It’s the time of year when our eighth grade students have one foot firmly planted at Mustard Seed and one foot stepping toward high school. They’ve attended worship every day during their time with us. They’ve participated in service projects throughout the years. And now, they each have a message for us.
Recently, it was time for service and leadership exhibitions. This year, eighth grade students spoke about pursuing justice with a servant’s heart.
Preparations began in December with brainstorming and discussing social issues in our city, state, country, and world. Students selected independent reading books to inform their work.
They each kept a journal and wrote reflections. Here are a few journal entries, shared with permission, to show you some of their thinking.
Students also participated in service projects and classroom discourse. And welcomed several guest speakers who told students about their work serving and pursuing social justice. They included
- Mr. Chimere Stephens from NYC Men Teach.
- Pastor Jessica Lambert from St. Paul Lutheran Church.
- Frank McMillan from NJ Together.
As they turned to writing their homilies, students were placed in pairs. Each pair chose an aspect of social justice on which they wanted to focus. Esther and Jaden chose racism. Isaiah and Blaise—serving the poor. Alice and Aly—equality. Titus and Max—poverty and hunger. Each group chose a bible verse to explore their topic more deeply. Together, they considered these essential questions:
- How did Jesus pursue justice?
- How can I pursue justice?
- How did Jesus serve others?
- How can I serve others?
Then they practiced questioning each other and prepared answers for a public interview format for their homily during Middle School worship.
They were also required to include some kind of image, visual component, drama, or song in their presentation. It was a very multi-faceted project!
What does this look like?
Addie and Sam studied Matthew 8: 1-4 as they thought about discrimination against the sick and needy. Here’s the verse:
Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy (Matthew 8: 1-4)
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Addie and Sam graciously agreed to redo their homily in front of the camera so that I could share it with you. Here are some excerpts. I’m just learning a new video editing software, so apologies for the quality. But it will at least give you a taste of the homilies!
what are the benefits of a project like this one?
Creative thinkers. Strong communicators. Self-directed individuals. Ethical citizens. World contributors. These are the kinds of people that Mustard Seed School students grow to become. The homily project, where students had to think deeply about pursuing justice and serving others, was a capstone project. It culminated years of service projects and learning about faith. All the while, it built academic skills.
All too soon, this eighth grade class will graduate. We hope that when they see injustice in high school or in the world, they will also see themselves as part of the solution. Speaking up for others. Serving. Spreading light.
These are our future leaders.