Gleanings from a book: “Conversations With Children” by Sister Magdalen

Sister Magdalen, of the Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist, Essex, England has been working with children and helping them grow in their Orthodox faith for many years. In 2001 she published a book called Conversations With Children: Communicating our Faith. The book walks the reader through important tenants of the faith, via many of Sister Magdalen’s conversations with children.

“For a Christian adult, to speak with a child is a refreshing experience. New light shines on aspects of life which we may either take for granted or refuse to face.” (pp. 13 – 14) Sister Magdalen interacts with children about “games, clothes, films, lessons, and about ‘nothing in particular,'” (p. 14), which is likely the reason why the children in her circles have been so open to learning from/with her. We as SCS teachers do well to follow her example: not simply talking at the children in our Sunday Church School classes, but speaking with them; listening to their questions and comments; and learning from/with them as well.

Conversations With Children is divided into three chapters. “Theology has a direct relevance to the Christian education of children. Those who speak with children need a vision of the human person God calls us each to become; this is therefore the focus of Chapter 1. Chapter 2 concentrates on the educator’s vocation to be a channel of life-giving Tradition… Occasionally I give … talks in a more formal setting… to young people… Some of these feature in Chapter 3.” (pp. 14 – 15) Each chapter is divided into sub-headings, where Sister Magdalen writes about the topic of the subheading, and then incorporates quotes from conversations she has had with children regarding that subheading.

Throughout the book, Sister Magdalen refers to the adults in a child’s life as “teachers.” This is intentionally done, as all adults are teaching the children around them: whether by word or deed. “From the outset I remind the adults who hope to learn from this book that children must know us as real people, not merely as educators…. If teachers are themselves grateful children of our Heavenly Father, their children will learn from this attitude more than from anything else… We teach best when we simply enjoy the company of our beloved children.” (p. 16)

On every page, the reader is challenged by Sister Magdalen’s insights and her wisdom in speaking to children. It is apparent that she has great love for God’s little ones, and that He has granted her a gift to be able to effectively teach and guide them. And though she is older than they are, she is not above learning from them. She says in the book that the “…conversations recalled here will make it obvious how much I gain from the children.” (p. 15) Thus, the conversations she carries on with children are not only for their growth, but also for hers; and, by her writing, for the reader’s, as well.

This week’s daily inspirations will feature quotes from the book, intended to challenge our faith and make us better teachers. May we indeed rise to the challenge of teaching our Sunday Church School students. Most importantly may even our conversations with the children in our class point them (and us) to the Faith.
Conversations with Children
by Sister Magdalen
Published by the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist
Essex, England

2001

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