Today (Thursday, May 2), we celebrate the National Day of Prayer. Of course, every day should be a day of prayer, but how does this become a “national” day in a country that claims a separation of church and state?
The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. In 1988, the law was unanimously amended by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Thursday, May 5, 1988, designating the first Thursday of May as a day of national prayer. Every president since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.
There are a number of organizations and individuals who feel the day has been politicized by many to promote an agenda as well as a particular religious viewpoint. This is easy to see, with its founders having ties to Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Focus on the Family. One such organization, the Freedom from Religion Foundation offers their opinion and history of this day here. However, it would behoove all Christians (and perhaps all faith communities) to follow the Episcopal Peace Fellowship‘s call for Christians everywhere to be known by our love (the 2019 National Day of Prayer theme) and to be instruments of peace in a violent society. They write in their latest e-news:
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.
Liturgy is formation. We learn how to pray by praying. We learn Bible stories by hearing and reading them. We learn about community by worshiping together. We learn the traditions of the Church by being present as they are celebrated. We learn the rhythms of the Christian year by watching the “colors” change with the liturgical seasons and the prayers that set the tone of the season.
Soon we will begin a new (secular) year. We already began a new (sacred) year several weeks ago on the First Sunday of Advent. How do we help all ages live into sacred time instead of the secular patterns that we follow (and is forced upon us) in the culture in which we live?
We practice. We remember. We slow down. And perhaps we focus on what we do on Sundays when we are gathered for worship and education – forming ourselves into Christians who are of this world but strive for more.
Every week (toward the beginning) I look ahead to what the coming Sunday will bring. What lessons will I be hearing in church? What is the season and its themes? Are there ways to make them relevant to children, youth, and adults – each in an age appropriate way? Hopefully during preaching and the “education hour” there is time to put things in context. Hopefully there is a reason the lesson or story you are sharing in Church School is connected to the season or the Gospel. You don’t need to be using a lectionary-based curriculum (although that helps), but the biblical stories we share need to make a connection to where we are in God’s world (and “time”) today. And that takes planning. Continue reading A Christian Educator’s Guide to Liturgical Planning→
To be an Episcopalian is one way of being a Christian. And being an Episcopalian is rooted in an identity and heritage based in the Book of Common Prayer. It is a “manual” for Episcopal worship, and if one visits any Episcopal church for worship, one could expect to participate in a liturgy found in that red book in the pew –– whether it is a Eucharist, Morning Prayer, baptism, or funeral. Many still call this book the “new” prayer book, but it has been around since 1979 (and even earlier in a variety of trial texts).
The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is very clear with regards to the purpose of education and formation. In fact, it’s purpose is directly prayed for every Sunday during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It is found in all of the post-communion prayers, as well as the catechism section on ministry. It is found in the promises we make every time our worship includes a baptism. We pray, as we believe, the each baptized member –– no matter what age or stage –– it called to engage in an active ministry and mission, to be “sent out to do the work God has given us to do.” That calling is the purpose of education and formation. Continue reading Liturgy as Formation→
This past Saturday I gave a workshop at the annual Spring Training event for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. My presentation involved sharing ideas of how we can make worship more formational for children as well as how we can help parents make faith conversations and practices part of every day life at home. It occurred to me as I was putting some materials together for a “show & tell” that my process (and examples) make a great example of how to do both.
Basically, I gathered up all the supplies that I would put together in a “quiet bag” that I might bring to church with me if I had a preschooler or 8-year-old sitting alongside me in the pew for an entire worship service. What if we made such bags available to children to pick up before they entered our worship spaces? What if some of these objects were put into a “home box” and given to families for their use in at home or in the car? Continue reading A Child’s “Worship Bag”→