Saturday, October 30, 2010

Making Connections: The Bible

I've already written about a great moment in the True Vine Atrium last Sunday.  Things were just clicking in there!  Another surprising moment for me came when one of the boys was looking at the book we have placed on the lectern.

"Hey, this is only the New Testament." he said.

"That's true," I replied.  We talked about how the real lectionary has readings from the Old Testament as well as the New Testament in it, and that we always hear both in Church.

As he flipped through the book he noticed Hebrews.  "Hebrews -- That must be one of the letters!" he said.  He put the book down and walked over to the nearby Bible Box (which is a material with wooden "books" inside for every book of the Bible).  He quickly pulled out the book for Paul's letters, ran his finger down the list, and said with joy, "Yep-here it is!  It's a letter!"

Lately the Bible Box has been a great point of reference for the children. This is the second time in two weeks that a child has spontaneously gone to the Bible Box to understand something about the Bible!  I think that is really exciting!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Making Connections: Baptism

Last Sunday was one of those great days in the True Vine Atrium when the children were making connections. In preparation for a baptism, several of us were sitting together making cards for the baby. When the children want to make baptismal cards we set out all of the card materials for them to contemplate, copy and trace.

One six year old who hasn't yet seen all of the baptism materials was tracing a picture of the priest with his hand extended over the baptismal font.  "What's the priest doing?" she asked.

I looked at her drawing.  "Oh-- we've seen that gesture before, haven't we?" I asked.

An older girl leaned across to see.  "That's the same gesture the priest makes over the bread and wine!"

"And what's the priest asking for at that moment?" I asked.

Several children tried to answer at once.  "He's asking God to make Jesus a part of the bread and wine for us so Jesus will be in us," the older girl answered.

"I wonder what Rev. Peter might be praying when he has his arm extended over the baptismal font?" I said.

An eight year old boy answered. "He's asking God to send Jesus in the water so Jesus will be in the baby. Hey-- The priest is making that gesture on my card too!"  Everyone crowded in to see what the priest was up to now!  "He has his hand out over the baby, the family, and everybody in the Church," the boy told us.

"What do you think is happening here?" I asked.

"He's asking God to send Jesus to be inside all of us!" he said. The children continued to talk happily about the sign of the cross Rev. Peter makes over the congregation as he blesses us each week.

Such beautiful connections!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tour of the Atrium: Liturgy

As the blog unfolds, I would like to help you become familiar with our atria, beginning with the Good Shepherd Atrium for 3-6 year olds.  In this post, I'll show some of the works in the Good Shepherd Atrium that help us to meditate with the children upon the liturgy (the worship) of the Church. I hope to share more information about individual works as the blog posts roll along, but for now I'll just give you a quick look.

Generally speaking, these works help the youngest children to connect with the sights and sounds (and even the smells!) of Church.  The liturgical materials we have gathered allow the children to prayerfully set the altar, mediate with their bodies while making the gestures that they see in worship, and identify the season of the Church year just by taking a quick peek up front! We don't expect young children to be attentive to the entire service. Instead, through our liturgical works, we hope to help them "tune in" to the most essential moments of our worship and to participate more deeply.

Our beautiful model altar, lectern, sacristy cabinet, and 
baptismal font were handmade for us by parishioner Charlie Buss.

At the model altar we learn the names of the objects we see in Church, and lift up some of the key moments of Holy Communion through the gestures that accompany them.  Our altar work focuses on the great gift of receiving Jesus' presence in the bread and wine each week.


Here we discover the joy and significance of baptism.  The children explore the gifts of baptism (water, the light, oil) and the gestures that are a part of the sacrament.


With the liturgical color works we explore the seasons of the Church year. In worship the color of the hangings around the altar and the vestments Rev. Peter wears give us a visual awareness of the season of the Church year.


In truth, everything in the atrium is preparation for prayer.  But the prayer table is a special place where we gather each week to pray as a community. Making silence together at the prayer table is one way that we learn to make our bodies and minds peaceful and ready for worship.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Try This! The Altar

In my last post, I talked about the Altar I presentation the children see, beginning at age three.  Knowing more about the presentations we show the children can help you bring your child's atrium experience into Church! One of my goals for the blog is to highlight things that you can do to support your child's work in the atrium.  I'm going to use the heading "Try This" on posts that have suggestions for parents, so you know just what I am up to!  :-)

You can easily incorporate this altar work into conversations with your children.  When my children were little, I often leaned over during worship to whisper a comment or question in their ear. (Actually I still do - it just sounds a little different with my teenagers!)  Try something like this:
  • "Look, Rev. Peter is lifting up the chalice."
  • "There is the paten.  Can you see the bread on it?"
  • "Can you see the cross?  The cross always reminds me of Jesus."
  • "Aren't the candles beautiful today?"
  • "It's almost time for us to go and have the bread and wine!  That makes me feel so close to Jesus."
With this, the goal is not to test the child's knowledge, but to give you and your child the chance to talk about things already learned. Offer help as you go along. For example, if you mention the chalice Rev. Peter is holding, and your child looks at you blankly, say something like, "Yes, there is the chalice - the special cup that holds the wine."
    My feeling is you don't want to overdo this. Badgering you child with questions and comments will become irritating!  Several well placed comments a service seems about right. But small moments like these help children to make connections between atrium and Church, and will make their worship experience more meaningful!

