Lament for Sunday school

Personal reflection

August 31, 2022 | Opinion | Volume 26 Issue 18D
Ruth Boehm | Special to Canadian Mennonite
Sunday school children, 1989-90. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

Sara Garnet and I were cleaning out the Sunday school classrooms of Faith Mennonite Church in Leamington, Ont., with heavy hearts one Wednesday afternoon. We had put it off for a long time. It felt like we were cleaning out a home after a death had taken place. I went home at lunch time and wrote this lament for the end of Sunday school since the beginning of COVID-19, with a sense that this is really the end of the model of Sunday school as we have known it. For a pastor who has taught Sunday school for 33 years-plus and the education coordinator, this is a deep loss and lament.


It just stopped March 2020.

The Shine curriculum from 2019-2020 is still in the cupboard.

The unlit Christ candles.

The construction paper.

The songs up on the wall.

The poster for Global Family is faded.

The bulletin boards show signs of neglect.


I remember when the metal cabinets for each classroom were built.

Full of promise.

Each cabinet supplied with fresh scissors, markers and masking tape.

Playdough for the Jr. Youth boys to keep their hands busy during class.

Music playing when the students arrived.


Games for students in the main area.

Singing shyly and with robust vigour.

Families coming.

Some dropping off their children.

Some staying for coffee.


The last two years one experiment after the other.

Hopes of returning to what was.


The model of Sunday school had been in decline for a while.

But this feels final.

The end of Sunday school as a way of teaching children.


Hopes now being packed away, one battery-operated candle at a time.

Unused curriculum tossed into recycling.

Metal cabinets emptied.

Ready for what comes next.


But what will come?

No clue.

Absolutely no clue.


The song lyrics read: “In the bulb there is a flower.

In the seed an apple tree.”

But it sure hurts to pack it all up.

Unsure of what seeds are being held for what it is to come.







But I hope.

I so hope.


I want our children to know that God immensely loves them.

God’s love is for them as they are—created with wonder and promise.


I want our families to read the Bible.

A rich resource for life. Complicated. Contradictory.

Holy. Living.


I want our families to know each other.

Communities of people who follow Jesus together.


I want our young people to know that the invitation to follow Jesus is for them.

They don’t have to be perfect, or have it all figured out, or believe everything in the Confession of Faith, but to be open to grace and love and the power of the Spirit.


I want our parents to receive strength for their journey of parenting.

To take delight in their partners.

To know that the practical ways of peace are doable now and yet need regular practice with others.

To trust that deconstructing and reconstructing is just a regular part of a life of faith, not an all or nothing.


I want our adults to keep on learning, asking questions and growing in their relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.


I’d like our frail elderly to have ways of sharing their wisdom and their questions with us.


I want us to not be stuck in one model of doing things, but to keep on exploring to find what works now.


I want us to know about our world and together figure out how to share the love and grace and light of Christ.

We have problems, real problems with racism, and all the other isms, too.

And Christ’s love speaks into these with hope.


So, I lament. I grieve.

I trust.

And I hope.


Lord Jesus, lead us by your Spirit.


Ruth Boehm is the pastor of Faith Mennonite Church in Leamington, Ont.

Sunday school children, 1989-90. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

Sunday school children, 1980. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

Christmas concert, 1995. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

Angel choir, 2007. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

Picnic pie-eating contest, 2008. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

Sara Garnet with Christmas angels, undated. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

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