26 April 2011

(Rowan) on discovering God

Seethroughfaith linked on Facebook to this article from the Telegraph, and I do think it's lovely: A six-year-old girl writes a letter to God. And the Archbishop of Canterbury answers.
photo by Brian (licensed image)
Nobody invented me [ = God ] – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.

I think it sounds very Godly Play! 

[Update: the original article, including scans of the letters, can be read here.]

25 April 2011

Faces of Easter (Easter Day)

For our congregation, the last Sunday of the month is "family service" - a communion service abridged for children, with a sermon aimed especially at them (or sometimes a craft in place of a sermon). The goal is that the whole congregation (not just young families) should attend. This year, Easter fell on the last Sunday of the month, and the pastor asked if I'd like to present the sermon to keep continuity with what we'd been doing in Junior Church. Another congregant then suggested I should organize the whole service as a Godly Play session. And that's what I did.

ready to begin (with the Lenten purple under the Holy Family)

I was really grateful to our pastor for being so flexible about this. Not least for carrying on with aplomb when one child finally decided he was ready to examine the Holy Family figures... in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer! Given that I'd placed all our focal shelf materials on the altar, you can see how some priests might have found this unnerving.

at the end of the service (Easter white)

For Finnish Lutherans, just as important as the liturgical color is the number of candles to be placed on the altar. Easter is a six-candle festival, so I needed to negotiate with the vaktmästare [caretaker] to make sure that those candles looked clearly different from the Christ Candle. I think the result was clear: six candles for Easter plus the Christ Candle for Godly Play.

thank you, Pastor, for this photo

Some things didn't work so well. Seethroughfaith warned me near the beginning that I needed to speak up, but as soon as I began to tell the story I forgot. (After all, my focus was on the materials, not on my audience!) Some of the time I was "competing" with a baby who was at that squeal-y stage of exploring its voice, as well as two tots who just could not stay still and quiet. Perhaps I should have asked if I could have a lapel microphone.

And I regret not cutting the summary of the earlier plaques right down to First we heard about how Jesus was born, and a story from when he was a boy, and then about when he was baptized... Since there were a number of children there completely new to this lesson, I gave slightly longer summaries, and walked around the circle showing everyone the plaques (mine are only 4x6 inches / 10x15 cm). But with Vandriver interpreting into Finnish for me, this meant that this already rather long story became twice as long. Too long.

Yet even those whose focus had been lost were startled back to attention when I suddenly cried out that the story shouldn't stay in a line and re-arranged it, and there was good response at the wondering. Then I handed out Easter cards, blank on the inside, and asked everyone to decide what it was important for them to do - draw a picture inside, write a poem, make it a card for someone else or a card for themselves... And folks of all ages really seemed to enjoy that.

thanks, seethroughfaith, for the Response Time photos

21 April 2011

the apron of humility

Put on the apron of humility
Serve your brother: wash his feet
That he may walk in the way of the Lord
("Footwashing Song" by The Keyhole)

The sermon at our Maundy Thursday service this evening was about finding new meanings in familiar traditions, adapting old rites to new situations (as Jesus did with the Passover meal at the Last Supper). The priest urged us to approach this evening's familiar events (ceremonial foot-washing, communion and vigil) with a willingness to do so in new ways, open to new insights.

I was surprised but pleased to find myself spending the time after communion entertaining the one member of the congregation who was under the age of 30 (she happened to be sitting in the same row as me). I showed her how to sit on a kneeler while we sang the final hymn. She showed me her picture book while the priest read us Psalm 22. I whispered the names of things she pointed to (I hope that only she could hear me) while the priest read the story of the disciples falling asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I'm sure that this was not the sort of thing that this priest had envisaged when he wrote his sermon! But it was a confirmation to me that my calling at church, at least for this season, is to interact with children.

18 April 2011

telling children about the crucifixion

Leslie, at Thoughts from the Sheepfold, recently reposted a very helpful article by Dr. Elizabeth L. Windsor about children and the events of Holy Week. I highly recommend clicking either of those links to read the whole post, but I've summarized her points here.

