Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Time to Worship!

A child creating a collage of all of the articles
we see at the altar.
Summer is here, and with it comes the opportunity for your children to participate in full worship services at Christ Church. During the school year, children who are preschool-aged through fifth grade join our 10:30 service already in progress. This is helpful because it gives us a full two hours together for Christian formation in the atrium, and it allows parents to listen to the readings and sermon without having to attend to children. This also works well with what we know about children and worship - that young children can participate in Holy Communion and find it meaningful. I believe our school year schedule is a nice one.

A child working with the Last Supper Material.
Our summer schedule is different. Without atrium, children attend the entire service. This can be daunting, but there are several reasons why summer is a great time to bring your children to Church. For one thing our service is usually shorter in summer. For another, children come to Church specifically for worship and haven't already spent two hours in atrium. Thus they have more patience for the parts of the service that are less exciting to them. Finally, summer is a great chance for children to experience parts of the service that they have pondered in atrium but usually miss.

Children exploring the parts of the
Service of Holy Eucharist.
In atrium we are always learning about our worship service with the goal of helping children to grow into full participation in the liturgy. Beginning at age three we explore some of the most important moments of our service in isolation. In the early elementary years we begin to synthesize these moments and understand our worship as one great prayer made up of many prayers. In the older elementary years, children make their own prayer books, and learn in great detail about the service - they often know things that adults never even suspected! Summer services give children the chance to know the service in its entirety and integrate some of the learning they have done this year.

Check back soon to learn about resources we have available to help your children as they participate in worship this summer!

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Spiritual Practice of Gratitude

In the Good Shepherd Atrium, with our three to six year olds, the most common prayers we hear are prayers of thanksgiving. Young children are quick to thank God for a special friend or a treasured pet, for sunshine or a birthday party. In a recent sermon at Christ Church (which you can read here), Rev. Peter invited all of us into the spiritual practice of being grateful. This summer we are encouraged to list things we are thankful for each night before we go to bed. Rev. Peter was inspired by a post on Episcopal Cafe by the Rev. Donald Schell who recently began a practice of gratitude. Rev. Schell cited a study which showed that people who kept a journal about things they were grateful for were, as Rev. Schell put it, "noticeably happier, more productive, and were sleeping better at night."

I came across several things on a beautiful blog called A Holy Experience written by Ann Voscamp that might be useful to us as we take on a practice of gratitude. In addition to keeping this wonderful blog and writing for several other online and print publications, Ann is the author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. She is a farmer's wife and a homeschooling mother of six!

Ann wrote a lovely post on the topic of raising grateful children, which includes some nice ideas to try yourself and with your family. There is also a page that Ann has designed that you can print and fold into a gorgeous little booklet to keep track of the things you are grateful for each night.

I hope that you and your family will participate in the spiritual practice of being grateful this summer!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thank You Teachers!

Our Christian Formation Program is on hiatus for the summer. What a great year it has been! I wanted to take a moment on the blog to thank our catechists, youth, and adult teachers. At a time when many Churches are struggling to find volunteers to teach quarterly or once a month, we at Christ Church are blessed with ELEVEN adults who work with our children and youth every Sunday of the program year! We also have a regular Nursery teacher and three teachers working with adults each week. Christian formation is a vibrant, relational ministry at Christ Church!

Thank you catechists for the big commitment you make - meeting with children on Sunday mornings for two hours, planning out our year and each presentation, making and caring for materials and our atria, gathering for learning as adults, and all of the thinking, praying, and collaborative work you do to meet the specific needs of our children is greatly appreciated. Our catechists this year have been Deb, Kate, Lynette, Leslie, Dennis, Lynn, and Melissa.

Thank you Youth Leaders for your commitment as well - meeting weekly with our young people, planning lessons and our year, leading special events like our 30 Hour Famine and Confirmation preparation, and joining in on our monthly outreach trips to Shaker Gardens. We are so grateful for your ministry! Our Youth Leaders this year have been Justin, Mischelle, Jenn, Brad, and Katie.

Thank you to the many adults in our parish who have served as Substitute Teachers when regular catechists and youth leaders needed to away. We are grateful to Marion, Anne, Lisa, Sabrina, Deidre, Frances, Julie and Kate for all of your help this year!

Thank you to our Education For Ministry (EFM) Leaders, Greg and Hilary, and to Rev. Peter who leads Bible Study, Adult Forum, seasonal classes, and preaches all year long! Thank you also to all of the lay people who led Adult Forums this year!

I pray that all of you have been blessed by your ministry this year, just as you have been a blessing to so many others! Thank you teachers for a wonderful year!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Making Connections: Gestures

Jesus from our Last Supper Celebration lifting
the chalice in the gesture of the Offering.
In my last post, I wrote about N. and the maxim booklet he made a few months ago. As children were leaving the atrium that day, N. asked me if I would pray with him. I said of course and we sat together at the prayer table in silence. As we were praying I saw him pick up the book of maxims he had made, and with two hands lift it up in front of him. He held it there for a moment, then placed it back on the seat next to him and continued praying.

This is a gesture that we know well in the atrium - the gesture of the Offering.  Rev. Peter makes this gesture at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, when he lifts the bread and wine to God. It is an offering we make to God with gratitude - the bread and wine (gifts of the earth made by human hands), Jesus (given to us by the Holy Spirit), and ourselves (as symbolized by the water added to the wine when the chalice is prepared). We meditate on this gesture with children in the atrium beginning at around age four. But because N. is new to our Church, he had not received these presentations. He made the gesture spontaneously!

When he was finished praying, N. said "Did you see me lift up my book?"  I answered that I did see it, and I wondered what he was doing. He said, "I showed my book to God, and I thanked him for helping me make it." I mentioned to N. that Rev. Peter makes that same gesture every Sunday in our service, and that it means something similar. I encouraged him to watch for it during Church that day.

This was such a special moment for me as a catechist. For me it affirms the power of gestures as they speak to children, and it lifts up the grateful spirit of the child which we so often encounter in the atrium. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Making Connections: Maxims

The Maxim Box sits on the left and the Bible Box on the right in the photo above.

Several months ago I had a lovely experience with a child in the True Vine Atrium that I haven't had time to share. N. is relatively new to the atrium, and hasn't attended a Church in the past. It is so amazing to share in another person's first encounter with the Bible and the theology of the Church. We know that God is in relationship with every child, but to be with a person as they put words together with their experience and begin to understand the world through the lens of faith is really special.

In the previous month we had been working with the Bible, and learning to read and find Bible citations. On this particular day, we were working with the maxims. The maxims are short sayings, usually from Jesus, that teach us something about how we should live. N. was very interested in the maxims. After spending time looking up and contemplating several maxims, he decided to make maxims of his own. He pulled out the materials we have on hand to write out and decorate a maxim and got to work.

Materials for decorating maxims.
After finishing his first maxim, he brought it over to show me. He had written "Love Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit." Interestingly, he used the same citation system that we use with the Bible (listing a chapter and verse), and used his own name as the name of the book! He was very excited about the prospect of making more maxims and creating a booklet. I asked him how he would decide what to write. He thought for a minute and then announced that he would read the maxims of Jesus and put them into his own words, which is just what he did. He worked diligently for the rest of atrium (and the following atrium too, I might add!). His maxims were lovely, and we had some great conversations about them.

In addition to the wonderful work that N. did making his maxims, I was touched by a moment of prayer that we shared afterward, which I will write about in my next post!