A workshop I was to present in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia in early March 2020 was moved to an online webinar using Zoom, of which we are all now so familiar with. Here is a diocese that has been very nimble in taking what would have been their day-long, in-person annual event for Christian formation practitioners called Better Together. They are now calling this “shelter-at-home continuing education,” in which I gave my keynote as a Zoom webinar-styled presentation in the first installment, called Faith Formation in a Changing Church.
I recently offered my two workshops, Children’s Presence in Worship: Full Participation or Brief Appearance and Texting God: The Spirituality of Youth via Zoom meeting for more interaction. Valerie Reinke, Canon Missioner for Faith Formation: 35 & Under and her team recorded them and are making them available for others to view.
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!
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.
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.
“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
This article first appeared in “Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation” magazine which is published annually by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. The full magazine (chock-full of great ideas) is available for purchase on their website.
Today’s culture can be toxic for children and other living things. If we build our values on the “put-downs” and sound bites of social media and incidences of daily violence that permeate the news, we might lose hope in what the future could hold for our children. How do we nurture a generous spirit in children when it would seem the world is about self-aggrandizement, winning, and having the most toys?
While we may think children are born as empty vessels waiting for family, teachers, and (yes) the church to fill them with love, knowledge, dreams, values, and a purpose, we know that they are already born with a capacity to know God and experience love. As caretakers of our children, it is our responsibility to nurture that which already exists, by providing an environment where their desire to be loved and part of a community is openly welcomed, acting as role models in what it means to be a generous, loving person made in the image of God.
We are born for sympathy and compassion. In a University of Oregon study, economist Bill Harbaugh and psychologist Ulrich Mayr found that charitable generosity activated the reward center of the brain, indicating that our brains are naturally made for kindness. Furthering this research are studies on compassionate meditation such as the one conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which illustrated that through the repeated practice of mindful generosity, we can increase empathetic responses to others.
If a child is securely attached to non-religious parents there is a greater likelihood that child will not be religious as an adult. If a child is insecurely attached to religious parents there is a greater likelihood that child will not be religious as an adult there is also a fair number in this group who fall into the “spiritual but not religious category. Mostly because their attachment issues make them suspicious of what researchers call, “social religion” [i.e., organized religion].
BUT…If child is insecurely attached to non-religious parents there is a greater likelihood that child will grow up to be “spiritual but not religious.” for the same reasons as above.Finally, children who are securely attached to highly religious parents are the most religiously attached of all groups as adults.