31 May 2011

ascension early

Sunday the 29th was again a day when Junior Church folk and the Big Church folk (big people, who usually worship in the big church) came together for Family Service. This is usually a communion service led by our (Finnish Lutheran) pastor, in a somewhat more child-friendly space than our "big church" is. 

This Sunday, though, I got a phone call about two hours before our service was scheduled to start. The pastor had come down with something, and was too sick to be able to take the service. She asked if I could lead a service and of course I said yes right away. 

It took me less than five minutes, bouncing my ideas against Vandriver, to run through my options and reach a decision. It was a given for me that the service would follow a Godly Play structure. And very quickly I/we decided that the lesson should be the Ascension lesson from Young Children and Worship

Sonja M. Stewart (source)
The relationship between Young Children and Worship and Godly Play is somewhat murky, especially to outsiders. But it would seem that the Ascension lesson was written by Sonja M. Stewart after visiting and working with Jerome W. Berryman (and after reading Sofia Cavalletti)

It's one of my favorite lessons. It is simple, while being both biblical and liturgical. It brings together the story of the Ascension with Berryman's "changing of the light", while also introducing (or reinforcing) the response we often give during the Eucharistic prayer to sum up the Mystery of Faith:

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

by Rartat (public domain)
It's what I had been planning for Junior Church the following Sunday, and I already had all the materials I needed for it. Sunday didn't seem too early for Ascension, since we'll be celebrating it with a public holiday on Thursday. And it felt perfect to present the Ascension in the same space that I had presented the Resurrection a month earlier - the beginning and the end of Eastertide. 

There was a quick phone call to see-through faith, who volunteered to drop everything and help us set up. She texted back almost immediately to add that she had some food she could bring for our coffee time, and to confirm a few other arrangements. She is a real blessing for practicalities! We packed up the car and drove to collect her, the three of us drove to our usual premises to gather some things from there, and then we all began setting up at our Family Service premises.

I want to also thank our organist, who was gracious about arriving only to have me say that we didn't need any of the music that she had prepared. I regret that I didn't even think to ask what songs she had planned to have us sing together. She took a seat in the circle, quietly preparing for a very different service than she had expected - a model of "getting ready". I wish the children could have seen her!

I did adapt Stewart's lesson in small ways. I didn't use a satin underlay, but a small linen table cloth. I showed the Crucifixion/Resurrection card from the Faces of Easter lesson to emphasize the connection with (and continuation of) the Easter story. I deliberately used the word Eastertide as well as "season of Easter". And I followed Berryman's choice of phrasing, the tomb could not hold him, rather than Stewart's God made him alive again. 

(photo by stf, cropped by me)
I felt that it was the grace of God that I was prepared to step in and lead at such short notice. I was near-ready with this lesson already, I had led Godly Play in this space before, I am a relatively confident person when it comes to leading and speaking in public. We only had one child under three this week, and his parents kindly held him close (to his great frustration) while I was working with the candle. See-through faith and Vandriver were so supportive and helpful, and the congregation was flexible about the unexpected change in program. I felt a real sense of joy as we opened the session in song: Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.


  1. It was a wonderful service. thank you.

    I almost regret that it was followed by the church meeting ... (though that was good and necessary)

  2. Kudos for being so spontaneous and taking on a challenge!


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