“I was about seven months in, entrenched with sleepless nights, ceaseless crying, and emotional roller coasters. I had gone from being a successful business woman to a novice first time mother. I felt alone in my struggle, staring at my beautiful, healthy baby boy and having no idea how to be a mother. I lacked a community I could turn to for advice, counsel, and commiseration. One December day, walking through the park with my new, bright orange stroller, I was greeted with a smile and a post card for a gingerbread tea. I like gingerbread, I thought, and I like tea; I think I could manage the strength to introduce my boy to some holiday fun no matter how much I was not exactly in the mood to introduce myself to people or for celebrating Christmas. That was three years ago. We made it an event, going every other week to play with an amazing array of toys and feed on lovely fruit and cookies. People greeted me with love, concern, advice, laughter, and tears. Slowly my community of mothers and caregivers grew. I started to feel normal again, and my son started to feel comfortable in the space. People knew my son’s name, and I was even asked to provide advice for others. 

My son now attends Tenth Preschool and loves it. That same love and concern shown for me and my tiny baby translated into an amazing learning environment where I can see my preschooler’s emotional and academic growth daily. I feel so lucky and blessed to have been included in this amazing community. Who knew a playgroup could be so powerful?” —A Tenth neighbor.

Just how does a big church love and serve its neighbors? The same way you do: it starts by inviting them in. Strollers stream in the Delancey door as the lobby fills with mothers and caregivers unbuttoning coats and stuffing mittens in sleeves. Well-bundled infants peek from prams and small tikes pirouette up and down the stairs. At the desk, Nancy Hala greets visitors by name and points directions. It’s Wednesday at Tenth. Preschool starts at 8:30; playgroup at 9:30.

Already the sextons have hauled toys from the nursery to Fellowship Hall and turned Reception Hall into a playground. Already the preschool staff has gathered and prayed for each student by name. Downstairs, the hallway bustles as parents drop off their small ones. Teachers Kim Jones and Kimberly Wynne stand outside doors festooned with pictures, welcoming children to their rooms. After years of teaching elementary school, these two Tenth members delight in using their educational expertise to help connect to the community. Nearby, Director Pam Nothacker kneels next to a three-year-old. “How many monsters did you put in your picture?” she asks. Her 30 years as an educator and director of children’s programs have made her a first-rate inaugural director of Tenth’s preschool. In total, the preschool serves 29 families. Two-year-olds come on Tuesday and Thursday; three-year-olds on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; and four-year-olds five days a week.

Meanwhile in Fellowship Hall, Crystal Hanrahan finishes table decorations while Christine Goligher arranges toys in play stations. Jim Frazee sets out trays of fruit and coffee cake as the playgroup team readies for its guests. Usually 30–40 caregivers attend: a mix of moms, dads, and aux pairs, each with a toddler or two in tow. In the three years playgroup has met, more than 300 families have stopped in. Crystal Hanrahan says, “A thriving pocket of community has formed over coffee and a toy-strewn Fellowship Hall. Together we anticipate births, welcome visiting grandparents, and delight in the growth of the children.”

What’s the next step in loving our neighbors? Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the number of children under five in the church’s zip code increased by 39 percent. Many of the parents relocated here for work or graduate school and find themselves far from their own families. They miss that support. One playgroup mom told of the terror of needing to make a midnight trip to the ER while her husband was out of town and realizing she knew no one with whom to entrust her two-year-old. Others seek advice on tantrums and teething. Can Tenth’s community cradle them?

Both playgroup and preschool need involvement by Tenth members. We encourage parish one families with preschoolers to consider joining playgroup or enrolling their children in preschool. It’s a great place to form friendships with our neighbors. And those without little ones have a part to play too. Playgroup needs greeters and people willing to help with crafts or address birthday cards to our little playgroup friends. Preschool would love to have people prepare meals for families in transition or wait tables at preschool dinners. Can you help? At the very least you can pray. Pray for our neighbors. Pray for us, that we will learn better how to love and serve them in Jesus’ name.

© 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Terri Taylor. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org