At this time of social distancing and the cancellation of many milestones of a young person’s life (graduation from high school or college, prom, senior activities, sports, performances, driver’s licenses, confirmation, etc.) there is a need to acknowledge such loss. The Confirmation Collaborative, a group of Christian formation leaders in The Episcopal Church who come together in person and virtually to live out its mission, recently met via Zoom to talk about the various projects we are working on. We chose instead to focus on creating a source that might assist churches and youth in this time of sadness and grief.
Below are some of the ideas that were generated. It should be noted that these should occur through individual expression and/or online gatherings (zoom, Google classroom, etc.). If at all possible, gather young people together in advance (online) for their input and creation of any liturgy or expression you may choose to construct. Invite them to offer contributions in word, image, music, or any expression they may find unique to their own personality or the group’s identity.
I have always believed that the Season of Easter is a time to plan and look to the future in all manner of things. Depending on where you live in the northern hemisphere, it is a time to think about planting: mapping out your garden, starting seeds, or actually putting plants into the ground. For me it was also about evaluating the past academic year in secular education or the Church.
I’ve written and shared plenty of ideas on how to evaluate your programming and curriculum. I’ll soon be posting new curriculum charts for children, youth, and adult formation. And by popular demand, I offer the Christian Formation Planning Calendar for 2020-2021 (Pentecost 2020 thru August 2021) in two formats for you to adapt to your own context and needs.
Column 2: Sunday Readings appointed for the day (following the Episcopal version of the Revised Common Lectionary). This is not the same as the ’79 BCP lectionary or the standard RCL. Episcopalians like to tweak and amend! Track 1 and Track 2 are offered when applicable.
Old Testament / Hebrew Scripture reading
Psalm or Canticle
New Testament reading
Column 3: Observances
These can be civic (governmental holidays) or ecumenical (shared with other Christians widely)
Space to fill in your own local practice
Column 4: Church Events
For you to fill in with your church’s events or notes for the day
Column 5: Notes
Special days (sacred and secular) that will occur during this week are noted
Space for your notations
Don’t forget to plug-in your teacher trainings and workshops, conference opportunities, seasonal projects for Advent and Lent, pageant and play rehearsals, mission trips, VBS, recognitions and presentations, school vacations and holidays, and social activities. As requested, you can download a pdf version or a Word version.
Stay tuned in the coming days for the updated curriculum charts. A lot has changed in the past year with numerous new resources and a few that have been discontinued. Certainly our lens may have changed a bit in what we choose to use and adapt with new questions to ask: How can I use this resource if/when we cannot meet face-to-face and in person on Sunday (or any other time)? How is this resource adaptable for use at home and online?
About six months ago I was invited to the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (western Washington state) to deliver a keynote address for their annual Better Together Christian formation event. I was asked to speak about where I saw the church heading in the future based on my 40+ years of experience in formation, drawing upon what I had seen and learned along the way. I entitled it Faith Formation in a Changing Church: Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future. My intention was to share a little history of Christian education in the church through the lens of four generations of my family. I planned to talk about my perception of how the church needed to adapt to a new reality in the twenty-first century. How would my granddaughter (a fifth generation – the Alpha generation) be formed in faith?
Little did I know that much of my preparation in talking about the “future” would become the present. A week before I was scheduled to fly to Seattle, the area became a COVID-19 hotspot. Twenty-four hours in advance, Bishop Rickel made the decision to cancel all diocesan events where more than fifty people would be present. I cancelled my flight and said a prayer.
This is the day to fill our home altars with flowers! If there is anything blooming outside, create a bouquet (be sure to ask the owner of the property before you cut a branch or flower) or make some paper flowers. Put on some uplifting music and watch a livestream of a worship service. If your church is not offering one, you can watch the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
Here are some ideas to do at home:
Make Resurrection Rolls
Ingredients (and what they symbolize): 1 (8 ounce or 12 ounce) package refrigerated crescent rolls (the bigger size makes it a little easier to wrap around the marshmallow) = the wrapping of Jesus’ body or the tomb); 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon = spices used to anoint Jesus’ body; 8 large marshmallows = body of Jesus; 1/4 cup butter, melted = oils of embalming; oven = tomb
Directions: Separate rolls into eight triangles. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Dip each marshmallow into butter, roll in cinnamon-sugar and place on a triangle. Pinch dough around marshmallow, sealing all edges. Make sure to seal well or all the marshmallow will escape. Dip tops of dough into remaining butter and cinnamon-sugar. Place with sugar side up in greased muffin cups. It helps to use jumbo muffin tins so that the juice doesn’t overflow. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until rolls are golden brown. Allow to cool slightly then eat warm. There will be a surprise inside – the tomb is empty!
Knowing that all of us will be observing Holy Week at home this year (2020), Christian formation folks as well as publishers are making a number of resources available for free. From streaming Bible study and worship to downloadable coloring sheets and devotions, it can be a bit overwhelming to recall what you saw shared online and forgot to “bookmark.” I’ve been keeping a running tab of ideas that have popped up in the blogposts, newsletters, and social media feeds I follow. Here are some ideas I feel worth passing along for you to check out. (And this post won’t “disappear” in your feed!)
StoryMakers NYC has created a new curriculum that is tailored towards the developmental stages of children and young teens on their Christian journey through wonderful illustrations and creative storytelling and activities. They have been making weekly sessions available for free, including great videos of the Sunday Gospel lesson. Check out their website for freebies and how to get on their mailing list to obtain the weekly video in your inbox.
The Godly Play Foundation has made available for download two sets of materials to go with The Faces of Easter prints (purchase the digital story here) and The Parable of the Good Shepherd figures (digital story here for download/purchase). Whether your materials are waiting for you safely at your church for when you return or you want to try Godly Play for the first time, this is an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons.
The Center for Children and Theology offers a set of ten templates: five lightly lined sheets with borders reflecting the themes of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (the True Vine, the cross, the nativity, prophetic and angelic announcements) and five practice sheets for learning the strokes of lower and upper case letter of calligraphy.
Candle Presshas been producing downloadable “To Go” sheets for churches to send home or via email to families for years. Founder Helen Barron has made available four “To Go: At Home” sheets for families to engage in prayer, activities, and discussion on Lenten themes: In the Ark, God is Here, A Boat in the Storm, and Martha and Mary. All you need to do is sign up for her monthly email. Here is a taste with God is Here.
GenOn Ministries is giving away sessions to gather around the kitchen table, coffee table, picnic blanket, or anywhere food is shared. Use it for any meal or snack time, any day of the week, to break bread, study the Bible, play, and pray—together. It’s a fun and easy way to add a faith and fun component to mealtime. Maybe with grandparents or friends over Zoom or FaceTime? It could become a new Sunday morning or Friday night tradition!