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Summary: Ministry that Matters must have maximum participation by the people of faith. Maximum participation that is intentional, interdependent, intergenerational, and inspirational.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Head Start Sunday

40th Anniversary of Head Start Program

Maximum Participation

Nehemiah 3: 1 – 5

God has blessed us to witness a faith community’s commitment to early childhood education.

For 40 years Union Baptist Church with dutiful and diligent leadership has navigated the waters of government funding, program management, political competency and the belief that each child comes to the world with a capacity to learn greater than our ability to teach.

Faithful leaders over the years, and we thank God for Rev. Vernon Dobson, have engaged in a process of building the lives of children and thereby catching a glimpse of God’s glory.

40 years ago we lived in a world where the United States was engaged in a senseless war. Our economy was in shambles. Unemployment was high, educational opportunities were meager, racism was rearing its ugly head, politicians where pitiful. The legal system was tilted towards injustice to those without resources. Police brutality was commonplace, housing was indecent at best, and children were facing a world that provided them little hope.

There was a dream and a vision, that we could build the Great Society and eradicate poverty in America.

That was the dream and there was the hope, that all of God’s children could live in a world where they were not judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

That was the dream and there was a plan, to create programs that would lift the faces at the bottom of the well, that educational resources would be distributed equitably to all segments of our society.

In the midst of all the dreaming, all the hoping, and all the planning was the emergence of the Head Start program with a critical goal to ensure that it had the maximum feasible participation by the poor.

Make certain that throughout the process that everyone has a voice in the planning and policy.

Make certain that no decision is made for someone without them sitting at the board room table.

Make certain that all segments of the community interact and come to know each other.

Make certain there are enough resources to ensure goals are met, that programs are viable, and the tools of teaching are relevant.

Make certain that when you build this program that it has the maximum feasible participation by those who feel the pains of injustice, by those who have a real stake in the process, and by those who will benefit the most and are vested with its success.

Make certain that Head Start symbolizes and is reflective of our desire to get community building right.

Make certain that while funding might be national, management must be local.

Make certain that though maximum participation we build a program that is intentional, interdependent, intergenerational, and inspirational.

40 years later, we are still building.

40 years later, the struggle continues.

40 years later, the need is still urgent.

40 years later, the opposition is still great.

40 years later, the promise is still compelling.

40 years later, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – Head Start works!

Here at Union during the month of September we have preached from the general theme, “Ministry that matters: Building the kingdom of God.”

The Book of Nehemiah has provided the basis for our sermons.

We began in the first chapter and discovered that Nehemiah was a man of prominence, with access to power, but had a heart for the poor and dispossessed.

He was the King’s cupbearer, who ate what the King ate, who drank what the King drank, enjoyed everything that the King enjoyed, and went everywhere the King traveled.

He was first class. He was five stars. He was high balling and shot calling. Nehemiah had it going on.

Here’s the dilemma – Nehemiah was a Jew working for a Persian King. Nehemiah was working for the oppressor of his people. Nehemiah was insulated from the pain his people felt. He didn’t have to worry about a roof over his head, food on the table, or meaning work. He didn’t have to worry about safety or false imprisonment. Nehemiah was a Jew working for a Persian King.

However, there was something inside of Nehemiah that would not let him forget his people.

The saying is true that people you meet on the way going up are the same people you meet on the way going down.

Because of Nehemiah’s sensitivity, he becomes for us a model of a ministry that matters.

From Nehemiah, we learn the elements of a ministry that matters.

When you read chapter one you learn that for

Ministry to matter, you have to do something.

You have to pray a prayer of concern,

you have to pray a prayer that is consistent,

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