In 2019, a group of friends who had worked together in another children’s program began praying together. There were many fruits from those prayers. One of which was hearing that all shared a common dream; an independent, ecumenical, inclusive, spiritual place for children to gather.
These friends entered into a more formal discernment through individual commitments to pray a Novena together (you will find that Novena below). The friends continued to sense a gentle leading. They developed a Co-Mission statement, Common Understandings, structures and processes, their own Examen. They continued their own education through the National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and deep dives into diversity, equity and inclusion. And they were offered a space to place their dreams thanks to the vision and generosity of Rev. Shalom Agtarap and the community of First United Methodist Church Tacoma.
In the summer of 2021, the Children’s Wisdom Center was born officially as it became registered in the state of Washington as a limited liability corporation. In the fall of 2021 we welcomed the first children to the center.
The center offers encounter, not classes, spiritual practice not religious affiliation, exploration not doctrinal statements. This endeavor is not overseen by any one religion or church. And it offers a space where children encounter God, while the adults humbly “listen to God with the children.” This space is called an Atrium.
Jesus, Our Good Shepherd, is at the center. God is our teacher and leader in this endeavor.
Our work began as a seed in the Roman Catholic Church nurtured by the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. All in the Center humbly hold gratitude for its origins while also being led to encounter and learn from diverse Christian practices and, particularly with children ages 9-12, interfaith traditions.
All of the materials we lovingly prepare for children flow from our gratitude for God’s gifts of creation. With respect for animal and plant life we attempt to make sustainable choices.
The center commits to ever more deeply welcoming all children and their families. We humbly acknowledge that we are shaped by cultural stories about race, ability, sexuality and gender, and that these stories can place barriers between our love for one another and our experience of God’s love.
We frequently renew our commitment to recognizing and removing any barriers we can, so every child experiences an invitation into Holy belonging. To begin, we examine our personal prejudices and continue learning about white privilege and systemic racism, gender expressions, and accessible design for all abilities. As a practice, we look to parents and guardians to help us understand their child’s particular needs.
We ask you to hold our history, our present and our future in your heart and prayers. Below is the original Novena we prayed together. This prayer will continue to evolve through time. We invite you to pray it once a day for nine days on behalf of the Children’s Wisdom Center.
Novena Prayer 9/2/2020
Mary, Maria Montessori, Gianna Gobbi, Sofia Cavalletti, St. Kateri, St. Therese Little Flower, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Bix, St. John the XXIII and St. Francis,
We ask for your presence and prayer.
Our Loving God: The Father who is the vine dresser, Jesus our Good Shepherd and True Vine, and the Holy Spirit who is the sap flowing within us. We are grateful for the work of Maria Montessori, Gianna Gobbi and Sofia Cavalletti. We are grateful for many of the moments and people you have gifted us with which have led us to today.
Moments to gather alongside children in your loving presence beckon us. We sense ourselves full of life as we consider preparing a place where the child and the adult encounter You; where we welcome any child of any color, gender, sexual identity, ability, faith tradition; where this welcome might invite each child’s pondering of You…of being your beloved…of being filled with your peace.
These desires that are the size of mustard seeds long to come into fruition. Because we are a part of You, we ponder over a delightful thought that this could be your longing, too. So, Loving God who is our Patient Gardener we place ourselves under the sky of your holy will. If it is indeed your wish, please tend to these little seeds and help us respond so life will flourish.
We bring before you the preparation of atria, the formation of catechists, and the children and families this work seeks to serve. We also lift up in a particular way our need for wisdom and compassion in addressing needs raised by the global pandemic.
Help us as we let go of that which no longer serves. Continue to heal us from our anxiety, grief and anger and any other difficult emotions. May your healing love continue preparing our hearts for forgiveness. Help us not to confuse forgiveness and reconciliation. And help us be wise and discerning should reconciliation be our path.
For what else shall we pray?…
Our Father (3 times) Hail Mary (3 times) Glory be (3 times) Maria Montessori’s prayer (1 time)
Maria Montessori’s prayer: Help us, O God, to enter into the secret of childhood, so that we may know, love, and serve the child in accordance with the laws of Thy justice and following Thy holy will.
Loving God, grant us Your peace.