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"More United Methodist churches are doing the Children's Sabbath than any other denomination," said the Rev. Eliezer Valentin-Castanon, a staff executive with the Board of Church and Society. That has been the case for at least the last several years, he said.
The timing and nature of the observance is entirely up to the members of the local church, he explained. Some United Methodist congregations make the Children's Sabbath part of their Family Month observances in May.
Children's Sabbath has been part of the promotions of the Children's Defense Fund, the Washington-based children's advocacy organization founded and led by Marian Wright Edelman. Other efforts of the fund have included the 1996 "Stand for Children" rally of 300,000 people in Washington and the trademarked "Leave No Child Behind" campaign, which continues today.
"America's child poverty rate ... consigns one in six of our children to hunger, poor health, homelessness and other painful, limiting circumstances," Edelman has said.
The Children's Defense Fund makes available a resource that includes ideas for Christian, Jewish and interfaith worship and children's activities. The 164-page resource book on this year's theme, "Write the Vision: Creating Communities of Shalom for All Children," includes such materials as worship suggestions, clip art and a children's activity bulletin that may be copied.
United Methodist churches figure prominently in the book's "congregational capsules" - brief accounts of previous events held by churches and interfaith groups. For example, this year's resource book recounts that Clarendon United Methodist Church in Arlington, Va., invited area child care centers to participate, and it prepared special flyers and lawn activities.
In Minneapolis, the Richfield United Methodist Church's fourth- and fifth-grade Sunday school class chose which organization would receive the special offering, and second- and third-graders collected it in sand pails before dumping it into a children's wagon and rolling it down the center aisle.
First United Methodist Church of San Rafael, Calif., celebrated with two Children's Sabbath services on successive Sundays and activities at the church and in the community during the week, including the opening of a Head Start Program.
The Children's Sabbath resource book and other information are available from the Children's Defense Fund at www.childrensdefense.org or (202) 628-8787. The 2002 Children's Sabbath will be Oct. 18-20.