There is a billboard that is up around my small hometown in several places. It’s just a pithy electrical business, but my children always have their eyes out for it. Every major and minor holiday, the man on the billboard gets decorated: a Santa hat for Christmas, a bouquet of roses for Valentine’s Day, an “I Love Mom” shirt for Mother’s Day. It’s thrilling.
The other day we were driving into “the city”(nearby town with an approximate population of 4,300) and we passed the billboard. With much excitement, we noticed the man was dressed for Father’s Day. But my six-year-old asked, “Why isn’t he dressed for New Church Day?” I had to muffle my laughter as I thought of how to respond: “Well, not everyone knows about New Church Day.” And that’s where the conversation ended. But I’ve been thinking about that conversation since.
For the past three years my husband and I have directed our congregation’s New Church Day pageant. We love theatrical things and love working on them together. Our children have seen us pouring ourselves into New Church Day. They have seen us take on this great role in our lives every June. Everything else has to wait until June 20th to be dealt with as we prepare for this beautiful holiday on the 19th. So it seemed strange to tell my daughter that not everyone knows about this holiday.
It made me sad to think of how few people in the world celebrate New Church Day. Most people just don’t know what it is. But this year, as we were preparing for the holiday, I tried to focus on how many people are of the Lord’s church, even if they don’t classify themselves as “New Church”. And that really is something to be joyful about, because the beauty of the New Church, not the earthly organization but the universal “New Church”, is that it spans creeds. “The Church of the Lord is spread over all the globe, and is thus universal; and that all those are in it who have lived in the good of charity in accordance with their religious belief.” (Heaven and Hell 328)
I guess I gloss over discussing with my young children the fact that there are other religions out there. I don’t go into details about how some people believe there are a trinity of gods, or that Jesus is not Divine and not the Lord, or even that people claim that their religion says they are supposed to kill people God tells them to. I think that is confusing for young children. In general it’s confusing for children to imagine anyone not thinking or doing just as they do. My children are absolutely certain that everyone on the highway going in the same direction as we are is in fact going to the same exact store. I might gently suggest that we don’t know for certain that those cars are also going to the hardware store… But maybe they are? How should I know? And maybe some would condemn me for not teaching them of all the variety of thoughts and behaviors in the world. There is a LOT of pressure these days to explain everything to children in the name of global “acceptance”. But for now, just like the highway full of cars, I may only gently suggest that “not everyone knows about the New Church”.
Because I believe, as it said above in Heaven and Hell, that people from all religions can be a part of the ONE church. The New Church. The Lord’s Church. I will teach my children about this one church. How are they supposed to live a good life? How do you follow the Lord? How do you love your neighbor?
When they learn the truths of the New Church, I believe as they grow older, they will be able to learn how it is that people from different religions can all actually be a part of one beautiful church. They will be able to see the New Church within others that don’t belong to the same earthly organization that they do. If we teach children of the Lord’s mercy, they can see how the Lord can lead people away from the misconceptions of religion and behavior in the world, and lead them towards the life of Heaven.