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.
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:
Did you know that March is National Reading Month? For me, just about every month of my life has been a reading month. I was fortunate that my parents read to me a lot and we made weekly trips to the public library. I recall the cool and dusty smell of the old children’s department in the basement of the Norwalk Public Library.
Fall 2018 saw the launch of a bunch of great books I have edited and Spring 2019 is looking just as exciting.
One new area I have helped grow for Church Publishing is children’s books. I loved to read as a child which translated into weekly trips to the library with my children and helping to fill my almost 4-year-old granddaughter’s bedroom shelves with picture books that are multi-cultural, funny, environmental, justice-oriented, inclusive, and empowering (especially to girls). So I am always on the lookout for beautiful religious books too. So I am proud of two titles that I hope fill the shelves of church school classrooms, Godly Play rooms, and of course, the homes of children. Anna V. Ostenso Moore’s wonderfully inclusive Today is a Baptism Day is beautifully illustrated by Peter Krueger. And this month is the launch of Candle Walk: A Bedtime Prayer to God by Karin Holsinger Sherman that just appeared on my doorstep. Both are appropriate for children ages 3-10, but I believe parents and teachers will love them also.