“I can’t remember my song,” laments Jillian in Joy Sylvester-Johnson’s children’s book The Seed and the Song. And thus begins a journey of Jillian, her older brother Eli, and sister Emy to search for the song. The journey takes them to “The One Who,” a mysterious presence behind a secret door. In response to the children’s query, they receive a seed. There are tears and a great deal of patient waiting, but eventually the song is found.
In this imaginative story Sylvester-Johnson draws a young person into mystical ideas without resorting to traditional religious dogma. While an ordained Baptist minister and a practicing Quaker, the author allows for the reader’s imagination to fill in the gaps. The opportunity is generated for more questions about who the mysterious “One Who” is and why the request for a song is answered with a seed. The Christian will hear echoes of biblical parables, but one need not be a person of faith to discover something holy in the text.
Writing as a Presbyterian pastor who is a father to three children about the same age as the characters in this story, I appreciate how The Seed and the Song elicits reverence and awe while allowing for playfulness and honesty about sibling spats. In Christian circles we hear a great deal about “deconstruction,” the process of undoing the harm of Christian formation in particular religious communities. Those of us seeking to raise children in the faith are asking how one might be led into a living relationship with God without having to undo everything taught to them in their childhood. Joy Sylvester-Johnson’s book is a resource to parents seeking to live faithfully with their children in the way of grace.
In The Seed and the Song the answers we seek to our questions are not always obvious. Sometimes the journey is long and the end unknown. And often, the revelation of goodness into the world comes after A LOT of waiting.
But in the end there is a new ecology, and joy arrives in ways we could never imagine. And like Jillian, we end up lost in Doxology.
The Seed and The Song is available at: https://www.theseedandthesong.com/order-books
The Rev. Andrew C. Whaley is the senior pastor of the Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church in Roanoke, Virginia.