Today, as our summer Thursdays "Pentecost Possibilities" series continues, I'm glad to introduce my friend and colleague, Rebekah Hutto to the blog. She's a mother of Hannah Ruth as pictured to the left. Rebekah has allowed the Spirit to lead her to combine two of her favorite things-- children's books and the season of Pentecost into a writing project. I'm so glad to share her story with you here:
I’ve always been drawn to the illustrations and poetic words.
My mother, an early childhood educator, celebrated every important moment in my life with a different children’s book.
My office library is filled with as many, or maybe even more, children’s books as books on theology, church history, and the Bible. I use these books in teaching, preaching, and Bible study—children and adults alike are drawn to their images and rhythmic words.
As an ordained pastor, I have collected children’s books from many of the major Biblical stories: creation, Noah’s Ark, Moses, Jonah, and Jesus’ birth. But my favorite Bible story, the day of Pentecost, has been absent from the shelves. There are countless books on the life and ministry of Jesus, but children’s authors have often left out the ministry he gave to us in the Church.
The only places I’ve ever found the story of Pentecost for children have been in children’s Bibles. No one has really attempted to communicate this story to children through a picture book. And that’s a shame.
Maybe it’s because I love the color red and my red stoles are some of my favorite to wear. Or maybe it’s because I wish the Church was always as exciting, noisy, and unpredictable as in those first days following Pentecost.
I’m afraid that many of our mainline churches have lost this Spirit of creativity and have become fearful of the Holy Spirit’s often chaotic ways—chaos that our children often embrace.
We like things the way they’ve (allegedly) always been and hold to our traditions rather than the new thing God may be doing among us.
So I wrote a version for younger children, pleaded with publishers for a couple of years, and then finally signed a contract to publish it in 2015. I wrote this story because there are many aspects of it that make it exciting and full of drama.
The words convey anticipation, a hopeful waiting among crowds of people. Because this is the story of the Church’s birthday, it invites parties and celebrations. It also celebrates the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and I want children to learn that the Spirit calls all of us, even the youngest among us.
Most importantly, in a world where cultures and people often clash, I want children to know about the multiculturalism and diversity of Pentecost.
One of my own issues with children’s literature is that too many of the faces are white, inadvertently teaching children that the Church is made up of a homogenous group of Caucasian people.
I was inspired to write the story of Pentecost to remind children that not only did God create a world filled with diversity, but also God’s Church should reflect creation’s diverse people—their talents, races, and languages. Because our churches do not always reflect this, when children learn about the diversity of Pentecost, they can begin to ask why their own congregations aren’t so diverse.
Maybe I’m an idealist, and this book and this story won’t shape children like I hope. But in my own childlike way, I dream of a church that is as exciting and Spirit driven as the one in the first days—and I think our children can show us this truth. After all, Peter preached, quoting from Joel, that men and women, young and old are called to prophesy, dream, and envision God’s Kingdom. I hope this book, and others that follow, can encourage our children to do the same.
Rev. Rebekah McLeod Hutto is a minister in the Presbyterian Church, USA. She currently serves as the Associate Minister of Christian Education and Discipleship at Brick Presbyterian Church in the city of New York. Her children's book "The Day When God Made Church" is being published by Paraclete Press and due out early in 2015.