  • Don't diminish the Easter story by skipping the crucifixion. It's better to acknowledge that bad things happen and that God is more powerful than evil. 
  • Don't dwell on the gore, but do acknowledge the pain. Try to avoid letting sensitive or visually-oriented children see disturbing images, but answer their questions briefly and honestly. Yes, crucifixion hurt. No, Jesus didn't die alone. His mother and his best friend were there with him (John 19:26). 
  • Do always follow references to the crucifixion with the joy of the resurrection. One way that Godly Play does this is quoted in my blog header: He died on the cross. That is very sad, but it is also wonderful, in an Easter kind of way. Now... he is everywhere, and in every time.
Johann Melchior Gutwein 1726 (public domain image)

17 April 2011

Palm Sunday 2011

Today we were back in our old venue, just for a day. We pushed back the cafe tables, something I'd never really had the guts to do before, and I brought a blanket so we could sit on the floor. (Fortunately it has warmed up a lot recently, and the floor was not too cold.) We had a fairly minimalist set-up: the focal shelf plus one story: "Jesus the King" from Young Children and Worship.

I also had a more compact art supply center than usual: paper, clay (plus tools), colored pencils, and crayons:

But in other ways today was far from minimalist. The service began outside with adults and children together for the Liturgy of the Palms and a procession - led by our 13-year-old member carrying the processional cross! 

Moreover, for the first time ever we tried Junior Church bilingually today. Two pastors (both of whom had studied translation as well as theology) helped me translate the YCW story from English to Finnish. I told the English story by heart, and after every paragraph or so I read the corresponding Finnish text from paper. One Mom came to interpret some of my introductory explanations about how Junior Church and our classroom work, and seethroughfaith interpreted a lot of my other instructions, as well as looking after the younger of the two non-English speaking children when she began to need more help figuring out what to do next during the Response Time. Thank you to everyone who helped to make today work out as well as it did!  

He laittoivat vaatteitaan ja palmunoksia tielle, 
jotta Jeesuksen olisi hyvä kulkea, ja huusivat: 

”Hoosianna korkeuksissa!
Siunattu olkoon hän, joka tulee Herran nimessä!”

"Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

lost and found

Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost! 
(Luke 15:6)

(It was hiding in a cannister of colored pencils)

photo by seethroughfaith

16 April 2011

singing Amen

The "Amen" song went better this past Sunday than it had the previous week. Instead of asking the others sing Amen-Amen-Amen under the verses (after we had begun with 2-3 choruses), I sang the verses alone. We finished with one more chorus just the Amens.

One girl asked if we could sing it again, so we sang the chorus again. Then she asked for the other part. I said, What, all six verses? Won't that be too much? She said, No. Another child said Yes. I suggested a compromise, and repeated the two verses about that day's stories.

My verses are also a compromise. Whether the song was a traditional spiritual, recorded and arranged by Jester Hairston, or an original composition by him, it has been treated as a folk song and various versions of its verses exist. I've picked and chosen from amongst these, and also penned a few of my own to fit the GP story plaques. But at the same time I'm pleased to keep certain details in the verses which are not found in the GP script.

See the little baby ~ Lyin' in a manger ~ On Christmas morning...
Led before Pilate ~ Then they crucified him ~ But he rose on Easter!

Here's a clip from Lilies of the Field, where Hairston's voice was dubbed in for Poitier's. As sometimes happens in our classroom, there's a little to-and-fro about the "correct" way to pronounce the word Amen:

15 April 2011

all the time we need

Godly Play is one of those activities which encourages you to step out of clock time, from chronos to kairos. The goal is to be able to say, We have all the time we need (and mean it!).

