Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Last Supper

Last Sunday, children in the Good Shepherd and True Vine Atria saw the Cenacle (or Last Supper) Presentation. The Cenacle is a Latin name for the Upper Room, where the Last Supper took place. This is one of my favorite works in the atrium and one that the children return to again and again. With this work, we read a scriptural account of Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples (which is actually a compilation of several accounts), pausing to move the figures accordingly.

The highlight of the reading is this moment when Jesus is gathered around the table celebrating the Passover with his friends. We hear anew the words he said over the bread and wine--words that hadn't been said before. "Take, this is my body." and "This is my blood which is poured out for many."

In the presentation, the catechist narrates the time after Jesus and the disciples go to the Mount of Olives, including Jesus' death and resurrection. She hangs a cross behind the table, and lights the candles to remember those two moments.

And suddenly the children are presented with another tableau - one that is very familiar to them! Several times, I have had the pleasure of hearing children suck in their breath as they recognize the altar. I've also heard children call out "The Church!!" As catechists, we leave this lovely connection for the children to discover. Whenever it comes, I've found that this work enables the children to make a profound connection between the way Jesus loved his disciples and his desire to be with them always, and the way that Jesus loves us and expresses his love in the bread and wine that we are blessed to receive each week.

My daughter working with the Cenacle many years ago...

Later in lent, we will hold a Last Supper Celebration with the children. This is a wonderful gathering we have each year, which draws upon the children's experience of the Cenacle material. I'll be sure to post about it when it comes along!

Would you like to get more out of Lent? Check out my last post on Lent at Home, or explore some online options at Building Faith's blog post- Sites for Daily Meditation.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lent at Home!

I have finally put together some things around my house for our family observance of Lent and thought I would share them with you here.

One thing I've done is put the shepherd and sheep from my Nativity Scene back on the mantle to remind us of the Good Shepherd. At Christmas this year, my Mom gave me the set that my Grandmother made for our family in the 1960's and I have really enjoyed having it. My reluctance to put it away gave me the idea to enjoy it as a reminder of the Good Shepherd. I sometimes light a candle next to the Good Shepherd it in the evening. Isn't it beautiful?

I also put together a meditation garden for my family this year. I made several of these a few years ago as Confirmation gifts for two young women who are special to me. I've seen nature tables and meditation gardens around on the web, but the idea really came together for me after our Church used the book and Leader's Guide for "My Faith, My Life", a wonderful Confirmation program by Jenifer Gamber. She has the confirmands work with a garden like this each week at their meetings. I utilized some of her ideas and added some of my own to make a set of cards with suggestions for praying with the meditation garden.

Here are some of the supplies I have pulled together for our family. You can see I have stones (for building paths and "altars," representing prayers concerns, etc.). I also have a bottle of water and of scented oil, and a few shells as symbols of baptism. The shells can be used to make impressions in the sand, can be arranged in the garden, or can hold water or oil. The candles remind us of Jesus - the light of the world. I found some little pieces of fence to make shapes and paths in the sand. There is a stick with some pine cones attached that I found on a walk. I also added some small wooden shapes with pieces of scripture written on them that I received at Vacation Bible School once.

The lenten prayer chain we made on Shrove Tuesday is hanging in the window in our kitchen. I am really enjoying this lenten discipline. My husband had the wonderful idea of tearing off the day's prayer focus in the morning so that we can pray with it throughout the day, and then pray together with it before dinner. Such a little thing but it has made a big difference!

Are you doing something for lent with your family this year? If not, it isn't too late! Check out the resources for lent listed here for more ideas. Pick something and go for it!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Practical Life Exercises in Lent

At the beginning of the year I wrote about why we have practical life in the atrium, and I shared some photos of practical life exercises we had on the shelves at the time. Practical life changes regularly, and we try to make our practical life exercises point to the liturgical season as much as possible. I thought today I would share some photos of practical life exercises from the Good Shepherd Atrium this Lent.

This is a sifting exercise, where the child sifts the larger stones from the
smaller ones and puts them in the glass bowl. In Lent we try to use
 natural materials as much as possible.

This water transfer exercise is now done with a medicine dropper. We
incorporate the color of the Church year into our practical life
 works so in this season of Lent we are using purple. 

This is a transferring work, where the child moves an item from one
basket to the other using the whole hand. We have several types
 on nuts in this work now, which the children like to explore.

This is a work I made to highlight the colors of the year.  The children
 have already learned to use their pincher grip and attach clothes pins
 around the outside lip of a bowl. With this work the children match
 the colored clothes pins to the liturgical color wheel. 

This work is two sided - children who read can use the other side of the card
and clips to complete the work, and children can self correct by flipping
the wheel over for comparison.

In Church in Lent, we use arrangements without flowers on the
altar to acknowledge the more penitential and reflective aspects of
the season. During Lent in the atrium, parents bring greenery
purchased at the store, evergreens from their yards, pine cones,
or pussy willows for arranging into vases.  

This idea came from a great blog called Itty Bitty Love a few years ago. I cut
up the pages of a calendar and covered them with contact paper. This is
a beautiful calendar with images of sheep and the words of Psalm 23 which
calls to mind the Good Shepherd works for the children.

I also cut out and covered the tiny pictures from the back of the
calendar and affixed a velcro dot to each one.

The children match the small photo to the large one and attach it. When
they are finished they return all the small pictures to the basket. 

I have finally finished my Lenten preparations at home, and will share what my family is up to in my next post. Check back soon! 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Resources for Observing Lent at Home

I've come across many wonderful resources for observing Lent at home as I've read around the web this month. I thought I would share a few here for you to explore:

Living Montessori Now - A amazing resource for everything Montessori. Deb has written a compilation post with great ideas and links for observing Lent.

