For the Living of These Days—A Word from Renee Purtlebaugh

On Sunday afternoon, Highland’s Bible study teachers of children gathered for a training session. Of course, we covered the nuts and bolts for the year—reminders about food allergies and how to exit the building if the fire alarm goes off, the curriculum we are using this year and such. These are things that we all need to be reminded about periodically.

And yet a portion of our gathering is always reflection or wondering together, and this year was no different. This year, we reflected on the theme of Freedom here at Highland, as we wondered together about the following:

  • I wonder what you think of first when you hear the word freedom?
  • I wonder how Highland’s approach to freedom in this season (freedom to dream, for example) shifts how you hear the word?
  • I wonder how you can be an encourager to children and their families to embrace freedom as you connect, care for and shepherd them this year?

Our discussion together was so full and rich and thoughtful. My gratitude for these ones who nurture children in their faith journeys is always paramount, but the intentionality and care in this conversation took that to new heights. Together we lived in the tension of wondering how much freedom our children actually have in this life, the freedom that comes when we recognize children’s individual strengths and celebrate them, working to help our children learn how freedom of choice may exist but freedom without consequences does not, reminders about the reality of stress that too much freedom and choice without boundaries can create, the freedom to take a break and step outside of our prepared structures because fluidity is necessary and of value, the freedom given to children when we ask wondering questions rather than making statements, the freedom that comes when you think beyond your own experience and consider someone else’s freedom too, and even the luxury of wondering about freedom in the first place. The list of our reflections could go on and on, and I hope you might wonder with us too.

No teacher gathering would be complete without story time, and so we read together a book by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Desmond Carlton Abrams entitled God’s Dream. “Dear Child of God, what do you dream about in your loveliest of dreams?…Do you know what God dreams about? If you close your eyes and look with your heart, I am sure, dear child, that you will find out.”

As we explore freedom this year at Highland, may God’s dreams for each one of us, for our congregation and our world be revealed to us through our reflecting and wondering together.