Last year, Junior Church felt awkward and rushed. We left the adult service at the gradual hymn and rejoined them at or after the Agnus Dei. We could never predict how long the sermon and intercessions would last, so either guessed what time to return (sometimes bumbling in long before the AD, sometimes arriving to find the organist patiently playing twiddly music and all the adults waiting for us) or, worse, we would be summoned by someone bursting into our room calling, We're starting communion! Little time to put crayons away properly, certainly not time for prayer or a blessing. It was chaotic.

Now, though, we have all the time we need. If we are running a bit behind, the priest waits for us, and the parents are not impatient because they are enjoying coffee and fellowship. If the priest is running late, well, we can usually find something to do to fill the extra time.

a public domain image!

Last week, a child accidentally went off the paper with a crayon. Unfortunately, this child was pressing hard for a wonderfully brilliant and bold color, which ended up where it should not have. I breezily said, No problem. You know where the cleaning supplies are! (That was before I had looked at the stain.) Then I walked over to give moral support and my heart sank. I truly didn't think we would get that stain up. But I knelt down and explained what elbow grease is, and after a bit we began to share the work. I sprayed and the child scrubbed, and we made progress little by little. We swapped roles for a while, and then swapped back. I don't know how long we worked. When Vandriver arrived we hadn't even started the feast... but you could no longer see where the stain had been unless you knew - and once we stood up I lost it altogether.

We then calmly had our feast, a short prayer time, a blessing and our dismissal song.

The child's sense of accomplishment can only rival mine! The stain was not a disaster, children can clean up after themselves, and we had all the time we needed.

14 April 2011


One very important aspect of Montessori education and activities is the idea that when children do a task they do it from beginning to end. A child chooses an activity, collects the materials, does it, cleans up any spills or mess, and then returns the materials to their place. It is also possible for a child just to clean for the sake of cleaning, whether because something is dirty or to practice their scrubbing skills or play with water or enjoy the clean scent ...

Part of my dilemma is to figure out how to make this work within the confines of our situation. We do not have a sink in our room, and we have to set up and take down everything we use every time we meet. 

I have not been willing to introduce painting in Junior Church. I’m not yet up for collecting a bunch of smocks and the wherewithall to clean paint brushes, let alone the materials for cleaning spills and mistakes. And I do not have any polish in my room. Godly Play books encourage the idea of metal polishing as an activity, even going so far as to recommend the use of some “cheap” metal objects which will tarnish easily and need regular cleaning. But so far I've been unable to find any metal polish which isn't labelled Keep out of the reach of children.

When we started in February we had just a bottle of all-purpose spray cleaner and a roll of paper towels (kitchen roll), along with the waste basket and broom/dust-pan which were already in the room. The spray cleaner I bought, Helea, has several advantages and a couple of disadvantages:

  • environmentally friendly
  • locally produced (in Finland)
  • kind to the skin
  • smells nice (orange & rosemary)

  • an adult-sized bottle
  • limited control of error

See - I’m learning Montessori lingo! As I understand it, control of error means that a person should be able to tell whether or not they’ve done something right, without a teacher telling them. The problem with our cleaner is that it’s not colored at all, and sprays a wonderfully fine spray – which means that it’s very hard to see on a table or the floor once you’ve sprayed it. (And our children are still learning how to aim a spray bottle and squirt it.) I was a little tempted to switch to Tolu, which foams as it sprays so is easier to see. But that spray mechanism is significantly larger even than the one on our Helea bottle.

I’ve solved the bottle weight problem by getting a smaller, recycled spray bottle from a mother (thank you!), and pouring half the cleaner into that. So now we have two bottles, both of which are lighter. There's so much more to tell, but this post is getting pretty long already. Possible future topics include the lessons I've given about spray cleaning, the other things I've added to our cleaning basket, the problems which remain, and the cleaning victory that one child and I had this week. But for now I'll just sign off for now with a photo:

13 April 2011

new tab

I've added a new tab about my materials. I am a little embarrassed to do this because I am not a crafter, and my "advice" runs along the lines of I merely used regular white glue for this. But today (so say my "stats"), somebody came looking for "how to make", and I wonder how many of the others searching for "godly play faces of easter" are after the same kind of information.

