Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
3745 Kimball Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38111
901 743 6421

The article is taken from THE TRACT, August 2019 issue





          In my mid-forties I accepted the call to be rector of a church with a name almost the same as yours: Trinity Episcopal Church, in Lawrence, Kansas. For the five years I served that historic, downtown congregation as their rector, I had some of my most powerful experiences in ministry. I learned much during my time living in the rolling hills of southeast Kansas. One of my biggest learnings was with the Native American people there.


          For more than a hundred years, Trinity Church had shared some kind of ministry with Haskell Indian Nations University. Founded in 1884 as an agricultural school for grades one through five, Haskell grew and evolved over the next century to become a fully accredited, baccalaureate-granting university some years before I arrived in Lawrence. When I became rector, the church had been providing a weekly Sunday brunch for their students.


          Robert, a member of the Cherokee nation and Haskell’s president, came to town about the same time I did. We soon met and began to explore together what the university might need from the church - now (this was 1995). A chaplain, Robert assured me. With young people from more than a hundred tribal nations, he wanted someone who could listen to and receive a variety of their experiences and respond to their spiritual needs.


          We eventually found and called to that new chaplain’s position a local Native American who was also a United Methodist minister. The Episcopal Church’s contribution to this new ministry was to provide a consultant, an Episcopal priest from Minnesota, also a Native American. Doyle came and helped Haskell and Trinity find common ground in this new chapter of collaborative ministry. He also taught classes and preached the Gospel.


          One day, after the chaplain and Doyle had offered a sweat lodge to the students, we were gathered for food and fellowship. Families reunited with those who had participated. One young boy was running around, as young boys tend to do. Suddenly, he fell down near me and began to cry. Without thinking, I went over, picked him up, and carried him to his family.


          When Doyle and I said our goodbyes that day, he said to me, “Tom, you have a new name. You are a Singer of Songs and a Lover of Children.”   Yes, I DO love to sing. Today, I want to say a bit about loving children.

          Our national news cycle contains some chilling reports of the abuse of children and youth. Rather than being loved, children are being victimized. Therefore, while reading this, you may have concerns about someone who was once called a “lover of children.” I, too, have them, especially in a time when men - particularly men with great power - are too often found guilty of the physical, sexual, psychological, and spiritual abuse of young people.


          More than a decade ago I trained to facilitate the Episcopal Church’s abuse prevention curriculum: Safeguarding God’s Children and People. I’m still learning how, like other areas of our common life that require safety and security, Church folks need to be more conscious and aware. We need to see ways in which, unconsciously or unawares, we might allow harm to come to those for whom we are responsible. We also need to remember it is our Christian call to welcome the stranger, to practice radical hospitality.


          The abuse and neglect of children is most real today at our country’s borders, where children and families are being detained. This situation, regardless of how we feel about it, begs theological reflection. Where is God in all this? Sometimes, the lyrics of songs we sing may reflect the degree to which we love our children like the God we know in Christ Jesus loves us.


          You may have grown up singing simple spiritual songs like this one: Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Let me amend the next line of that song to better reflect our 21st century world: Red and yellow, black, brown, and white; they are precious in his sight.


          Do we truly believe, do we really act like these children on the borders are precious in the sight of God? Does Jesus really love them the way Jesus loves our very own, precious children? If so, what might we do to love these suffering children of color? As a singer of songs and lover of children, I offer you, on the page that follows, new words that have been set to the tune of an old hymn, a new-old song that suggests Jesus’ universal, eternal love.


          In closing, I want you to know I have begun conversations with Amy Michalak, the interim head of school at St. George’s, Memphis, and her staff about enriching our church-school partnership. I invite you to pray with me about how we, the people of God called Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, are also called to love all the children of our little parcel of God’s world here in Memphis, on a campus we share with God’s children of all ages.      

~ Peace, Tom+