Category Archives: Seasonal Ideas

Resources for Holy Week (at home) Part 2

The Garden of Gethsemane (c) John F. Pearson

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!)

Prayers and Devotions

Church Publishing has offered a free online version (via Issu) of Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People by Jenifer Gamber and myself.  It’s now available free until 11:59pm EST April 15, 2020. View it here.

Roger Hutchison, artist, Christian educator, and of numerous books including Under the Fig Tree and Jesus: God Among Us (great for Holy Week and Easter reading) has been leading a Bible study on his Vimeo channel based on Jesus Among Us. You can also view his reading of The Very Best Day on the site.

Illustrated Ministry has offered Prayers for When You Feel Anxious coloring pages for downloading.

Story Telling

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.

Every Friday night Daneen Akers, author of the new amazing book Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints, will offer a story from the book. This one is very timely – the story of Florence Nightingale.

Family Activities

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 Press has 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!

Lastly, Church Publishing has offered a bunch of Holy Week Activities for Families that offer many ideas to use for Holy Week:

  • Prayers for the days of Holy Week from Common Prayer for Children and Families by Jenifer Gamber and Timothy J.S. Seamans
  • Holy Week coloring sheets and puzzles by Anne Kitch from What We Do in Lent
  • Way of Love coloring posters (in English and Spanish) from Jay Sidebotham
  • A chapter on how to talk about Good Friday with your children from Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents by Wendy Claire Barrie
  • The Easter reflection (with art) from Roger Hutchison in Under the Fig Tree
  • Use your LEGOs to tell the story, “Jesus Enters Jerusalem” from Building Faith Brick by Brick by Emily Given
  • A chapter from my book Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God from Mardis Gras through Pentecost about observing Maundy Thursday in your home.

With many thanks to all these individuals and publishers for making this resources available. Please check out their websites and support their ministries.

A Household Holy Week

As we prepare to journey to Jerusalem next week in our homes, many have been sharing ways to create a sacred space at home. How might we use these spaces for Holy Week? What objects might we place on our altars each day to remember the final week of Jesus with his disciples?

The concept of a Holy Week Box is not new, in fact I had gathered supplies to put together bags to give out to our households at my church based on what Building Faith had posted a few years ago. The original idea came from Camille LeBron Powell in the UK some years ago. Due to health and safety concerns, these won’t be distributed this year (and we’ll save them for next year). So I’ve transferred and adapted the concept into one that individuals and families can create on their own. Follow along below, or download the document here which includes the readings.

Continue reading A Household Holy Week

Resources for Holy Week (at home) Part 1

Basilica of the Agony (Church of All Nations) in Jerusalem, June 2019 (c) John Pearson

Churches are scrambling to find creative ways to mark the events of Holy Week while we are unable to gather in person. Attending Holy Week services daily from Palm Sunday thru the Easter Vigil is something I have never missed, at least in my adult life. I’ve been wondering how to help folks connect to the deep readings our lectionary offers on these days, so I went back to look what I have posted on my other website, The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education. Based on the book (3rd edition) that I edited and updated with Robyn Szoke, for many years I posted a weekly reflection based on the Sunday’s lectionary readings. All three years are now online, so the website simply sits there for folks to tap into.

So, I thought it might be helpful to link the posts from Holy Week for Year A here for easy access without having to use the website’s search engine. Hope these are helpful for any groups via Facebook Live or Zoom or simply for your own personal Bible study and reflection.

Continue reading Resources for Holy Week (at home) Part 1

Farewell to the Alleluia

Wednesday, February 26, 2020 marks the first day of Lent – Ash Wednesday. For the next forty days (excluding Sundays) the people of God are called to self-denial and discipline, a solemn preparation for Easter. In the Early Church, Lent was a time of preparation for the Easter baptism of converts to the faith. Persons who were to receive the sacrament of baptism – “new birth,” “death to sin” – were expected to fast and prepare during these weeks. Candidates for baptism (catechumens) were led through the stories of the Bible that helped them examine the nature of the life they were about to enter. Through experience of fasting, self-denial, and acknowledgment of their need to repent and turn to God, they began to live out Paul’s vision of offering oneself to God:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Ash Wednesday is a time of confession that carries a spirit of sorrow and contrition over sins that permeates the Lenten season. For this reason, the word alleluia is omitted from all liturgies during Lent and restored again during the celebration of Easter.

If your church or family plans on participating in a Mardi Gras (the Carnival – “Carnem, vale” = farewell to meat) celebration in the tradition of Venice, New Orleans, or Rio de Janeiro or a Shrove Tuesday (shriven from sins) with the eating of pancakes (to remove all the butter, milk, eggs, and fat from the pantry), consider creating an Alleluia Banner and then ceremoniously burying it. This can be done the Sunday before Ash Wednesday also.

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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.

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.

Continue reading All Shall Be Well