At least this will serve as a place to collect and organize links to my various blog posts, plus links to others' helpful blog posts on these topics. For now this is, as they say, very much a work in progress!

flea market place-mats for the focal shelf

model behavior

such discipline could never be obtained by commands, by sermonizings... Discipline is reached always by indirect means.
(Maria Montessori)

I am trying to remember some Montessori principles: to model the behavior I would like to see our children using, to notice and comment on good behavior, and to correct not by focusing on the bad behavior but by reminding children what I do expect. I have a long way to go!

I often forget and say, Don't run! rather than Remember - in this classroom we walk more slowly than usual. I frequently stand up from a sitting position while holding the basket of materials in one hand. I am still struggling very much with the goal of noticing rather than praising (aka: descriptive praise).

(public domain image)

Last Sunday, though, I remembered at least two or three times to stand up empty-handed, reach down and take hold of the materials with two hands, and then carefully carry them across to their place. I didn't talk about what I was doing, but just did it.

I have for two weeks now carefully (slightly exaggeratedly, but without many words) used the Faces of Easter control card when putting away the materials after the lesson. I've noticed that the children do really watch when I do this. Last Sunday one child said aloud, as I stacked the next-to-last plaque, That last one goes on the top

Two children helped me place mats in our circle before class and (without my saying anything- hooray!) rolled up the mats to carry them. I said, Oh I'm glad to see that you've rolled up the mat, and continued as they fetched the others, saying things like, It's much easier to carry that way. I see that you've rolled that up very neatly. 

Where I and the children are both falling down a bit is at the end of class, when we're all a bit tired, and we should be waiting respectfully to receive communion or blessings. The young children tend to get silly, and I let myself get irritated. But last week Vandriver came to our class. (Our pastor was ill, and so Vandriver led Anglican Evensong instead of the adult's usual Communion service. He then came to our class to say the blessing, just as normally the pastor comes with communion.) Afterwards, when I fretted privately about the silliness, he reminded me that this was not really bad behavior. They stayed in their places, they weren't loud, etc. So it's good to be reminded to keep things in proportion. And to focus on the progress that I'm making, which I think has led to good progress for the children.

Lumijoki chalice photographed by Estormiz (public domain image)
some related links and sources:

12 April 2011

simplicity and relationship

Maybe children don’t need the bells and whistles to make a connection to God’s truths. They need simplicity and relationship.
by Emily A. Mullens

Advent in Lent

This week a child chose to work with story materials during our response time. This is a rare event, and one that makes me inordinately pleased.

I managed to keep out of the way, except for trying to help two other children ask if they could watch and/or join in, and suggesting that it would be best to lift out (with two hands) the top basket of candles and set them aside, for easier access to the plaques stored underneath.

(Misleading photo - the Christ candle is not kept with the Advent materials)

The two gawkers were unwilling to ask for permission to watch, so I shooed them back to the art materials they had originally chosen to work with. Which also helped to get me out of there. I felt it was extra-important for me to stay out of the way since (with seethroughfaith still traveling) the second adult in the classroom was someone who does not know these materials and was curious about them. She started asking questions and I was very proud of what I overheard: 

The child managed to answer the questions, sometimes with correct answers, sometimes with I forget or I don't know. A few questions which didn't get answered at first, What's that black squiggle on the second plaque? What does the pink candle represent? did get answered eventually, perhaps as working with the materials triggered memories. But frankly, I was almost as proud of the I don't knows and I forgets. Those can be hard things to say. And it can be hard to work with materials when someone is watching every move you make, so I was pleased that he carried on. I was glad to hear that many of the adult's questions were "True Questions" (ones she didn't already know the answer to). This meant that the child was the expert, and hopefully had a sense of enjoyment in demonstrating the materials to the newcomer.

If I'd stayed nearby, I would have been tempted to remind him that the Advent materials are presented from left to right, not vertically as the Lent materials are. But in fact, I made the same "mistake" myself the first time I ever saw the Advent materials, which was (just like for him) immediately after seeing a presentation of the Faces of Easter. I laid out those Advent cards to have a record of what they looked like - and the result was the photo on the right.

