A couple of years ago, on a Monday morning around 9am a man came in to the front office at Trinity and as he looked around him at the seemingly endless chaos of snack time for 50+ children and he asked our parish administrator what on earth was going on. At the time we had a sweet lady in the office who was a dear friend and she told him that it was “Jessie’s Monday program for the kids”. While this is a phrase I often hear people say, it certainly doesn’t do justice to the countless hours of time that myself and others spend planning and leading programming on Mondays in the summer. And truthfully, while summer series is for the kids, it’s also for the families, for the adult volunteers, and for everyone who wants to be a part of something truly special here at our own Parish. Trinitarians are all about giving back to our community. We do that through the St. Francis project, through our Monday night Community Meal, through our participation in programs like Room in The Inn, and through Summer Series.
One of my favorite chapters in the bible is Mark 4. Mark is a short little book compared to the other gospels and Mark always seems to be in a hurry to say what he has to say (which is a feeling I can sympathize with). In Mark 4, he recalls Jesus telling a parable about sowing the seed. If you have ever planted a garden you well know that even if every seed is planted in ideal ground not all of them will produce anything, much less seeds just thrown willy nilly onto gravel or a ditch somewhere. Later, when the disciples where alone with Jesus they asked him what the story meant. I’m sure they understood the idea of planting seeds but they did not understand how he was making a greater point. Jesus told them that those seeds being planted where the words we are spreading about God’s kingdom. Our words and our actions as Christians are seeds. At times, we plant them knowing full well they will never grow, but we plant them anyway because that is what we are called to do. Summer series, to me, is all about planting the seed of the love of God, love of each other, and a love for the Episcopal church.
Over the last five years this program grew from a seed of an idea that we cobbled together in a brainstorming session one rainy afternoon to something none of us could have foreseen. When I planned that first Summer, we only had about 20 children consistently in attendance each Monday. I think one week we only had 17. There was only one staffed person, Ms. Cathy Turner, and myself. The programming we used was something I modified from a larger publishing company and some things I cobbled together as we went. This last summer we planted seeds with 90 children from 64 families, a dozen youth helpers, 10 paid staff, and countless adult volunteers. Summer Series has grown from a few hours of drop off programming to something we have each Monday, all day. And this summer we are adding Friday mornings. Altogether, Summer Series is 54 hours of programming plus 18 hours for after care, plus Fridays. Summer Series is more time than any child could spend in Sunday school in a year, children’s chapel or during a regular 3-5 day Vacation Bible School. It is almost the same amount of time that they spend at Wednesday night programming throughout an entire fall and spring which means we have such a great opportunity to make an impression or plant a seed with so many children, families and volunteers.
Trinity’s Childrens Summer Series is the single biggest undertaking of the year for children’s ministry. Every Monday, from 8:00am-2:00pm we take in the children of the parish and from the community. We play games, we sing songs, we laugh and learn a little about the kingdom of God and how to spread the love of Jesus to our fellow creatures. With the help of Mr. Bruce and a wonderful kitchen staff as well as parent volunteers we feed them lunch each Monday. I cannot adequately express what a blessing this ministry has been in the community for parents and what a blessing it has been for all of us who get to spend these hours with the funniest, sweetest bunch of little ones you will ever meet. Not only is summer series a wonderful program for the kids who are in it but now we are getting to see some of those kids grow into our future youth volunteers. EYC who started out in that first year with us for Summer Series are now old enough to volunteer, and they do. This is sustainable ministry at its very best.
As I look to this summer one of my biggest goals is to make this program sustainable. I want Summer Series to be something that kids can come here and take part in for years to come. When they are adults, I want them to look back at their summer spent here with a love of the Episcopal church, of God, and of the friends that they made. One of the greatest privileges of my life has been to watch these kids grow every summer, and I hope to be able to do that for years to come. After I’m gone, I hope to leave a program that whoever comes after me can pick right up where I leave off and make it even better. One of the greatest things about being a part of the Episcopal church are our traditions, and I hope this is one tradition that we at Trinity can help to make last and thrive.
This summer our theme is the Beatitudes. We throw the term “blessed” around quite a bit, and this summer we are going to explore who Jesus said was blessed, how we can be a blessing to others, and how we can see the blessings in our own lives. If you want to be a blessing to us and help us to make summer series possible please consider checking out the bulletin board in the Parish hall with items that we would love for you to “bless us” with. You can also pray for the program and its leaders. I can always use more prayer thrown my way, especially as I plan for the summer. This summer we need meal teams on Mondays, so consider putting together a team of your friends and providing a Monday meal. If you are someone who has a love of children and a passion for helping with programs like this, we can always use more volunteers on Mondays and Fridays. In the next few months there will be ample opportunity to come and help decorate a classroom or clean up a supply closet. If you like to organize supplies, test out markers, or slap labels on bins, I can put you to work! Finally, the best way that you can help us is to tell your friends about this program. We are always encouraging people to sign their children up, but we also need summer staff. Go forth and spread the word. Plant the seed, and watch it grow.