I was watching the service from my dining room this morning when I saw something unexpected. Bringing up the rear of the choir procession was Joseph Henry. I knew he was going to St. Dunstan’s to interview Kim Jackson for a school project, but I didn’t know he would stay for church. I should have known; St. Dunstan’s really is his home. He was three when we moved here almost 19 years ago, so he does not remember a time when St. Dunstan’s was not part of his life. This is the community that has raised him up, that has been his extended family. The people of St. Dunstan’s have always been there for him.
One time I especially remember was when he was 10 years old and chosen to open Holy Innocents’ School and Church’s service of Lessons and Carols by singing the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City. The service was held at the Cathedral, a big space for a small boy to sing one of his first solos. He sang from the back of the church, and the pews around him were filled with members of our choir and other church members. Everywhere he looked in that huge space were familiar, friendly faces. St. Dunstan’s was there for him.
Joseph Henry is not getting special treatment here. All of our kids feel the support and love of this community. Tom Gibbs and now Cameron have spent hours with our young musicians, giving them opportunities to sing and play in front of a friendly crowd. Other adults have formed friendships and mentored our kids, remembering the special occasions of their lives. Several times I have received notes from kids who were in college telling me how important St. Dustan’s was in forming their lives. Even our littlest ones know that church is a place where they are safe and loved.
Over the years I have often lamented and worried about the number of children and youth in the congregation. We’re surrounded by larger Episcopal churches with glitzier programs and critical masses of kids of every age. I was talking to Bishop Whitmore about this one day when he told me to quit worrying. Yes, he said, the big churches offer things you cannot. You’ll lose families to them from time to time. But St. Dunstan’s offers something the big churches don’t, the chance to have a whole congregation full of adults who know them by name and treat them with love and respect. If kids know that church is a place where they are loved unconditionally what more do they need?
As you know, the last two months have been difficult for our family. Joseph Henry has had to balance concern about his dad with the stresses of his last, very demanding, semester of college. Today he needed to be at St. Dunstan’s. Once again you were there for him. Thank you for loving on our boy.