Inclusion in Learning and Worship by Vicki Carter


Over twenty years ago my husband and I had a conference with our son's principal. We had enrolled him in afternoon kindergarten, but he had been placed in the morning class. All the other classes were full day kindergarten. We requested that he be moved to the afternoon class. “Oh, you don't want that class,” we were told. “It has inclusion.” We didn't know what that meant, and she had to spell it out. The class included children with disabilities. How could the principal say we wouldn't want our son in that class in front of my blind husband? And how can inclusion ever be a bad thing?

The September 15th service centered around a message of inclusion. We have always talked about the diverse people we welcome. But I knew that things were different from the first moments of the service. John Ivy's welcome stated that we welcome people of all ages.

That Sunday the Board of Trustees gave a truly intergenerational worship service. The hymns were upbeat and Rob McGeachin's Time for All Ages was great. They played a video of a song about inclusion, “Room at the Table.” It showed people of all ages from many different walks of life dancing. There was a ritual of signing our church covenant. Since we have been talking about covenant all month in RE, even the youngest congregants understood what they were doing as they signed their names with a sharpie. When a group of all ages reflected on our covenant, they talked about the importance of worshiping together. There was a message of support for the culmination of this journey the RE Committee and families embarked upon 20 months ago.

We began in January 2018 by reading The Death of Sunday School and the Future of Faith Formation by Kimberly Sweeney. At our next meeting we discussed the book. We tried to imagine how things would work in our own congregation. Finally, in December 2018 we opened up the RE Committee meeting to all so that we could get a sense of where people stood. Twelve people of all ages attended that meeting. The consensus was that we should try it.

You may be wondering why the RE Committee decided to make class shorter than it was, 10:00-10:30 rather than 10:40-11:30. Those of us who have taught RE know that sometimes 50 minutes is too much time to fill meaningfully. Depending on the lesson, there used to come times when religious education ended and childcare began. It's not easy to have an RE lesson that is meaningful for all ages. It's hard to put together a worship service that appeals to all ages. I am proud of us for working to make it happen.

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