Faith Matters: Recommended for ages birth to resurrection: God’s love in inclusive of all

Steve Damon at the United Church of Bernardston.

Steve Damon at the United Church of Bernardston. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Steve Damon of the United Church of Bernardston.

Steve Damon of the United Church of Bernardston. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By STEVE DAMON

Coordinator of Christian Education, United Church of Bernardston

Published: 03-22-2024 10:06 AM

‘I’d like to invite the young and the young-at-heart to come on up,” I bellow as I skip, jog, crawl, roll, saunter, or … whatever … up to the United Church of Bernardston alter, every Sunday morning at approximately 10:50 in the morning, 9:50 during the summer. In some fashion, I move my body to the alter.

When I was hired at the United Church of Bernardston in October 2011, as its coordinator of christian education, Rev. Ray Medieros asked me if I’d like to present the Children’s Story during service once a month. My Children’s Stories slowly became more frequent.

My full-time profession is that of a music educator. In my more than 30 years of teaching, I have found I enjoy teaching people of all ages. My fondness for teaching all ages led me to changing my Facebook bio to “a certified music educator who only teaches people between the ages of birth and resurrection,” along with changing the Children’s Story to Message For All Ages.

When Rev. Ray was called to another church, he told me that I should present the Message For All Ages each week to maintain continuity into the church’s time with the new minister.

When David Neil became our pastor, he told me that I didn’t need to do MFAA every week, as he really enjoyed talking to the kids. We did a 50/50 split for a couple months, which progressed to my doing it every week. Since 2013, I have only missed doing the MFAA 10-or-so times, due to sickness or vacation.

God’s love is not meant only for adults. God’s love is not meant only for children. God’s love in inclusive of all. All ages. All genders. All skin colors. You get the point. All.

My own baby blanket. A basketball. A cat toy. Snow, water and steam. Flashlight. Many, many plants. Tools. These are some of the props I have used to try to convey the agape love that God shows for us. The “many many plants” were seen in practically every MFAA during COVID lockdown. I invited everybody over video with a hearty “I’d like to invite the young and the young-at-heart to stay right where you are. I’m in the Damon garden.” The MFAAs continued right through lockdown, only missing a couple weeks in the spring of 2020 while we all scrambled to figure out what to do. Then, I would record the MFAA, text it to David Neil, and he (with the help of his son, Chris) would integrate it into the Facebook Live service.

My main goal is to engage all the churchgoers in the MFAA. The regulars understand they are total fair game to be called up front to participate. Parishioner Bob Raymond, I have noticed, does not need any coaxing; he will gladly come up to be a young-at-heart participant. Recently, adults Angie McCarthy (sun, basketball) and Eric Almeida (Earth, apple) demonstrated how April’s eclipse will occur, with the help of youth V. Locke (Earth’s moon, cat toy ball). The analogy concluded that even in dark times, the sun is still there. In our times of despair, God is still there. Even with the hundreds of MFAAs I have done, I think this one may be my favorite.

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Another favorite MFAA is for Trinity Sunday. I use snow, water and steam in the holy analogy. I’m not sure if I can do this one this year; I haven’t saved any snow in the freezer. I did this MFAA for Trinity Sunday 2023, the service during which David Neil retired. I tearfully told David that we would miss him. Then, I whispered to the congregation: “But we really don’t need him,” spawning jeers from all. I stressed the fact that we were losing David, but UCB would survive with the help of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Checking the forecast, I have concluded I’ll need to freeze some ice this year.

UCB is currently between ministers. I continue to do the MFAA every week. After serving as the coordinator of christian education position for almost 13 years, I will submit my resignation this spring, with the understanding that I will continue the MFAA until we have a pastor. When that pastor invites the young and young-at-heart to go on up, I will gladly … whatever … to the alter.

United Church of Bernardston is a United Methodist Church/United Church of Christ federation. We are located at 58 Church St. Our worship services are Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. at the church and on Facebook Live. We are a Reconciling Ministries Congregation (UMC classification) and Open and Affirming Church (UCC classification) who welcomes — invites, actually — all who continue in Christian growth.