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New children’s service at St. James bringing JOY

St. James Episcopal Church Rector Becky Coerper leads children in a prayer during the new JOY church interactive service on Sunday, March 4.

St. James Episcopal Church Rector Becky Coerper leads children in a prayer during the new JOY church interactive service on Sunday, March 4.

— A new type of children’s worship service is exciting members of St. James’ Episcopal Church this season.

Director of Children's Ministries Colleen Smith along with Rector Becky Coerper have helped develop a service known as JOY Church, an interactive service lead by the children of St. James'. The services started this past February and will continue through the spring, occurring on the first Sunday of each month.

Smith and Coerper decided to have a service that the children could participate in, rather than always pulling them out of the adult service as is typical of many churches. They wanted to “make a service that everybody could be included in, including the children,” Smith said.

Coerper said the decision was fueled by three things. St. James has placed the children and youth in a special place of priority this year. “We're looking for things to do that heighten our ministry with and for children and youth,” Coerper said.

Generally, the church has the children, middle schoolers and high schoolers each lead worship once during the year. Last spring, Coerper remembered, at the middle schoolers' worship service, “two things caught my attention. It was the biggest attendance we'd had that year except Easter ... and the energy was through the roof. Everyone talked about what a fabulous morning it was. It really was full of joy.”

Coerper also has a “clergy coach” who has experience doing this kind of service that inspired Coerper. “Those three things in combination gave us the idea,” Coerper said.

The service is organized so that the children get a chance to participate as much as possible. “One will do the reading ... we had them write prayers and then we combined them into prayers just for JOY Church. They learned motions to a song ... and then we process and we get to do a train,” Smith explained. “Lots of clapping and singing and the kids look forward to that.”

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