Presbyterians celebrate the life lessons of a beloved children’s television pioneer, the Rev. Fred Rogers
June 11, 2023
“Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person,” the Rev. Fred Rogers, known to millions as Mister Rogers, once mused while reminding his audience as he often did that there are many ways to say “I love you,” from greeting someone to feeding a hungry neighbor or cleaning up common spaces.
When he died in 2003, Rogers, a pioneer in public television and a Presbyterian minister, left behind 33 years of televised and published content that encouraged children to listen their heart and express care for those around them. In addition to the beloved series, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which ran from 1968–2001, Rogers left resources for spiritual formation and peacemaking with children developed in partnership with the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
In 2021, the Presbyterian Planning Calendar recognized March 20, Fred Rogers’ birthday, to be a special emphasis day on which to highlight the work of Rogers as a “pioneer in a the world of Christian education and the formation of young children.” For several years, churches have been encouraged to honor Rogers’ legacy and to celebrate “Neighboring Sunday,” in March or anytime that is right to lift up being a good neighbor — which is, of course, any time. The Presbyterian Mission Agency has developed resources for worship, service and retreats to encourage children of all ages and their communities to care about their neighborhoods. The Office of Christian Formation in partnership with the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program has compiled and updated these resources on the mission agency’s site.
Over the past three years and especially in the month of March, Presbyterian congregations across the country shared their stories about how observing this special day has impacted their congregations and its neighbors. Here are some of the ways Presbyterian churches around the country celebrated last month.
After showing the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” earlier in the week, the Rev. Patrick David Heery channeled Mister Rogers at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Auburn, New York, at the beginning of worship.
Jill Reichert, director of Children and Family Ministries of Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania, “honored Mister Rogers’ ministry of inclusion, acceptance and love” in an intergenerational vespers service she holds once a month.
Other churches put aside their cardigans and felt inspired to do book and clothing drives.
Faithbridge Presbyterian Church in Frisco, Texas, had people donate books for their preschool to honor Rogers’ commitment to early childhood learning. First Presbyterian Church of Fulton, Missouri celebrated Mr. Rogers Sunday for the first time on Sunday, March 19, the day before what would have been Rogers’ 95th birthday. “I incorporated the liturgical resources that were specially developed, including the hymn, ‘Jesus, Teach Us to be Neighbors,’” said the Rev. Aaron J. White, the church’s pastor. White reported that the worship was so meaningful that it sparked a conversation about expanding the celebration next year to include “a collection of sweaters and socks.”
The Rev. Becca Bateman shared her experience of doing a “neighborhood build” the previous year. Over four Sundays, children from pre-kindergarten to fourth grade at Doylestown Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania focused on defining what a neighborhood was, identifying who their neighbor was, and brainstorming how to best love them. According to Bateman, the kids drew powerful connections between Mister Rogers, the Golden Rule and the Bible.
A new version of a resource developed by Fred Rogers and Barbara Marsh and updated by Vickie Caro Dieth is now available for download on the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s website. The resource, called Peacemaking in the Family, includes four sessions for intergenerational events and cultivates an appreciation for emotional awareness, relationship boundaries, resilience and celebrations in family systems.
Beth Waltemath, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, June 11, 2023, the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Today’s Focus: Mister Rogers, ‘Love your neighbor’
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Sandra Duverge, Associate, Equity & Mission Impact, Mission Personnel Team, World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Tricia Dykers Koenig, Associate Director, Mid Council Relations, Office of the General Assembly
Let us pray
Generous God, we give thanks for the loaves and fishes that we receive from you. We are in awe of how you multiply them before our eyes. Help us to see with your eyes — where we see a little, you see more than enough. We dedicate our offerings to your glory. Amen.
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