Category Archives: Seasonal Ideas

All Shall Be Well

Today is the feast day of Julian of Norwich. I’m not a big “saint” fan (sports or religious) and I do not pray to any saints or ask that they intercede for me. But Julian is one who captured my imagination years ago. The Reverend Peter Holroyd (whom I invited to do a Lenten study on environmental spirituality in a church where I was serving about 20 years ago) handed each of us a hazelnut as we began. He shared that he always carried one in his pocket; a reminder that such a tiny thing has so much possibility and that we, too, are seeds of possibility. The hazelnut is often used as a symbol of Julian.

Portrait of a Woman with a Winged Bonnet (Rogier van der Weyden, 1399-1464)

Born about 1343, the time in which Julian lived was one of upheaval: the Black Plague, the Hundred Years War, and the crisis of church authority due to a long papal schism. The people of Europe were full of anxiety and concerned about personal salvation. The yearning for a personal, experiential faith spawned a growth in Christian mysticism, including those who were not living in religious communities. Many mystical classics were written by lay people living as solitaries (recluses), sharing their experiences of the divine. Such was Julian. We do not know much about her, including her real name. The name Julian was given to her because St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England is where she lived and worked. Nearly dying as a child, she had visions (shewings) in which she experienced Jesus. Most of her writings are all that we know of her. You can read more about her (as well as some intergenerational activities to do regarding her) in my forthcoming book Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God with the Saints coming in July 2019.

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Why Celebrate Mother’s Day?

“Honor your father and your mother . . . that your days may be long” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

The United States’ observance of Mother’s Day is held each year on the second Sunday in May. The holiday can be traced back to the Mother’s Day Proclamation written by Julia Ward Howe in the aftermath of the American Civil War. It was a reflection of her pacifist reaction to the horrors of the war and her conviction that mothers had a rightful voice in the conduct of public affairs. There were other attempts to create a Mother’s Day holiday in the ensuing years, but none succeeded beyond local observances.

The current holiday was created through the efforts of Anna Jarvis, continuing the work of her mother Ann Jarvis, who dreamed of creating a holiday to honor all mothers. With the help of Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker, Jarvis persuaded President Woodrow Wilson to make it a national holiday in 1914.

Intentionally or not, the support of retail genius Wanamaker proved predictive, and Mother’s Day soon became so commercially successful that many opposed it, including its founder Jarvis, who spent her inheritance and the rest of her life opposing it. Such opposition has done little to slow down the commercial juggernaut that Mother’s Day has become. It is the most popular day of the year for dining out in a restaurant. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Mother’s Day survey, 86% of Americans celebrated this day in 2018 with the average individual spending $180 on a gift; approximately $4.6 billion on jewelry, $2.6 billion on flowers, and another $813 million on greeting cards.

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2019-2020 Formation Planning Calendar

Back by popular demand, just in time to start next year’s program planning, here (in easy-to-print and Word form) is my Christian Formation Planning Calendar for the coming academic year. It begins with the first Sunday of June 2019 and concludes at the end of August 2020.

You’ll find the “name” of the Sunday in the first column, followed by columns including the lectionary readings for the day, civic/ecumenical events (like Presidents’ Day), typical church events (like a day specifically set for baptisms), and blank spaces to write your own notes.

Now is the time to begin evaluating this past program year before planning next. And it’s a great time to start reviewing your curricula and program resources. Give plenty of time for all these important details in order to insure a smooth transition from one year to the next. And don’t forget to celebrate all your accomplishments!

Intergenerational Taizé

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.

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Planning Intergenerational Formation

Four of the volumes of my Faithful Celebration series books.

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.

My colleague Eduardo Solomón Rivera recently shared his 7 Steps Toward Intergenerational Discipleship in the Episcopal Church Foundation’s March 2019 newsletter. He shares:

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