11 April 2011

missing child

This is a story passed on to me by one of our mothers. The story which has made a real impact on her child was the story of the boy Jesus in the Temple (Faces of Easter II):

Mummy! Mummy! When Jesus was a boy, he went missing! 

William Brassey Hole (public domain image)

I want to be careful not to present this just as cuteness. It strikes me that the child is recognizing the humanity of Jesus - realizing that he really did share in the kinds of experiences that we are familiar with, even as children.

10 April 2011

Faces of Easter (Lent 5)

Today we had the plaque about Jesus' work as a teacher and friend/healer, and the plaque about the Last Supper. I did what I had proposed after last time, and invited members of the circle to bring things twice, once after each story. We are supposed to say that you don't have to bring anything, and I do. But the honest truth is that while I mean it when I say that that's ok, I'm even more pleased when they do bring something. I love the participation of it, and the unexpectedness of seeing what they will choose.

Today for the first time, everyone brought something! Some people declined in one round or the other, but in the end everyone had brought up at least one thing to help to tell more of this story. Here is what we made together:

Clockwise from top right, we have the image of the Risen Christ, our holding (prayer) cross, the Advent materials, the Palm Sunday materials ("Jesus the King"), the control card for the story of the Presentation in the Temple (Candlemas), and a parable box. (In the very top right of the picture is the control card for putting away the Faces of Easter materials.)

Telling these two stories together made it easy to change where one ended and the next began. The first of today's stories, by the script, is very short, and the second is very long. Instead of sticking to that, I extended the first plaque's story right up through Jesus teaching in the temple on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week (on the grounds that it tied in thematically with his work as a teller of parables). And then the second plaque was devoted to the events of Maundy Thursday. I left out altogether the tale of the widow's mite, since I needed to keep things a bit shorter for my young audience (something which Berryman himself recommends).

This hints at a very long post which I keep intending to write about how true to the text Godly Play stories are supposed to be. Already in my head it's growing into a whole series of posts. I'm daunted both by how much I want to say, and how adamant some people seem to get about it. I guess we can consider this a preface, or maybe a taster.

09 April 2011

glue and baptism

(that's Joseph's head next to his left foot)

This weekend I got out the glue and repaired Joseph's head, and the donkey's as well (turns out the piece that I had assumed had come from the manger was actually the donkey's right ear).

(no dividing strips)
While I was at it, I finally glued dividing strips onto the underlay for the Faces of Easter, and glued the white section onto the end of it. I was down to the wire getting it ready for the first Sunday we used it, and realized that those were among the lowest priorities - what I needed for that first week was just a purple underlay and for the plaques to be ready.

In fact, even then, the plaques had had coats of decoupage but no sealer yet (so they were a little "tacky"), and the final plaque needed re-doing. Now I think all those materials are done.

This afternoon, Vandriver and I attended a baptism service, and some of the children from Junior Church were there as well. I asked the priest to try to make sure that all the children could see, which he did by making sure that the family and godparents were not between the congregation and the font. It was our congregation's first baptism since the baptism lesson I presented in February. I was so excited! And yes, it was very like what I'd presented to the children (which I'd tried to adapt, as recommended in the script, to our typical practice). Afterwards I confirmed with one of the children - Did you see the priest make the sign of the cross over the baby? Did you see the water go on his head? Did you see the baptism candle? I hope I didn't over-do it, but I really was excited. (I'm glad to report that the answer was yes.) I probably spent as much time furtively glancing at the children present in the congregation as I did watching the baptismal candidate and his family!

You may be wondering what the differences are between a Lutheran baptism in Finland and the one described in the Berryman lesson. Well, our Lutheran priests make the sign of the cross over the candidate's forehead and chest before the baptism rather than after, and no oil is used at all.

