Rector’s Reflection – November 9, 2014
Tomlyn and Emme, our Mississippi granddaughters, go to Madison-Ridgeland Academy, which uses social media for keeping in touch with parents – e-mails, texts, facebook, etc. – so there can be up-to-the-minute information getting where it needs to be in a timely fashion. Tomlyn is in middle school, and the middle school has chapel every Wednesday. The reason these two sentences appear together is because their mother forwarded the following e-mail to me just moments after she received it last Wednesday morning.
6th Grade Parents,
In chapel this morning, our speaker told our students that there is no Santa Claus. This was certainly not the school’s intent in asking him to cover the topic of “What do we believe, in our heads?” He did, however, say this.
In the last few minutes of 3rd period, which is right after chapel, I met with our 6th graders and asked them to do two things. I asked them to not mention anything about this to any younger siblings or friends they may see after school, and I asked them to discuss this with you. Some of you may have already had this conversation, but some of you may not. I apologize for this topic being forced upon you. As the father of a 7th grade girl and 4th grade boy, I can assure you that I understand the difficult place in which today’s comment puts many of you.
Again, I apologize for this situation.
Middle School Principal
Having a heads-up about something like this is a good thing. Imagine waiting in the car pool lane to fetch your children thinking Wednesday had been just another day.
My first thought when I read the e-mail was, “What was that idiot thinking?” Granted, 6th graders are on the verge of adolescence, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that a number of them still believe in Santa Claus… or perhaps are just entering the agnostic stage. For the chapel presenter to deliver that particular declaration is way beyond his pay grade and authority.
Sixth grade is a rough age. Kids’ bodies are beginning to betray them in peculiar ways. They are beginning to think that they know everything, and discovering that the parents they had looked up to and trusted to know everything just a couple of years earlier, have become both stupid and embarrassing. They are finding that people and things aren’t necessarily what they believed them to be. Like Santa…
My second thought was, “What an unfortunate venue to deliver this news.” I suspect that a sort of domino effect could kick in: “let me see, I believe in Santa, even though I’ve never seen him at my house, and but now this minister says he’s not real, so what’s next? The Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy? Jesus?”
Remember the venue is chapel. “Let me see, I’ve been told about Jesus and I believe in Jesus, even though I’ve never seen him…”
It reminds me of Jesus and Thomas. Thomas missed Jesus’ big reveal on the day of resurrection and was dumbfounded when the other disciples told him what they had seen. Thomas was perfectly justified in his thinking that flogged and crucified men tend to remain dead, so he wanted proof. A week later Jesus returned and observed, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Sixth grade is a Thomas kind of age. As these pre-adolescents are seeing so many things they have held dear and true to be changing, they need to know that there is something that is true and real and unchanging, and that is Jesus. There will be plenty of people who will try to tell them Jesus isn’t real. And that’s where we come in. The way they will see Jesus is through us – through our words and actions, through our love and affection, through our prayers and worship. Seeing us in action in Jesus’ name shapes their believing.