Explore and Express - A great blog written by Sheila in Germany which has several posts on Lent this year. Sheila teaches with Godly Play, another Montessori-based Christan Formation Program.

Building Faith - The Online Christian Education Community of Church Publishing Inc. has several lovely Lenten reflections, and a great article on keeping Lent in your Household.

And of course, check back with Thoughts from the Sheepfold to learn what we are doing in atrium this season.

Feel free to comment with your own ideas for observing Lent at home, and share other blogs that offer Lenten resources.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Try This! Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, and the season of Lent has begun. On Sunday during Christian Formation classes the children decorated the letters of the word "Alleluia" --that word of joy and praise that we do not say in Lent. (I've gotten myself in a bit of a pickle by not telling you about this before Lent began - please bear with me!)  At the end of our 10:30 service, the children processed up the aisle with the decorated letters and lined up to form the "A" word.  Then we put all the letters into a box and tucked them away in the Sacristy for the season of Lent. On Easter morning, we will see the word again, both in our worship and in a beautiful banner hanging in the Church, made from the letters the children decorated on Sunday. We've done this for several years, and I always enjoy it. It is a concrete way for the children to understand the more prayerful and reflective tone of Lent. They take it seriously, and carefully avoid the "A" word at all cost! Be sure that you do too! (That was my last slip, I promise!)

Lent is a time to grow closer to God through prayer. Last night at our Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper we made paper prayer chains with the children. I'll admit, this was not the most thrilling craft we've done at the Pancake Supper, but I'm really excited about it.  Cathy Wolford, a wonderful member of our parish, wrote out 35 ideas for prayer this Lent. She also provided five spaces to write your own prayers.  We cut up the slips of prayer suggestions and made them into chains. For every day in Lent (except for Sunday, which is a "little Easter") your family is invited to rip off a ring and pray for the intention listed.

As I said, I didn't have high hopes for this little project, but I've come away pretty excited about it. It is a very easy way to observe Lent on your own or with children, and I think it will help set a prayerful tone for this special season. If you are the parent of teenagers who are not all that interested in Lent (as I am!), this may be particularly helpful! In my family, we will be using the links to focus our prayers before dinner.    

If you didn't get your paper prayer chain at the Supper last night, we will have the supplies available at Church tonight for our Ash Wednesday services and on Sunday.  Take a packet home and make it up to share with your family this Lent. In my next post, I'll share some wonderful ideas for bringing Lent into your home from friends around the web!

Don't forget the 5:30 pm Ash Wednesday Service for Families today!  I hope to see you there!

Friday, March 4, 2011


Here is an update on last weekend's 30 Hour Famine from our incredible youth leader, Katie Ong-Landini!  

300 candles representing the approximately 300 hunger related
child deaths that occur every 15 minutes. We extinguished them
one at a time during our Evening Prayer service.
30 Hour Famine was a Big Success!

Thank you to the many members of Christ Church who supported the youth group as they fasted and raised money for the 30 Hour Famine.  We had a lofty fundraising goal of $3,600 this year--twice what we raised in 2010--but the group far exceeded expectations.  The 10 youth group members and their 5 friends raised over $5,500, shattering our previous record of $2,600.  Many thanks to them for collecting funds from family, friends, neighbors, teachers and classmates.

After digging out from the storm, we spent Friday evening at the church playing a game which simulated life in a slum in India.  We also moved boxes and furniture into storage spaces, and worshiped together.  On Saturday, we went to our "adopted" Nursing Home where we spent several hours cleaning various public areas of the facility.  In addition, The Rev. Peter Faass held a service of Holy Eucharist for us later that afternoon.  (Thank you, Rev. Peter!)

We are already looking forward to next year's event!

Thank you to Christ Church's youth and their friends, for fasting, raising money, and serving our Church and community! Thank you also to our wonderful youth leaders, Mischelle, Brad, Jenn, and Michael for making this event such a success!
And finally a special thank you to Katie Ong-Landini who coordinated and led our 30 Hour Famine this year (and the previous SEVEN times!!).  Katie's commitment to our youth and her passionate concern for the environment are only outdone by her deep faith.  Katie is always the last person standing at these events - always ready to clean one more wall when the rest of us have collapsed in nearby chairs!  She is one amazing woman and we are so grateful for her ministry at Christ Church!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ash Wednesday Service for Families

Ash Wednesday Service for Families
Wednesday, March 9th
5:30 pm in the Chapel

Lent begins next week!  Ash Wednesday is the first day of a forty day period of preparation for the events of Holy Week and Easter.  For the past several years, Rev. Peter and I have been offering a 5:30 pm service specifically for families on Ash Wednesday.  The meaning of Ash Wednesday is a bit difficult to convey to young children. I have found that the penitential tone is not a natural fit for their spirituality.

Rev. Peter and I have collected some wonderful ideas from my fellow Christian Educators and some thoughts of our own to create an Ash Wednesday service which is streamlined and focused on the elements of this holy day which are most vibrant and essential to young children - the imposition of ashes and Holy Communion. I love this service, and look forward to it every year.

One aspect of the service that resonates with the children is the gesture the priest makes with the ashes. Beginning at age four in the atrium, we learn that at Baptism, the priest  makes a small cross with oil on the forehead of the person being baptized, and says "You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever."  On Ash Wednesday we see that cross again -- this time made with ashes and oil on all of our foreheads --  and we are reminded that we belong to Jesus. This year Rev. Peter and I are going to try burning palm branches at the beginning of the service with the children, so that they can see where the ashes come from and connect to this gesture even more deeply.

If you are a local reader, I hope you will join us in the Chapel at Christ Church for our 5:30 pm Ash Wednesday Service for Families!