Page 6 - One Big Family
P. 6

THE YOUNGER MEMBERS of a Christian fellowship are sometimes called ‘the church
of tomorrow’: but in fact they are part of the church of today, just as much as their mums and dads, or the grey heads in any congregation. It seems clear from the Gospels that children had a special place in the affections of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth. In Matthew 18 & 19, for example, we find his words about the need (as AV translates it) ‘to be converted and become as little children’, about how anyone who welcomes a child in Jesus’ name ‘is welcoming me’, and about how ‘you must let the little children come to me and never stop them. The kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children like these’ (so J.B.Phillips).
These twenty hymns or songs represent our attempt to offer those who lead children
in Family Worship, whether at home, school or church, a few additions to what they might sing. The current experiments in ‘Fresh Expressions’ or ‘Messy Church’ would be one obvious example. Although the Contents page shows some arrangement of these songs, there are inevitably vast gaps. In the Christian Year, for instance, we have nothing on Advent or Epiphany; nor on Jesus’ baptism, stories or miracles. We have simply done what, at least for the moment, we feel we can.
So what characteristics have we sought? First, memorable and indeed catchy tunes, easily learned and happily sung. Next, a content never far from the teaching of the Bible, and related to the walk of faith as a child may understand it. We have aimed for simplicity, with plenty of repetition, and an appeal to the young imagination. Above all, as can be seen from the Contents page, Jesus himself is our central theme. In her book about children, Half Angels, (London, 1961) Elisabeth Montefiore asks herself, ‘What do we want them to learn?’, and answers, ‘First and always to love Jesus Christ’. That must be our touchstone; there is surely nothing better anyone can offer a child.
Of course the teaching content is bound to be very limited. But we see the singing as an adjunct to stories and teaching, not a substitute for them. Indeed, it is only in some understanding of their context that most of these songs can be sung with meaning. As will be clear from even a glance at what follows, we have written for a variety of ages and not every hymn or song will be suitable for any given group of children. But we believe there is nothing here that an adult will be embarrassed to sing in the company of children, or that a child will have to ‘unlearn’ in later years.

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