Save the date (March 20) and find resources for Mister Rogers Day 2022

PC(USA) ministries prepare for 2nd annual celebration of Presbyterian minister and TV icon

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Presbyterians have numerous new resources they can use to celebrate Mister Rogers Day March 20. (Contributed photo)

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The inaugural Mister Rogers Day was a beautiful day in the neighborhoods of many Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations.

On March 20, 2021, Presbyterians across the United States paid tribute to the ordained Presbyterian minister and iconic children’s television host through acts such as distributing care packages, hiding rocks painted with uplifting messages in local parks, and hosting neighborhood gatherings — observing COVID safety protocols, of course — with many participants donning Rogers’ trademark cardigan sweater.

The Rev. Carl Horton, coordinator, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, top left; Stephanie Fritz, mission coordinator for Christian Formation, Presbyterian Mission Agency, lower left; and Miatta Wilson, mission specialist in the Office of Christian Formation, sported cardigans to help celebrate the inaugural Mister Rogers Day in 2021. (Contributed photo)

“Last year, we were so inspired by all of the churches that recognized the first Mister Rogers Day,” said Stephanie Fritz, Mission Coordinator for Christian Formation. “They really took on the spirit of Mister Rogers’ work and life with service projects, supporting area businesses and neighbors, and spreading joy.”

The Office of Christian Formation partnered with the Office of Theology and Worship and the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program to create resources for the event. With the success of the debut, they are offering more resources for 2022 and highlighting some created by Rogers himself.

“We are excited to add to the bank of resources this year for faith communities and can’t wait to see what happens!” Fritz said.

School-age children from the Center for Children at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church in La Crescenta, California, helped hide “kind rocks” in local parks during Mister Rogers Week in 2021. (Contributed photo)

The day will mark the 94th anniversary of the birth of Mister Rogers, actually the Rev. Fred Rogers, who became a pioneering children’s television creator through several shows culminating in the long-running series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which aired on public television from 1968 to 2001. Resources developed for Mister Rogers Day relate his teachings about kindness, peace, and reconciliation to biblical principles.

“The commitments of Fred Rogers are needed as much today as they were during his lifetime,” said the Rev. Carl Horton, Coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. “I’m thrilled that the PC(USA) is carrying his legacy forward in our ministries.”

This year, Mister Rogers Day is a Sunday, and the resources include an intergenerational worship service that can also be used with the outreach guide for Neighboring Sunday, a day that can be observed any Sunday a church chooses.

The Rev. Dr. David Gambrell co-wrote a new hymn for Mister Rogers Day. (Photo by Rich Copley)

“The liturgy for Neighboring Sunday is organized around the theme of ‘Walking in God’s Path of Peace,’” said the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, Associate for Worship in the Office of Theology and Worship. “It is inspired by Ephesians 6:15 — ‘As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace’ — and Mister Rogers’ practice of changing shoes as he entered his house. We designed these materials to be intentionally intergenerational, incorporating simple language and imaginative action, while covering primary elements in the Service for the Lord’s Day.”

The resources include a new hymn, “Jesus, Teach Us to Be Neighbors: A Hymn for Mr. Rogers Day/Neighboring Sunday,” with lyrics by Gambrell and music by Wil Smith.

“We wanted to offer an engaging congregational song, accessible to young singers, composed in the style of the music heard on Mister Rogers’ television program,” Gambrell said. “Wil Smith’s hymn tune ‘McFeely’ (Fred Rogers’ middle name) beautifully conveys that sound and spirit. The hymn text invites worshipers to love and serve neighbors as ‘children of the new creation.’”

Other resources for the day include:

  • A coloring poster/bulletin insert designed by Illustrated Ministry. It can be used as a coloring page or as a full-color advertisement, in various sizes. It features Ephesians 6:15 amidst a sweater/shoes and city/neighborhood scene. This effort has been a collaboration with Christian Formation.
  • A tip sheet of things to do for Mister Rogers Day.
  • The Peacemaking Program’s Peace Cards and an accompanying activity guide.
  • Links to PC(USA) resources, including adult and children’s books that tie into Mister Rogers themes.

Young adults from Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey, gather for a neighborhood photo after the Mister Rogers Day Care Package Extravaganza with other Princeton Presbyterians. (Photo by Len Turner Scales)

“The Peacemaking Program was fortunate in the past to partner with Fred Rogers himself and Family Communications to produce two resources,” Horton said.

Those resources, produced by the Peacemaking Program in conjunction with Rogers and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” producer Family Communications, are being updated and modernized to a digital/downloadable format with the help of longtime Christian educator Dr. Vickie Dieth.

The first project, which will be completed by March 20, is “Building a Neighborhood Together.” The original resource was coordinated and edited by Sara Lisherness, now director of the PC(USA)’s Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries and interim director of Presbyterian World Mission, and written by Vera White, a Christian writer and educator in Pittsburgh,  with Hedda Sharapan, a Family Communications director and producer. Florence Johnson, a retired primary school teacher from Pittsburgh active in Pittsburgh Presbytery, served as a consultant on the project.

The other resource was “Peacemaking in the Family,” by Rogers and Barbara Marsh, a teacher, advocate and clinical and educational psychology professional in Pittsburgh.

“These timeless resources, though dated, are still available, relevant and really useful,” Horton said. “Mister Rogers Day is a perfect opportunity for us to feature these two resources and to introduce new ones.”

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