Last week I took two days off to spend time with my
just-turned-four-year-old granddaughter. The best I can describe it was two
days of wild imagination. We decorated an Easter tree with tiny bunnies, eggs,
and chicks that I got out of storage, spent an afternoon at a playground
followed by ice cream, visited Grampa at work, read books, and pretended a
whole lot. Tea parties, colorful scarves, hide and seek, and discussing all the
Disney princesses filled our days.
“The leader does not offer answers but offers space for children to wonder”
resonated with me in a new way. He describes Godly Play as a
“face-to-face and intimate art”
and while we are
“all designed to create meaning, . . . the art of wondering is forgotten.”
As a grandmother (and editor of faith formation resources),
I hope our churches (and families) continue to wonder with children. By giving
children a safe space to explore creation, God, and our sacred stories, we are
helping them enter the mystery of all that God intended for us – we are beloved
children. By giving myself real time off to just “be” with Mackenzie, I too was
renewed and reopened to the possibilities that only our imaginations and wonder
Our Taizé services, held several times a year, have traditionally been attended by adults. For the service scheduled midway through Lent we wanted to make it more of an intergenerational event. How could we make Taizé more experiential while retaining its contemplative nature? How might we introduce Taizé to families with children? How could we tap into scripture with baptismal and Lenten themes paired with the music of Taizé? This and other questions led to our creation of a Taizé Intergenerational Liturgy held on the afternoon of the Third Sunday of Lent at my home parish, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, Connecticut.
Our team (Marissa Rohrbach, rector; Fiona Smith Sutherland, music director; Becky Hudspeth, children’s and youth minister; and myself) created two other events this program year (The Way of Love and Advent) and wanted to build upon those. Then two of us saw a post on Building Faith by Charlotte Preslar entitled “Creating Prayer Bottles” that had been developed as a sensory prayer experience before Lent began. We knew we had found our experiential, contemplative missing element for our Taizé service.
In advance, we ordered our supplies and sorted all the “pieces” in little containers for easy use with little hands and less mess. We set up a simple focal point of tables of various sizes and heights, with chairs surrounding them on all sides with ample room to move between them all. Around the perimeter of the chairs were six 6-foot tables, while near the entrance the piano and small adult choir and an instrumentalist sat. Battery-powered candles (the ones that looked like they had flickering flames) were scattered on the focal tables and piano. A variety of icons were placed on the tables as well as small terra-cotta pots filled with sand. A large clear glass bowl was filled with water and placed on the center of the largest altar table. Scattered on the floor were tall bottles filled with warm water and a basket of thin, long tapers (candles). Torches (from the sanctuary) stood on either side of the tables and our processional cross was placed in the center back of the room.
Many of the formative experiences in life happen when several generations are together. Think about it – when were you fully engaged in learning about Jesus or living out your Baptismal Covenant? Surely it wasn’t when you were alone. Perhaps it was in serving others or immersed in a worship service. Most likely there was more than one generation present. In our society we tend to separate people by age mainly for education and employment. In the recent past, Christian formation programs have made the same separation of generations, but more and more formation educators are offering programs in which adults and children learn together. It is a way to pass on faith – generation to generation. Old learn from young, and young learn from old.
While Sunday mornings may still sadly be the most segregated time in our country (at least for mainline church-goers), it is the most generationally diverse time many of us experience all week. Our worship involved young and old, and every age in-between at worship.
Over the past several months, The Way of Love has always been on my desk in one form or another. As part of the Presiding Bishop’s Working Group to create resources for the Church based on the seven practices of following Jesus. It’s been fun (and quite a ride) working with a creative bunch of Christian educators from across the Episcopal Church. I’ve created two particular resources for Church Publishing: The Way of Love for Families and An Intergenerational Gathering for the Way of Love. I was also excited to work with Mary Bea Sullivan of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama in bringing her Living the Way of Love: A 40-Day Devotional to publication in record time.
Many have asked for children and youth ministry resources for The Way of Love. You can certainly adapt the Families and Intergenerational materials I created above to fit your needs. Gratefully, many of you have been creating your own, or tweaking what exists to fit your ministries. Keep checking back to The Way of Love “official” website where seasonal resources are continually being updated and offered. Much of The Way of Love is created for “open space” sharing, meaning if you have created something – submit it to The Way of Love email addressor through this form. Those of us (myself included) on The Way of Love Working Group will review and be in touch if this is something shareable on the website so others can learn and use also.
Are you aware of these newly posted resources? Chris Sikkema has been Traveling the Way of Love. His first episode focused on Bless. Join him in the second episode from Jackson Hole, Wyoming where he focuses on Rest. Love the Tetons!
Resources for Eastertide are now available, with a focus on Go. Here you will find images to use as well as ideas for evangelism – yes, going out into the world to spread the Good News of Jesus in the neighborhood. If you tapped into any Way of Love resource during Lent, there is a “Test Kitchen” of Life Transformed on Facebook, where you can share how you are practicing Go and hear what others are doing.
If it’s April it must mean I need to update my curriculum charts. So here’s the first installment, focusing on resources that I would consider curriculum for children – meaning they include lesson plans for a teacher to use in a formation setting. By children I mean those between the ages of birth (nursery) through age 12 (5th grade).
With every year comes some new resources while others cease to be published. There has definitely been an uptick in the number of curricular products now available as downloadable documents, either as pdfs or editable docs. Illustrations are more modern and represent more diversity, although I sometimes wonder if publishers are jumping on the “Disney Wagon” in making everything look like a cartoon, including a princess or two. Costs are definitely going up (the cost of paper has skyrocketed this past year due to tariffs); perhaps another reason why downloading materials is becoming more prevalent.
In any case, here is the April 2019 Curriculum Chart for Children. In my research, I did discover more than is presented here. For example, I have chosen not to include one product (I won’t share name or publisher) that offers a giant poster called “From Adam to Jesus” which is a direct family tree and timeline of how Jesus descended directly from Adam and Eve. And I won’t share one that includes a mission statement that “the Old Testament is fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ.” To ease your processes in evaluating and choosing curriculum, here are my tips: