31 March 2013

Easter Wondering

I'm "preaching" at both of my English churches this morning. What I have planned is not really a sermon but more of a discussion-starter. With the help of Vanderbilt's Art in the Christian Tradition database and Wikimedia Commons I created a slide-show to go with our Gospel reading. I have an illustration for each sentence - much like a children's picture book.

I will introduce this by talking very briefly about celebrations, that an important part of most celebratory gatherings is the talking. We reminisce about the old days; we share our feelings. And so I want us to celebrate Easter together by listening to one of the stories of Easter and then sharing our responses to it. I'll read the Gospel, showing the slides, and then I'll ask Jerome W. Berryman's Wondering Questions for Sacred Stories.

We'll see how it goes. One service is an all-age service in a large church. I've already drafted one teenager to be a microphone runner for the back of the church, carrying the mike to anyone who raises their hand. I will do the same at the front. The other church is smaller but the congregation is deaf-er, so microphones will be important there too.

I intend the pictures to slow down the reading so that we notice some details afresh, but also to prepare us for hearing different perspectives on the story, and moreover to jog memories as I ask the Wondering questions. During our discussion I'll be showing summary slides of the pictures we've seen.

Like this:

As Berryman's Faces of Easter script tells us, you can't see the resurrection without knowing that the crucifixion is behind it. So rather than starting where the lectionary says to start, I'll include seven verses from the paragraphs preceding it. Like that snippet on television shows: Previously in "The Gospel"... These are my illustrations for those verses.

25 March 2013

"Who are you and why do you request entry?"

BBC photo
I was so pleased to see that the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was greeted at the door of Canterbury Cathedral by a young woman, Evangeline Kanagasooriam, rather than the Dean or some other elder churchman, at the start of his inauguration service last week. I wouldn't want to call a 17-year-old a child, but it was certainly newsworthy to have such a young person given such an important role, which included asking the new Archbishop several challenging (scripted) questions.

(I have not found any copyright-free photo 
of this, so have included only a thumbnail. 
Another beautiful photo can be seen here.)

20 March 2013

church in England

Dear five-year-old,

Several weeks ago you asked your parent to ask me, "What is church in England like?" I have been thinking a lot about your question. I go to two churches here. My supervisor (for me to learn about being a priest) is the priest of both of them.

The first thing to say is that The Holy Eucharist is the same in England and Finland. We start with the Liturgy of the Word - there are hymns, prayers, readings from the Bible, and a sermon - and then we have the Liturgy of the Sacrament - the priest tells us the story of Jesus' supper with his friends and his words, "This is my body" and "This is my blood". Your parent would know many of our hymns; some you might even recognize from our church.

Something different is they only have that communion service every other week; in between they have Morning Prayer. That's kind of like the Evensong services we used to have in the big church, or kind of like the Liturgy of the Word but without any communion afterwards. I don't mind not having communion every week, but I really miss The Peace, which isn't part of Morning Prayer.

One of my churches here has a pretty small building, which is sort of modern and boring. There are not a lot of people - usually around twenty I guess, if you count the priest and organist and people like that. Most of them are old. They almost all have grey or white hair. One lady is 100 years old! All of them except me are English. They would like to have younger people come to church and I think if they did come they might stay because these people are so friendly and nice.

My other church meets in a big, old building (not as big as the big church). You can tell it used to be beautiful but now it looks kind of worn out and it's really cold inside. They are worried about how much money it takes to keep it safe (like to fix the roof), let alone for new paint or better heaters. Right next door there is a big house (which is also really cold) and that is where the priest lives. This congregation is bigger than the other one but because the building is so big, it always feels pretty empty.

There are children at this church - one or two babies, several small boys and girls, and three or four teenage girls. At the other church everyone is "white", but at this church there are white people and black people. There's even a young family from Korea. It's hard to get to know the people who aren't white because they never stay to church coffee. I tried to invite one woman one time but she said she has to go to work after church.

They have Junior Church (but not Godly Play). I stay in grownup church and sometimes I help lead it, or even preach. At the end of church the children tell us what they learned about, and one reads a prayer they wrote. The priest always wants the grownups to tell them something about our service, but most of the grownups are too embarrassed. Last week I did it!

GP materials from St. Michael's Workshop

I like church here, but I miss Godly Play and I really miss you and your family!

love, Storyteller

p.s. I should have said that there ARE churches in England who use Godly Play! In fact, I learned how to do Godly Play here in England. But the churches I go to don't happen to use it.