Rev. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy Transitional Leader
I remember 1968 very well. Dr. King was assassinated in April, and later that year, 50 years ago this month, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I still remember the newscast that morning as I was preparing for school. In that momentous and devastating year, something else happened—something big that would give us hope for the future: A children’s show, Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood, aired for the first time on PBS. A recent documentary has been produced about the making of the TV series. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a documentary about Fred Rodger and Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood. Rodgers was an ordained Presbyterian minister who did a children’s show on PBS from 1968 to around 2001.
I went to see the film after GA. Friends, I highly recommend this documentary. I will not telegraph the content of the film. But I will say that I, along with the audience, was greatly moved by Fred Rodgers. He had a focus and mission to create an internal strength in children. His message was simple: You are loved just as you are. What the documentary made obvious is, that the same message Fred Rodgers pushed each week for the children is necessary for adults as well.
I was amazed at the audience’s emotional reaction to this film and message (there were no children in the audience). Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood was a low budget production with sock puppets and a simple miniature set. There were no pyrotechnics or colorful costumes. Instead, the focus was on the message. It was relevant, gutsy, and a constant reminder of unconditional love.
Fred Rodgers had an unconventional ministry with a consistent message. I believe the church is a place for people to experience God’s love and acceptance. We are living in a time where people could use a gentle reminder that they are special, and we are all God’s children. What a difference such a message could make in our neighborhood called Country, and our neighbors called Citizens.
Rev. Craig M. Howard