"E--, remember the day of your baptism"
(my doll)

07 April 2011

Mothering Sunday in Helsinki

Last Sunday was Mothering Sunday in the Anglican tradition. We have one English mother in our congregation who reminded me of this several times as the date approached. So I introduced our response time by saying that some children might like to work with the story materials, some might like to work with clay (plasticine), and that some might like to make a mother's day card. Fortunately for all concerned, the child in question did choose to make a mother's day card! (It was joyous and colorful, full of flowers and trees and hearts.)

Just as joyous and beautiful were the photos of last Sunday's Anglican service in Helsinki! These are from the chaplaincy with which my own congregation is affiliated. I got such a kick out of them that I had to share them, even though I wasn't involved in any way, or even present there.

The chaplain wrote, I'm told it's called 'messy church'

One of our best Sundays in a long time! We were delighted that 12 children came to a service that underlined that liturgy and the needs of children are not incompatible. Usually, there is a children's corner at the back of the church. Today, we moved that corner to the sanctuary, and while the regular Sung Eucharist went ahead as usual, Tuomas - with the help of some of the parents - did some painting with the children. 

The congregation was thus encouraged to see the children as in every sense belonging in the midst of the liturgy; and the children - who instinctively seem to know it anyway - greatly enjoyed their chance to teach the adults something. 

Do click on that photo of the Eucharistic prayer, and see how many children you can spot!

05 April 2011

on a different topic... (3)

(A little background can be found in this post and this one.)

more faces of Faces of Easter

I've just read a really nice post by Sheila, over at her Explore and Express blog, about presenting the Faces of Easter material to an after-school club in Germany with a dozen children from grades 1-3. There are loads of pictures, and a lovely description of some of the things her children chose to bring to help to tell more of the story. It was especially nice to read the reasons that some children gave for the items they had brought.

Explore and Express: Easter Club Week 3/Oster AG Woche 3: This week the children heard a Godly Play story called “The Faces of Easter” that recounts important events in the life of Jesus ...

As I've posted in a comment there, I'm comfortable about not asking my children to explain what they've done. I think some of them are so young that it could be difficult to articulate their associations and feelings, and so I'm happy to keep things on an unspoken level right now. But perhaps during the feast I will more explicitly begin to offer space for sharing work or words if anyone wants to.

[You might also be interested in posts about my own use of the Faces of Easter.]

04 April 2011

Faces of Easter (Lent 4)

Lots of folks visiting the blog lately have come via Google searches for "Faces of Easter". So I thought I'd write a longer post about our use of these materials this week. We had the next two stories from the Faces of Easter material yesterday - Jesus' baptism and the Temptation in the wilderness. It's a bit of a pity that our schedule has worked out so that we have two stories each week. It's been a lot for our youngest children (ages 3-5) to take in.

In the book, Berryman says that these lessons were designed for older children, but that they have been used with children as young as two years old (vol. 4, p. 53). Still, I think the fact that they were written for older children really shows. There is little action, apart from showing the picture to everyone. In the baptism story there is a small gesture to show Jesus going down into the water and coming up again, and I was supposed to draw an outline of a dove with my finger (but I was really unsure how to do so, especially in a way that would really make it clear to my listeners what I was doing). * Update: I've now realized that there is a dove in some versions of that picture.

(American materials for these lessons)
There is not a single gesture in the temptation story script... but I added one. Each time Jesus says, No, I held up my hand in a "stop" gesture (mirroring what is already on the picture). The comment in the book is that the very different kind of "wondering" done with these stories - inviting children to make connections by bringing other materials to set beside the Faces of Easter - is especially important because it provides movement and action to these stories.

Berryman does say that for very young children, the stories might be shortened (and that summaries of earlier stories should definitely be kept short). (On the other hand he also acknowledges that sometimes, as with our situation, it may be necessary to tell two or even three stories on a single Sunday.) Some are easier to abridge than others. I had left a few phrases and sentences out of the story of the boy Jesus in the temple last time, but I didn't really feel there was anything I could leave out of this week's temptation story. In discussing it with Vandriver, I've decided that next week I might try inviting the children to bring items to the circle twice, once after each story. It'll give them a chance to stretch and move in between the two narratives. And next time's stories are less connected to one another than the pairs we've had so far.

