Church leaders are being encouraged to help make 2009 ‘a year to remember’ for young people and the Church with the launch of an interdenominational Year of the Child, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the United Nations’ International Year of the Child.
A group of Children’s Advisers from across the Church of England’s dioceses, alongside representatives from the Methodist Church and other denominations and agencies, identified widespread interest in making a distinctive Christian contribution to this anniversary. In light of this enthusiasm, the network plans to promote 2009 as an opportunity for local churches to review the work they do with and for children and young people, and to do more to recognise and celebrate their contribution in the life of the church and society.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said: “In the lead up to the Year of the Child 2009 it is my hope that individual churches and Christian denominations throughout the country will opt in and make available the resources needed to make it a success.
“Young people all over the country need to hear the words of Christ's love for them in all manner of ways. So too, we the Church need to hear afresh God speaking to us through the life and witness of children. Come and join the celebration, be challenged and inspired.”
Some of the early initiatives already being prepared for next year include:
- From Lancashire, a pilgrimage of 14 – 21 year olds from the Diocese of Blackburn to the Diocese of Free State, South Africa. The young people will spend two weeks next summer in local schools and churches and will also get involved with practical community projects – such as working with people with HIV and AIDs – with the aim of building on the two dioceses’ existing twinning relationship;
- In West Sussex, the Youth and Children’s Work department of the Diocese of Chichester is running a conference on ‘Changing Childhood’ in July, in collaboration with the University of Chichester;
- Again in Lancashire, up to 3,000 people are expected at a ‘Big Day Out for the Family’ at Lytham St Annes in June. This will include music, worship, games and other special activities as the Blackburn Diocese celebrates the Year of the Child on school playing fields at the seaside;
- In Northamptonshire, the Diocese of Peterborough has issued a list of 30 tips for churches interested in getting involved in the Year of the Child, including ensuring that children and young people’s work is discussed at every parochial church council meeting, that young people’s concerns are expressed in intercessory prayers at the main Sunday service, and that churches consider donating books to a local school;
- In Liverpool, the diocese is continuing to develop a ‘Child Friendly Church Awards Scheme’ recognising those parishes which have adopted various aspects of good practice in children’s ministry – and nearby Manchester diocese is planning to promote the scheme to its parishes;
- In Norfolk, the Diocese of Norwich’s Youth Task Force hopes to develop a web based youth forum to improve communication between young people across the rural county.
The Revd Mary Hawes, National Children’s Adviser, stresses that Year of the child 2009 is not a prescriptive project or even a centrally driven programme: “It is simply an open invitation to the Christian church in the UK to join in by making 2009 a special year for children and young people. There are no plans for big national events, but rather to create a spotlight to help churches focus on their work with children and to explore partnerships with other churches, both locally and globally. We are hoping that 2009 will be a year in which the issues, injustices and challenges facing young people today can be highlighted, and for work with children and young people to be celebrated,” she comments.
Updates on the activities taking place under the Church’s Year of the Child umbrella will be published periodically during 2009 and distributed to local churches. Parishes interested in finding out more can find inspiration and resources at www.yearofthechild2009.co.uk .
Early next year, the Church’s official publisher – Church House Publishing – is due to release ‘Through the Eyes of a Child’, a book drawing together a range of contributions on children’s theology to help extend the legacy of the Year of the Child.