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Area churches join nationwide religious observances to highlight chilren's needs

Seven area churches have announced plans to lift up the needs

of children during their worship services on Sunday, Oct. 17. Representing

four denominations, these seven congregations will hear sermons about

the needs of children and pray for them. Sunday School classes will focus

on the issues.

Tolt Congregational United Church of Christ, Carnation; Fall

City United Methodist Church; First Congregational United Church of

Christ, Monroe; Sammamish Congregational United Church of Christ;

Snoqualmie United Methodist Church; Community Church of Issaquah; and

St. Clare's Episcopal Church, Snoqualmie, will join thousands

of churches, synagogues, mosques, and congregations of other faiths

across the country in observing the eighth annual Children's Sabbaths,

taking place October 15, 16, and 17.

A potluck barbecue lunch will follow worship at Tolt Church, at

4851 Tolt Avenue, Carnation. Sponsored by the Carnation Co-op Preschool,

the lunch will include the dedication of some new equipment in the

church playground. The preschool purchased the equipment with grant money

received from the Snoqualmie Valley Community Network in recognition

of Washington State Children's Day, observed Oct. 10. The preschool

meets in the church's Social Hall weekdays during the school year. Families

are encouraged to bring dishes to share and grill; Tolt Church will supply

the beverages and the preschool will supply the grills.

The Children's Sabbath is designed to focus national attention

on the problems confronting children, and reaffirm the commitment

of people of faith to respond through prayer, raising awareness, direct

service, and advocacy. Sponsored by the Children's Defense Fund (CDF)

in cooperation with more than 200 denominations and religious

organizations, this year's Children's Sabbath is expected to involve tens of

thousands of congregations of many faiths.

This year's theme is "Wonderfully Made: Preparing Children to

Learn and Succeed." It focuses on the critical importance of positive early

learning experiences at home, in childcare, and in Head Start programs. It

also emphasizes the importance of strong schools and enriching

after-school activities for older children, and

the role religious congregations can play in helping children.

The Children's Sabbath will address the obstacles in children's

readiness to learn and succeed, posed by the poverty that blights the lives

of more than 14 million children in America; the lack of health

insurance that denies 11 million children preventive and sick care; and the violence

that strikes children, including 13 who die from firearms every day.

Parents continue to be the first and most important teachers in a

child's life. However, CDF points out that economic necessities require

many parents to work outside the home. Increasing numbers of children

spend part of their early years in settings other than their homes - in

childcare and Head Start. These settings also should be stimulating and enriching.

Today, 13 million children, including 6 million infants and toddlers,

are cared for by someone other than their parents who work outside the home.

One out of three children of working mothers are poor even though

their mothers work, or would be poor if their mothers didn't work.

According to Joan Sharp - who now is helping launch a

county-wide "Children's Initiative" for the

United Way of King County, after having spent the last five years at

Children's Services of Sno-Valley working on behalf of children - local efforts

are what make the real difference for children.

"Advocacy and policy change at the national and state levels are

important, but the real work of helping children and families succeed

happens neighbor-to-neighbor in communities," Sharp said. "If we don't

bring this issue down to the question of what each one of us individually can do

to help ensure the future by meeting children's needs today, we will

never get anywhere - no matter what happens in Washington, D.C.

"Given what an important part of family and community life our

religious institutions represent, the Children's Sabbaths are a perfect

vehicle for getting the message out where it will do the most good," Sharp added.

According to CDF information, countless older children are in

substandard schools without the resources, materials, quality, standards, or

expectations to help all children learn and succeed. Furthermore, CDF notes

that after-school hours represent another wasted learning opportunity for

many children. Experts estimate that nearly 5 million children are left

unsupervised after school each week. Left to their own devices, these children

are at risk for drug and alcohol use, sexual activity and pregnancy, crime and

violence.

"Great national attention is being paid to the potential disaster of

arriving at `Y2K' unprepared, with the computer-system problems

unsolved," said Marian Wright Edelman,

founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund. "A far graver threat to

our national stability and capacity to move ahead into the new millennium,

however, lies in the failure to prepare all of our children to learn and

succeed, and not to solve the problems in our educational and health-care

systems. The real peril lies not in one-time computer glitches, but in the enduring

impact of a failure to ensure that all our children are cared for,

educated, healthy, safe, and ready to learn and succeed in the new century."

National and local religious leaders are adding their voices to the

call to prepare all of our children to learn and succeed. "The Hebrew word

`Torah' means `instruction or teaching,'" said Rabbi David Saperstein,

Executive Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. "From

the earliest days, the Jewish community has valued learning and recognized

its sacred and practical responsibility to educate children. Today, we are

called to action so that every child may have the experiences at home, in child

care, in school, and after school that help him or her learn and succeed."

The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary of the

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., concurs: "The

Church through the ages has recognized the importance of children's education

… their spiritual education, to be sure, but also their secular education. In

fact, the American system of public education grew out of the Sunday

School movement. Working to see that all children are prepared to learn and

succeed through quality childcare and Head Start programs and

outstanding schools is an important expression of our faith and religious heritage."

Another central component of the Children's Sabbath will be

individuals and congregations making long-term commitments to help children.

These commitments may range from a congregation starting an

after-school program to an individual volunteering in a Head Start classroom.

For more information about any of the celebrations of Children's

Sabbath noted in this article, please call the appropriate church. Phone

numbers are listed in the phonebook.

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