    Be sure to use the Church Search I flyer (which is available with the children's activities in the back of the Church). It has pictures of the objects on the altar, and invites the children to check them off when they see them during worship.

    What ideas do you have for sharing Altar I with your child?  Try something, then come back and comment to let us know how it went!

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    The Altar

    I've put this photo on the blog before but I have to admit, it's my favorite! That beautiful little girl is my daughter, many years ago!  I love this photo too, because it conveys the sense of peace I often notice children experiencing at the model altar.  The very first altar presentation is given to children at age three, and it is usually the first presentation that they see in the atrium (after practical life).  They love the model altar and return to it again and again.

    The Altar I presentation teaches the children the names of the objects they see at communion and invites them to set the altar themselves.  A catechist lights the candles and sits and enjoys the beauty of the altar with the child, often singing a song or reading from a little book of prayers at the child's request.  When the child is ready, he or she extinguishes the candles and puts all of the altar pieces away in the Sacristy Cabinet (the white cabinet to the right in the picture above.  It is named after the Sacristy - the room where all the altar pieces are kept).  

    If you don't know the names of the altar pieces you are not alone -- keep reading! For the altar presentations, we use child-sized pieces like the ones you see in the photo above.  For the blog, I thought it would be helpful to see the actual items we use in Church.

    We begin the presentation gathered around the model altar.  We talk with the children about their table at home.  What do they do there?  They often tell us about family dinners!
    The Altar is a table where we share a meal with our Church family.  This beautiful table belongs to Jesus.  Just as you decorate your table at home for a special occasion, there are objects that we use at Church to make our meal at the altar special.

    The fair linen is the beautiful white cloth that covers the altar.  

    The paten is the special plate that holds the bread.

    The chalice is the beautiful cup that holds the wine for communion.

    Now the meal is ready.  Who invites us to this table?  It is Jesus.  

    The cross reminds us that Jesus died.

    The candles remind us that Jesus rose again, and that Jesus is the light of the world.
    ~  ~
    Over time, I will share other altar presentations with you, and also tell you about some of the moments in the service that we present to the children for their meditation. 

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    The Lord's Prayer, Part Two!

    I received a great question on Facebook in response to my last post on The Lord's Prayer!   Toni wanted to know what work the children did when they were younger to prepare them for this one. I thought I would respond to her question on the blog for you to hear as well!

    We have many works that are indirect preparation for understanding the Lord's Prayer. For example, starting at age 3 we spend a lot of time meditating on the kingdom parables.  What is the kingdom like? It's like a tiny mustard seed that grows and grows, and is a shelter for the birds.  It's like a precious pearl that the merchant sold everything to have, and so on. So when we look at "your kingdom come" the children already know a lot about the kingdom and they desire it! 

    Also in the 3-6 year old atrium the children have come to know the Good Shepherd parable.  While working on the Lord's Prayer, I can ask "Does anything here remind you of the Good Shepherd?"  The children themselves are able to lift up the love and care of a Father as being like the Good Shepherd, and "daily bread" as being everything the sheep need to live, even the Good Shepherd himself given in the bread and wine. 

    When we talk about sin and forgiveness in the Lord's Prayer, the children can remember their work at Level Two with the True Vine parable.  They understand that sin is something that blocks the sap which runs through the vine to the branches, and that forgiveness opens us up to God again. 

    There are other amazing connections the children make, but you get the picture! Thanks for the great question Toni!

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    The Lord's Prayer

    Today in the True Vine Atrium (for first, second, and third graders) we meditated upon the Lord's Prayer. We used a material that breaks the prayer down line by line, so that the children can manipulate it like a puzzle. Walking through the Lord's Prayer with the children reminded me once again that the works we do in the atrium draw children into the most essential dimensions of the Christian faith.  The children were able to connect with Jesus' prayer in a significant way because of all the works they have encountered before.  It is truly amazing!

    Children spent some time in atrium decorating their own copy of the prayer to take home. If you have a first, second or third grader, take a moment to pray this prayer with him or her during the week! If your child was absent today, you can find the Lord's Prayer as we use it in Church in the Book of Common Prayer on pg. 364 or you can look it up in the Bible (Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4). Help your child to hang the prayer up, and encourage him or her to pray it silently if so moved. Try praying the Lord's Prayer together before you head out in the morning or last thing before your child goes to bed.  It is also a wonderful prayer to offer when you are worried about someone or something, as the children suggested in our conversation today. Enjoy the beauty of the Lord's Prayer yourself this week!