“Playing Church is an Ancient Event”

Two of my beloved cousins, Dr. Carla Newbern Thomas and Father Jerome Sanderson, are leaders in the African Orthodox Faith, namely, the Fellowship of St. Moses the Black. They lead and participate in outstanding ministries, they teach the Holy Scriptures, and they are committed followers of Jesus Christ. Recently I have begun to re-read a book they co-authored, entitled “Saints of Africa”, and read a beautifully written biography of the life of one of my absolute favorite Historical Church Fathers, St. Athanasius. His theological writings are most inspirational, particularly what  he writes about the Trinity. St. Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 296 A.D. He was one of several youth who played church, and they were watched by Bishop Alexander of Alexandria, who watched from his home overlooking the ocean. As one young boy baptized another, the Bishop chastised them, feeling that they were making a game of a sacred act. Young Athanasius surprised him by convincing him they were sincere and not making a game of the holy. Bishop Alexander became a mentor and teacher for Athanasius. he accompanied Bishop Alexander to the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Following the death of Bishop Alexander, Athanasius became the next Archbishop of Alexandria, and served for more than 40 years. Another Bishop and Patron Saint of the Church, Bishop Anthony (“Saint Anthony”), became the focus of one of Athanasius’ classic writings, “the Life of St. Anthony”. The beauty of children imitating worship, baptism, and prayer can have lifelong effects. How many of us have “played church”, remembering our positive experiences from houses of worship and how often have we  demonstrated those actions in playgrounds, backyards, or in playrooms at home. Let us remember the life of Saint Athanasius and what young people can learn and be as they grow in faith. Children and youth imitate what they see and experience. Let us allow God to continue to mold and shape what we teach so that they imitate all the best.

(**This story was paraphrased from “Saints of Africa”, by Fr. Jerome Sanderson and Carla Newbern Thomas, M.D., Christ the Saviour Brotherhood Publishing, Indianapolis, 2006, pages 3-5.)

Rev. Mary Newbern-Williams

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