(Photo: Lisa Kae Photography)
Churches across the country will be holding services dedicated to spreading awareness of the abuse and neglect of children in the United States.
Known as "Blue Sunday," the annual event taking place this Sunday will involve churches giving prayers for victims of child abuse, as well as prayers of support for those who rescue such children.
Felicia Mason-Edwards, director of Moving Families Forward, has 20 years of experience helping children and families in need and is a big promoter of the Blue Sunday event.
"The response has been overwhelmingly positive, we still have a lot to do to spread the word and to get people across the country involved in this initiative," said Mason-Edwards.
"People of all faiths can participate on many levels, through prayer and other means, establishing foster care/adoption ministries, sitting on boards, providing donations, getting involved in education and training on this important issue."
Mason-Edwards explained that the Blue Sunday observance began in Texas and has strong support in the state as around 5,000 Texas churches have participated in Blue Sunday.
"I think this initiative is becoming more global and not just a Texas or U.S. issue, child abuse affects us all," said Mason-Edwards. "I think we all can create change and help. However people want to know what they can do to help and Blue Sunday offers them a first step on how to help – pray."
Keely Petty, pastor at Bethel International Christian Fellowship in San Antonio, Texas, told CP that her church of about 300-plus was participating in Blue Sunday over the sense of need to spread awareness.
"We know that the Bible is against any act of perversion and abuse among children, as it goes against principles of nurturing and care," said Petty.
"Our congregation feels compelled to raise awareness and provide prevention training by partnering with community-based organizations to help reduce the effects of harm."
Petty quoted Matthew 18:6, where Jesus said, "Whoever offends one of these little ones, it would be better that a millstone were hung around his neck, and that they be thrown into the depth of the sea."
"We are delighted to host Blue Sunday to show a united front within our community against these crimes against abused and neglected children, as well as let those who work with these children know they have the Church's support," said Petty.
Ron Corzine, founding pastor of Christian Fellowship Church, explained to CP how his church decided to get involved in the Blue Sunday initiative: "When we realized the faith community was not represented in the battle to stop child abuse."
"Once we discovered that state agencies welcomed our help we've never turned back," said Corzine.
Dell Braziel, Health Ministry leader for Bethel A.M.E. Church of San Antonio, told CP that her church has observed Blue Sunday for the past five years.
"We have prayed, passed out information, put information in our church bulletin, sent out email blasts, pinned on blue ribbons and have involved our youth in the awareness of child abuse and neglect," said Braziel.
"This year is different only because our experiences and exposure to nationwide catastrophic and devastating events in the life of children has brought about a sense of urgency for us to make a difference in the life of others."