Thanks Be to God

by The Rev. Dr. Jason L. Parkin

     All things bright and beautiful,
     All creatures great and small,
     All things wise and wonderful,
     The Lord God made them all.
                          Hymn 405, The 1982 Hymnal

Every parish I have served over the past 30 years has had a preschool, a nursery program, or a daily parents' cooperative play group. Each of these organizations has greatly enriched the life of its respective home parish, and has filled the halls with the noise and sound and clamor and laughter and, occasionally, tears of little ones. None of the other programs I have experienced, however, has had such a profound and lasting impact as that of our own All Things Bright and Beautiful.

It is surely no secret by now that we are about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ATB&B with our grand Bright and Beautiful Bash on April 17th. You have seen the flyers; you have received the invitation; you have heard announcements in church; and there are other articles about the school and the Bash elsewhere in this issue of The Dove. I simply want to add my voice to the chorus of people giving thanks for the presence of ATB&B in our common life.

One of the most unique aspects of ATB&B-in addition to the peerless roster of teachers, the dedication of the parents, the support of the entire parish staff, and Mrs. Mary, our Director nonpareil-is the fact that the school is explicitly a ministry of Church of the Holy Comforter. As opposed to most of the preschools in the North Shore, ATB&B was founded as a place of nurture, growth, stimulation, and formation for young children in an unabashedly Christian setting. We don't beat the kids over the head with matters of faith; but in the course of any given day, week, or season, they learn about our faith, encounter marvelous stories about Jesus and the disciples and some of the great figures of the Jewish tradition, hear about the Church seasons and customs, and have worship experiences in the Chapel, led by Pastor Heath. Yes, they also learn about letters and numbers and how to cooperate with one another and develop fine and large motor skills and spend much time playing and singing and discovering how to navigate their environment. But they do so within a structure of love, compassion, faith, and joy, all of which derives from our common faith and foundation. That simple truth sets ATB&B apart from virtually all other similar programs. And for that fact, I give thanks.

I give thanks that the founders of the preschool-all members of the parish-took the leap of faith to found what has become one of the most wonderful aspects of our parish's life and mission. I rejoice that parents were willing to send their kids to a brand new school 20 years ago, and that increasing numbers of families have done so ever since. I celebrate the chaos and joy and clamor and clatter and racket that echoes through our halls every day, and miss it desperately during the few weeks in the summer when the camps are over and the regular school year has not yet begun. I relish the hugs my knees get every day, and the surprise visits when I am serenaded on my birthday or pelted with (fake) snowballs or accosted by trick-or-treaters. I laud and honor all of the teachers, and especially our three successive Directors: Gretchen Quinn, Sue Murphy, and Mary Johnson. And above all, I treasure the fact that hundreds of children over 20 years have had their lives touched, their educations strengthened, their faith nourished, the very beings loved and cherished in such a warm, supportive, joyful place.

All Things Bright and Beautiful is not a program by, of, and for young families alone: it is our ministry, an expression of our communal faith in, and relationship to, God in Christ Jesus. I look forward to seeing the school grow and flourish in the years to come.

Thanks be to God for All Thing Bright and Beautiful