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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 2, 2020 1 year ago

Cuddle up for virtual stories from Church of the Redeemer

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Jacki Boedecker, director of Children’s Christian Formation, started ‘Goodnight Redeemer’ to help the community stay connected.
by: Whitney Elfstrom Staff Writer

It’s time to grab the whole family, curl up with a blanket and listen to a bedtime story with the Church of the Redeemer.

In a quest to stay connected with its youngest parishioners and their families, Church of the Redeemer launched “Goodnight Redeemer,” a storytime program in which Sunday school teachers record readings of their favorite children’s stories and post them to the church’s Facebook page.

“People are hungry right now for community,” said Jacki Boedecker, director of Children’s Christian Formation. “They are missing the connection that we have not only from Sunday to Sunday but during the week, and that goes well beyond just our parish family. It’s just a wonderful way to still be in contact with each other.”

Started by Boedecker, the Facebook page offers 15 story videos that have average 200-700 views. The stories range from “Goodnight Moon” and “The Giving Tree” to “Bear Snores On” and “Little Pea.”

Beginning the week of March 15, Boedecker shared the story “Is Your Mama a Llama?” which she chose after thinking about the books that her children and grandchildren loved to hear.

Each story is read by one of the 62 Sunday school teachers — and sometimes a family member or furry friend — and posted to the Redeemer Facebook page by 6 p.m. each night.

Caroline Piazza holds up the book she read during "Goodnight Redeemer."

In the Piazza family, first grade Sunday school teacher Meredith let her daughter, Caroline, 8, take charge of the bedtime story event.

Caroline picked out the story “Don’t Let the Pigeons Stay Up Late” and set up her reading area, which included a green armchair, pink blanket and her dog, Lily.

“This is really a good book,” Caroline said in the video before she began.

Piazza said Caroline was excited to participate in the program because she wants to be a teacher when she grows up, and this allowed her to tap into her “inner teacher self.”

“I’ve kind of been trying to find ways to keep myself and the family connected not only to church but also just to kind of the community,” Piazza said. “Any way that we could be connected, I thought I would go for.”

Caroline and her brother, Will, 11, have been keeping up with the bedtime stories posted by their teachers each day, and Piazza said she can see them finding solace in seeing the familiar faces.

Kellie Menke teaches third grade Sunday school and jumped at the chance to participate in the program after receiving a text from Boedecker asking the Sunday school teachers to join.

With help from her daughter, Grace, 18, who is a student at Yale, and their English bulldog, Dozer, the Menkes read the book “What Is God Like?” which details the questions a child might ask when talking about God.

Menke said the book brought comfort to her children when they were growing up, and she wanted to spread that comfort to her fellow parishioners.

“Any message or comforting bedtime story is probably really good for anyone to hear right now,” Menke said. “I mean, the words were sweet to me as well, and I probably haven’t read that book in five years. I’m glad [Grace] read it because I’m sure we all have anxiety over what is happening.”

Rev. Charleston Wilson said that easing the minds of families is exactly what the program was designed to do.

“What made people comfortable as a kid?” Wilson said. “And of course, you think about curling up in bed with your mom or your dad or your grandmother and being read to. It’s brought so much joy and peace and a touch of comfort in the midst of uncomfortable times.”

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I’m the Sarasota community reporter, which means I cover the people, places and things of Sarasota. I graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a degree in journalism and digital communication and a minor in English. 

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