Last night, my wife and I spent some time exploring YouTube for the themesongs of our favourite childhood TV shows. We found the ones for Care Bears, Teddy Ruxpin, Mr. Dressup, The Elephant Show, Reading Rainbow, Zoobilie Zoo, Today’s Special, and, of course, Polka-Dot Door. We spend an hour watching these themes and talking about how much we loved sitting down to watch these shows when we were very young children. I remember lining up all my Care Bears on the couch with me as I watched the show on TV. These were good times!
After Jenny went to sleep, the power of memory struck me. For 20 years, I had never thought about Zoobilie Zoo, but as soon as the YouTube link popped up and we watched the theme song, it came back to me–how much I loved those characters and enjoyed being a part of their make-believe world. The memory is a powerful thing.
Religious memory, likewise, is powerful (for example, see the work of Reg Bibby in Restless Churches). Many adults think back on their childhood with fond memories (at least parts of their childhood). The church is losing out by not recognizing this power of memory, or using at least not using it in the right way. When they grow older, the children in our churches and families will look back and reflect on what they have experienced while in our care. It is our responsibility to ensure that, not only are these religious memories treasured, but that they are meaningful. Instead of having them remember how much they loved to passively watch Bob and Larry from VeggieTales, what would happen if they fondly recalled having opportunities to dress up like Bible characters and enter the story through active engagement, through drama, song, and powerful stories. Then, perhaps the biblical meta-narrative, or overarching Story of God, will penetrate their lives in a deep way and will provide them with an adequate framework for making meaning of the world around them–even as they grow in age, knowledge, and experiences.
I’m just thinking out loud here. But imagine what the church could do–and what children could do–if we only recognized and responsibly utilized the power of memory.