God, You Give Each Generation

God, You Give Each GenerationPictured are Bruce and Carolyn Gillette, pastors of the First Presbyterian Union Church in Owego, N.Y. since December 2018. Provided photo.

One of the joys of the past couple of weeks has been sharing in the excitement of children beginning the new school year. One of our grandsons started kindergarten a few days ago and we were there to see him arrive home on the first day; our other grandson started preschool for the first time a few days later.  For both of them, school means many new activities and experiences so the excitement is mixed with a little bit of uncertainty, but they are both enjoying this new stage in their lives. 

Through our work as pastors, we have also been sharing the joy of children connected to our church who are beginning a new school year. There are all the usual questions. “What will my teacher be like?” “Will the school work be hard or easy?” “Will I have a lot of homework?” “Will my friends be in my class this year?”  We love finding ways to be supportive of these families as their children and youth are growing and learning. 

One of the things valued by many people of faith is public education. God’s intention for humanity is that we live full, meaningful lives, finding ways to use our gifts and talents for the common good, to help society as a whole. Educated young people become the talented workers, builders, planners, educators, healthcare providers, and parents of tomorrow. Helping children learn, grow, and develop their God-given skills and abilities are a way we can faithfully love God and love our neighbors.  

Our Presbyterian Church (USA) has a statement on public education that says it well. For Christians, “Jesus (as Rabbi) is seen to be both master and teacher as well as the model of mature humanity. The fruits of his teaching and the fulfillment of our learning are the development of God-given minds and human skills; and that maturity which praises God has an abiding concern for justice.  As the spokesman for the Kingdom of God, Jesus calls us to advocate and support all of society’s efforts to bring about justice and harmony (Mt. 13). Insofar as public education strives to equip persons to build for a just and harmonious society, Jesus calls us to advocate and support its efforts.” (A Call to Church Involvement in the Renewal of Public Education by the 199th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church [USA].)

As churches and as individuals, we send our children, youth and young adults (as well as their teachers, school staff, and administrators), to school with a prayer that this will be a wonderful, safe and productive year. Here is a hymn that is a prayer for public education.

God, You Give Each Generation

Tune: HYMN TO JOY D (“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”)

God, you give each generation
Words of wisdom, truth to tell.
And your call to every nation
Is to teach our children well.
For each child is in your image,
Moving toward maturity.
Through your word, we hear your message:
Teach your children! Guide and lead!

Christ, you taught us love of neighbor
When you welcomed people in;
And you told us: Children matter!
To neglect them is a sin.
May the children who are yearning
To be all that they can be
Find in public schools the caring
Of the whole community.

Spirit, give to us a vision
Of a world that’s just and fair.
May our courage, strength and wisdom
Reach to children everywhere.
God, may public education
Touch the lives of rich and poor;
May we build a strong foundation —
Then watch all your children soar.

Tune: Ludwig van Beethoven, 1824

Text: Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, copyright © 2009 by The Institute for Faith and Learning at Baylor University, Waco, Texas. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Email carolynshymns@gmail.com or visit New Hymns at www.carolynshymns.com/.

Blessings to all who are involved in education (teachers, school staff, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, administrators, students, families, school board members, and community members). Thank you for your service. 

Bruce and Carolyn Gillette have been the pastors of the First Presbyterian Union Church in Owego, N.Y. since December 2018.

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