Aug 04 2014

For the Love of Our Children

Published by at 8:24 pm under Minister's Musings

For the Love of Our Children

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones

 The joyful squeals of children splashing in the creek at Uvas Canyon reach me as I park my car on Saturday, July 19, for my second visit that week to the church campout. Soon children and youth of all ages, races, ethnicities, and personalities are bounding around me. “No running in camp!” we adults remind them (and each other). The kids chase and wrestle, bead necklaces and play cards, laugh at magic tricks, swing at the birthday piñata, feast on the food, find lizards on the bank and crawdads in the creek, roast marshmallows for S’mores, take a tumble, pick each other back up, and revel in the warm dappled air and cool water.

Adults and children go on a creek walk, led by Lawrence Ashley, whose family has owned part of this property for generations and has generously hosted the campout for more than ten years. As we step into the creek, we form safety buddies across generations, making new friends in an instant. The youngest ones leap from one mossy rock to another, tugging at our hands as we adults seek stable footholds in our water shoes. Lawrence points out how the rocks change colors when wet. Much splashing ensues. He explains tree burls and sedimentation and shows us how high the creek used to be. The water level has never been as low as it is in this summer of drought and climate disruption; even in our joy, we notice and touch the world’s pain.

Finally, the pièce de resistance, the end point of our trip upstream: Lawrence shows us a rusting car embedded in the creek bank, with its top in the mud and its wheels, tires long gone, jutting out. “LOOK! A RACE CAR FELL INTO THE WATER!” shouts Eric Schmall with wonder and delight. An old jalopy transforms into a race car in a child’s imagination and ignites a series of stories about how it came to be there.

Meanwhile, other adults, younger and older intermingled, sit on camp chairs with their feet in the stream, talking or reading through the long afternoon. Folks who didn’t know they would enjoy camp come for a few hours and vow to return again. One couple, recent first-time visitors to FUCSJ’s Sunday morning worship, jump right into this community and bring their young son for his birthday. A group from our Small-Group Ministry program commutes down and gathers around the fire circle, quiet in the morning air. They share worship as always and reflect, this month, on the theme of “diversity.”

Looking around, I see how such open-ended time together builds a foundation of knowing and caring for one another in community. The campout is just one of many such foundation-builders, crafted of simple pleasures, which we create together every month of the year. Sitting in that shady circle, I sense how crucial is this foundation for the hard work of living out our demanding faith, our Unitarian Universalism, every single day. We can’t do our justice work without it.

The two gestures—love reaching in and love reaching out—belong together; they need each other. So it doesn’t surprise me when the campout conversation turns to the crisis of unaccompanied, undocumented immigrant children fleeing Central America and landing in U.S. detention centers, where they sleep on cold floors and are fed little. Their cases will drag through immigration court and may result in their return to the life-threatening situations from which they fled. What a contrast to the leaping, squealing, joyful freedom of our children at camp. “What can we do?” congregants at camp ask, heartbroken. These young immigrants are “our children,” too.

For starters, the Pacific Southwest District of Unitarian Universalist congregations has set up a relief fund: The Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministries, California, will offer more resources, and we are already working with local faith groups, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, to support the San José mayor, city council, and county board of supervisors in their efforts to house some of these children locally. Please pay special attention to all-church emails and in-church announcements in the weeks to come, as opportunities may arise quickly. Then join us for worship on Sunday, August 17, when we will share all we know on this humanitarian crisis happening right here and now. For the love of our children—for love that reaches in and reaches out—let us gather in the wide-open circle of FUCSJ!

With much love and affection,

Rev. Nancy

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