Fall is gearing up in parishes now and so is Sunday School. And this will call all of us to some decisions about how time and how we will use it. Let me address the practical first. We should all endeavor to have our children in class every Sunday of the school year. We should also be diligent about being present and on time for the Divine Liturgy every Sunday (starting time is at 10:00am).
Our teachers work very hard to teach our parish children, who are not merely the future of the parish, they are part of the parish right now. Our teachers plan and prepare before every class so that they can give the Faith to our children. It is very little to ask that our parents have the children present so that they can receive a better understanding of this precious Faith.
We must also allow the teachers to keep their children until 12:00pm, or until the class is finished, every Sunday. Parents, don't pull your children out of class because you have made other plans for your Sunday afternoon. There is nothing more important that giving the Faith to these kids. Parents, please keep your children who may have been released from peering in the windows and distracting classes that are still meeting. If we wish to have a faithful community of believers for years to come, then we must allow the teachers their classroom time and get our children to class.
But even more important than Sunday School is the Divine Liturgy. Our Lord gave us a commandment to "do this" regarding the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Eucharist. We are required to offer this Eucharist every week. There is no such command for Sunday School. All of the faithful, and this includes baptized infants, are to be present at the Liturgy every Sunday. This allows us to have all of our young boys take turns serving at the altar, and to have different people read the epistle. But folks need to be present on time for this to happen.
Now, just a little history about Sunday School because it helps to place it in its proper place. Sunday School is a pretty new program in the life of the Church. It was "invented" in the Church of England in the 1800s to teach young Welsh children of coal miners how to read. It was taken up by the Methodists and Non-conformists (other Protestants) to indoctrinate their children in their version of Christianity. The original time to have these classes was not Sunday, but Saturday and they lasted several hours. Soon among various Protestant groups it was moved to Sunday as a way to entice families to come on Sunday (since there was something specifically planned for the children).
Orthodoxy didn't know anything at all about Sunday School until it came to the United States, and then it adopted the program for itself in the early 1900s, but we now tend to think of this as part of "the Tradition." It's not. It's a local custom. There is no such thing in Russia or Greece, I'm not sure about the Middle East. The ideal would be to have a parochial school where the Faith is taught as a serious course and which children receive a grade (requiring their effort) in addition to mandatory periods of catechism. This would give us children who knew their faith but we don't do this. Historically the Church insisted that parents taught the children their faith but parents rarely speak about such things with their children any longer, so we are left with a program that is less than ideal but which we have invested as being our only answer.
So let us not waste it, if that's all we are willing to do to hand over our Faith. Make certain your children are there. Make certain they are in the Liturgy. Give them the Faith so that they can keep it all of their lives. If they say, "I don't like it," make them go anyway. Wouldn't you make them go to public school even if they didn't like it? Isn't the Faith of Christ more important?
Sunday School starts September 19th, so let's get it going full swing with everyone. Let us commit to this work so that we can give the Faith to another generation and thereby spread salvation and joy a little further.