This week three children chose not to bring anything to the circle. One was a new visitor and had no idea what materials were available in the room. One wanted to bring something, but couldn't decide what - I think in part she was disoriented by the fact that we were in an unfamiliar room (and that our "shelves" were tables a bit too high for her height). But our visiting adult, also completely new to Godly Play, made a lovely connection with our baptism materials. Then I asked the children if it would be okay if I brought something (Yes!)... and I opened up the parable box and brought out one of the dangerous places from Psalm 23 to put beside the temptation picture.

To see the picture of what we created for the first two stories in this lesson, jump to this post
To read a little more about my materials, read this.

03 April 2011

change of venue

I had it written in my diary, I'd been reminded, and I'd reminded myself. Nonetheless I managed to completely forget, until Vandriver drove me up to the door of our building, that we had to use a different room for junior church today.

(I've obscured the faces a little)

I was really flustered by the change, by having forgotten, by feeling that the first thing I needed to do was construct big signs directing people from the entrance we usually use to another (unfamiliar) one, by needing to think very very quickly about how to adapt a completely new room to our needs. I was even more embarrassed because seethroughfaith was not with us today, and I was rushing around in front of a new helper who'd never worked with me before. When I went to set up the sheepfold on the focal shelf I realized that one sheep was missing. I don't know where it is, even now. I told the children we'd be reminded of the story, how the Good Shepherd will realize one is missing and have to go off looking for it. But worse, I don't know quite what I did wrong, but somehow as I opened one small box, everything in it spilled out and fell to the floor, including the Holy Family. A chip broke away from the Christ Child, and the father Joseph's head came clean off!

focal shelf with damage and loss

So those were the major low points. There was also a distinct lack of confidence in singing our new "Amen" song (seethroughfaith is often disparaging about her singing abilities, but today we really felt how much she had supported us last time!), and a fidgety-ness after our feast that grew to the point where I gave up on having a prayer time and instead we all played a few rounds of "pass the slipper". I'm sure there's a proper party game called "Pass the Slipper", but this was just a silliness borne of the fact that two children slipped their slippers off and started goofing around a little, and so I grabbed one and started handing it round our circle. We all began to giggle and sent the slippers around and around. Not exactly a sanitary activity for those of us about to receive communion! Our poor pastor - she had made a real effort to arrive in good time only to find that I greeted her with such relief that she thought I was complaining about her tardiness. No. She was in good time. It was just a rough week for us.

But there were a bunch of good moments, too. Perhaps the most unexpected was at the very end, just as we were preparing for communion and blessings. I lit the Christ candle, repeating the words I always use (from the baptism lesson): Once there was someone who said such wonderful things... and He said, 'I am the Light'. The five-year-old girl leaned in and said to me earnestly, My mummy has a necklace, 'The Light of the World'

William Holman Hunt (1854)
I meant to ask her mother about it afterwards - is it a reproduction of this painting, perhaps? But I forgot to ask and so I still do not know. Yet it was an encouragement to hear that connection, especially after all the silliness with slippers!

01 April 2011

The Grace

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ 
(Hold out your hands as if expecting a present)
And the love of God 
(Put your hands on your heart)
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit 
(Hold hands)
Be with us all now and for ever. Amen!  
(Raise hands together on the word ‘Amen’)

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (ca. 1660)

I found this in the sample chapter of the Messy Church book by Lucy Moore. I think it's a cross-over item which could be used in both MC and GP!

[On the topic of "The Grace": When I lived in the UK I found that in some church circles, this was as familiar as the Lord's Prayer. Informal church gatherings would often end with someone suggesting, Let's say The Grace. It comes from 2 Cor 13:14... and it was perhaps John Wesley who popularized it as liturgy.]