Category Archives: Parenting

Morning Prayer for Children & Families

There’s a new book out, just in time to help families start and end their days (and all those between times) as everyone is home together. Common Prayer for Children and Families by Jenifer Gamber and Timothy J.S. Seamans (Church Publishing, 2020) is a simple, yet beautiful book that will assist preschoolers and elementary age little ones learn the sacred practice of daily prayer. Whimsically illustrated with creatures living life to the fullest scattered across the pages by Perry Hodgkins Jones, children will enjoy seeking out the little mice, bunnies, and butterflies as they learn to read these original, timeless prayers.

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Making an Altar for Home

With most of us in the United States (and world-wide) staying safe by staying at home, we are now worshiping virtually with our faith communities via Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, church websites and other platforms. While meeting in this way has proved wonderful for staying connected with the practice of coming together for Sunday services, weekday prayers such as Compline or Morning Prayer, not being in our sanctuaries together has been hard.

We have experienced that the Church is not a building but a community gathered in prayer. We’ve also realized that our homes can also be places of prayer. So as we near the end of our Lenten journey and prepare for Holy Week, perhaps it’s time to create a prayer space at home that is available anytime of day or night to anyone in your household. In the midst of the chaos of homeschooling and worries of this world right now, working together as a household to build a home altar or sacred space may be an excellent way to create order and peace.

It is quite simple and can be done with what you already have at home most likely. Find a surface in a low traffic area such as a window sill, small table, portable tray table, or book shelf. I find it helpful to have it in a quiet area (usually this is on a shelf above my desk so it is always in sight) where there is little “action.” The pictures below are from my new area in my living room – no television or computers in this room!

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Keeping Faith at Home with Children

There are a variety of reasons why families are often unable to attend church: sports, travel, illness, school related activities, and so much more. Often our communities have been affected by natural disasters: hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, or snow storms. These are usually isolated areas of our country depending on the circumstance. However, March 2020 (and most likely longer), communities across the United States (and world-wide) are living with a new reality of many houses of worship cancelling in-person services to protect the health of all.

It has been no surprise to me that Christian formation folks have been at the forefront in sharing resources and ideas for supporting households who are staying at home. Many ideas that have been shared are not new, but are coming to light as the need has arisen for so many. New collaborations are forming to determine new ways to use social media and virtual gatherings for worship, prayer, Bible study, and simply being present with one another as a faith community. With large thanks to Forma and my colleague Mary Hawes’ (Church of England) Growing For Growth, below is a curated list (which will be updated regularly – so you may want to bookmark this) of ways to help parents, children, and youth focus on the reality that God is with us – no matter what.

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Praying with Children

You are never too young to pray. For many parents, as well as many adults, prayer does not come easily. Growing up, my parents regularly helped me learn prayers at bedtime, starting with the simple “Now I lay me down to sleep” until I knew The Lord’s Prayer and could say it on my own before bed overnight. We said grace at meals, and I learned “Be present at our table, Lord . . .” As an Episcopalian, I grew up with the Book of Common Prayer and as time went on, I learned where to find other prayers to assist me in my own prayer life. Now I don’t need a prayer book to help me pray, but is sure is nice to have a book of prayers handy with the words just don’t seem to come. After all, prayer is simply a conversation with God: Help! Thanks! Wow!

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Illustration (c) Copyright 2020. Perry Hodgkins Jones. All rights reserved.

But now there is a new book out just for children and the parents, teachers, and adults who care for them so much that they want to teach them prayers and share in the experience of talking to God at all times and in all places. Jenifer Gamber and Timothy J.S. Seamans have put together a beautiful compilation of prayers (originally and familiar) that are accompanied by delightful line drawings by Perry Hodgkins Jones.

Divided into six “parts,” Common Prayer for Children and Families offers The Lord’s Prayer (in many versions) and Mealtime Prayers (new and traditional) as well as ways to pray through the day for every day of the week. There are prayers for each of the seasons of the church year as well as the ordinary events of life for one’s self, at home, at school, and at camp. There are prayers for saints past and present, as well as for the needs of the world. With a thematic index as well as a scripture index, finding just the right prayer to share with your child is now just a page away.

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A World of Wonder

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.

While she had some quiet time (aka nap without sleeping), I also took a breather and opened the latest Christian Century. Jerome Berryman’s article “Holy story, sacred play: Helping children become fluent in faith” brought a smile to my face. Having had the privilege of sitting on the floor with Jerome going back 25+ years, his article about Godly Play spoke to my time with Mackenzie. And having worked with the Godly Play Foundation to bring the revised and expanded Complete Guide to Godly Play (Vol. 2, 3, 4) to publication as well as offering Godly Play at my parish, Jerome’s words:

“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 can give.  

Note: This first appeared as “Mondays with the Editor” on the Church Publishing Incorporated Facebook page.