Coordinator. "I will be directing another Children's Sabbath observance that will include a number of churches in the Lexington District this year," she said. 
At Memorial United Methodist Church in Summerville, W.V., the Rev. James Malick introduced Childrens Sabbath to the church several years ago. In 2007, he focused his sermon on children's health. Church members worked closely with area health organizations to sign children up for health insurance. Like the churches in New Jersey, Memorial Church used ideas developed by the Childrens Defense Fund, decorating the sanctuary with about 150 origami boats.

Each year the Childrens Defense Fund produces a low-cost manual with resources for Childrens Sabbath observances.  The title of the 2008 manual is When Will We Hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Call to End Poverty in America? It provides worship materials, bulletin inserts, and ideas for service and advocacy.

The Childrens Defense Fund Web site offers free promotional resources, which can be downloaded from the Web site at

- Deborah White is associate editor of Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine.

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