Back To School, Back To Community

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey
August 09, 2016

Over the next few weeks, we will shift into a new rhythm.


Earlier wake up calls, rushed carpools, late nights of homework, high stakes testing, followed by even more homework.

It's time to head back to school!

As we do, I wanted to take a moment and offer prayers of support, hope and encouragement for our students, teachers, staff members and parents, all of whom play a vital role in raising today's generation to be tomorrow's role models.

As much as my prayers come from my role as Bishop in the United Methodist Church, they are also formed from the perspective of a parent, a Mom; a Mom who remembers (all too well!) the days of anxious morning drop-off's and last minute school projects.  We were notorious for elaborate last minute projects, Spirit Day costumes and midnight runs to the 24-hour Wal-Mart for must-have supplies. 

While I would pray for my daughters' safety and security at school, I would also pray that her uniqueness would gift her and someone else. For it was in those days of parenting that I learned formation happens in community, not in isolation. 

We must also pray for the teachers and staff members, many of whom have been historically underpaid but most certainly not undervalued.

While the word "pastor" is not in their job description, in many ways, it should be as they are busy shepherding children with a vital formational upbringing. Many of them do their difficult job without complaining and rarely get a chance to visit with parents, many of whom are working, often two or more jobs so that they can provide for their families.  

Education is not easy.

Especially in Louisiana where 1 in 4 school-aged children live in poverty.  

This week, the Baton Rouge newspaper, The Advocate, published an article with a menacing headline, "Worst School System in America? Louisiana".

The article shared results of a study based on 17 different metrics, concluding that Louisiana has one of the worst school systems in our country.

While we could spend years arguing and fighting over the different solutions that could turn our schools around, the reality is we have a systematic problem. 

And where there is a problem, the church is called to act. 

As important as prayers and blessings are, we must remember that, as children of God, we are called to be God's hands, feet and legs. It is in this realization that our churches play a vital role. 

I will never forget my years in Houston at Memorial Drive United Methodist Church. Once a week, I, along with dozens of faithful members would mentor young children in one of the school district's most under-served communities. 

Whether it was crafting, piecing together puzzles or failing at just about every paper airplane configuration you could think of, our mission was not to tutor, figure out "new math" or to even evangelize or preach. Instead, our mission was to just be.

As a result, we became a significant part of their life and they of ours; becoming a "someone" the children could depend on and a grounding for the mentors that reminded us that a child can in fact lead us!

In the end, the simple act of showing up turned into the greatest action one could offer. 

Our Methodist history has a strong heritage of supporting schools and it continues today.

From the many blessings of backpacks to the countless after-school mentor programs, our churches are doing all they can to stand in the gap for our school children and I pray it continues now more than ever.  

I am reminded of our time in Shreveport during Annual Conference where I shared with you the images of majestic redwood trees. I asked you to imagine what it's like to be entangled in one another's life. I said it then and I say it again - I don’t know of anyone I would rather be entangled with than you!  When we get wrapped up in each other’s lives - from carpools to PTA meetings, it is then that God can do far more than we could ever ask or imagine.