Walking with Jesus through Holy Week


The above photos show our Messy Church kids getting ready for Easter by using coloured dye and crayons to make their own designs on eggs. In eastern European countries, dying eggs is a beautiful Easter tradition, but there are many different traditions in different parts of the world. In Bermuda, people make kites to remind themselves of Jesus’ ascension to heaven and in Poland, kids have water fights to remind themselves of new life and baptism, often connected to Easter. 

What are your Easter traditions? Do you have any? Would you like to start one? 

Sometimes, if you have given something up for Lent, the week leading up to Easter can be a good time to deepen that practice – for example, if you have given up chocolate, to give up all candy for this week, or if you have taken on prayer or meditation, to increase your time spent in that practice. 

A great tradition can be to attend the Holy Week services – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil (in some traditions), and Easter morning. There are also Good Friday walks- such as the Ecumenical Good Friday walk for justice around downtown Toronto. It takes place each year beginning at 2pm at Church of the Holy Trinity next to the Eaton Centre and has stations around downtown focused on different issues of social and ecological justice. I’ll be going this year with a group from Fairlawn – we will be taking transit from the church leaving at 1:15pm. 

Thinking about spring?

Although the weather doesn’t show it, Spring is on its way! 

During Sunday School, the kids have been working away at fundraisers for Lake Scugog Camp – our goal is to send six kids, meaning to raise $6000. Our fundraisers include a time and talent auction on Sunday, April 27, selling flowers on Mother’s Day (May 11), and encouraging kids to use their birthday parties as a fundraiser or do other events on their own/as a family. 

There are lots of things that kids can do for our Time and Talent auction on April 27. Older kids can offer things like babysitting or social media lessons, younger kids might do something with their families (i.e. offer to cook a fancy dinner for 6 as a family) or donate items for sale. Kids can also make things to sell directly on that day – we will have a bake table and there is also space to sell things that are homemade like Rainbow Loom bracelets or blank greeting cards! 

Kids are also busy making crafts together at Sunday School. One of the main things we’ll be making together to sell are birdfeeders. The youngest kids strung Cheerios on pipe cleaners to make simple bird feeders and some older kids have started working on milk carton bird feeders. In a week or two, I’ll be working with our oldest kids to make these neat bird feeders out of birdseed and gelatine – formed into shapes with cookie cutters. If you’d like to try this at home with your younger kids and bring in what you make to sell, that would be great! Recipes can be found online – this is the one I’ve used - http://www.cbc.ca/parents/2014/01/winter-craft-for-kids-cookie-cutter-bird-feeders.html

Here’s what they (might!) look like! 


Mardi Gras Party!



Here are some photos from our huge Messy Church/Mardi Gras party! 

I personally love the liturgical seasons. Our modern lives are often pretty constant – ruled by daily and weekly rhythms and patterns that don’t change all that much. Maybe it is romanticizing a bit, but I do feel curious about what a life would be like that would be more governed by feasts and celebrations, the rhythms of the seasons, etc. 

So, to prepare for Lent, a more reflective season, we had a huge party! The Amnesty International group provided delicious pancakes. We had a professional salsa instructor teach us some fun steps and made Mardi Gras beads out of cereal and decorated masks with sequins and feathers. Mark led us on a parade through the dinner tables with his amazing percussion outfit?! It was a lot of fun – if you missed it, we hope to do it again next year! 

Ashes to go


Ash Wednesday can be a tricky holiday to talk about with kids. “Pancake Tuesday” can seem a lot more kid friendly – it’s a party, after all! However, I do think that many aspects of Ash Wednesday can be accessible and meaningful for kids. Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our mortality, yes, but also our earthliness – that we come from the same atoms that form the rest of the universe, including dirt and soil. Lent is a season about perspective – putting ourselves and our lives in perspective. Remembering what matters. Kids sometimes have a better time connecting with dirt than adults. They often talk to worms and bugs and feel a sense of connection that adults sometimes like to pretend doesn’t exist. 

It is also about remembering how quickly a celebration can turn into a disaster and the fleetingness of our experiences. Ash Wednesday is the day when we find last year’s crepe paper and balloons crumpled in a box, when we find crumbs in the couch leftover from a fun dinner eaten with a movie. Because the ashes are made from burning last year’s Palm Sunday leaves, that connection is very vivid. It is a reminder that times change and things disintegrate and do not last forever.  

With kids, there are a lot of conversations you can have about these themes. I think consumerism can be a really key one – a new toy is great today, but will the excitement really last? How can we find joy in things that do last – i.e. caring for others. How do we feel sometimes after a party or a holiday? Let down? Sad? How can we deal with these feelings and come to appreciate the quieter and more sombre times in life too? 

It was great to see some families from the congregation when Christopher, Rob, and I went out into the streets to give people ashes on Wednesday! Here is the description of Ashes to Go that we handed out to folks on cards: 

Why “Ashes to Go”?

Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence. From the Middle Ages it became the custom to begin Lent by being marked in ash with the sign of the cross. The reminder that we are dust turns our attention to the creative power of God, and God’s ability to heal the brokenness in our lives when we offer that brokenness to God. That turning to God is the work of Lent, preparation for the celebration of Easter.

We’re offering ashes on the street corner today because that reminder of need, humility, and healing shouldn’t be confined to a church building. The ashes we receive here are to remind us throughout the day of our need for God, and of God’s call to us. 

There is much more to the beginning of Lent than ashes alone, and we invite you to consider joining us at Fairlawn Ave United Church (28 Fairlawn Ave) for worship tonight at 7pm or on any Sunday at 10:30 am. But God meets us not just in worship, but in the midst of life, and we offer the opportunity to remember our faith to those whose schedules make it hard to stop and pray with others today.








On Sunday, we were excited to learn that our church voted 99% in favour of becoming an Affirming congregation, explicitly welcoming to LGBTQ people! To celebrate, the grade 2/3s made rainbow placemats and talked about the rainbow as a symbol of diversity and welcome. 

The first two pictures show a beautiful use of ritual with the kids – one class started off gathered around some symbols and used the singing bowl to centre themselves. 

Lake Scugog Camp Fundraising

Dear Parents/Guardians, 

This year, the Sunday School will be once again taking the lead to help Fairlawn support Lake Scugog Camp and we are excited to have your help! Scugog is a camp that is affiliated with the United Church of Canada and has a long history of providing leadership development and support to children, youth, and parents experiencing marginalization, many from neighbourhoods in Toronto such as Regent Park. 

Lake Scugog Camp is a very special camp and offers a very high ratio of staff to kids for personalized attention and connection. One of their most well known programs is a camp session for mothers and their kids where mothers have their own programming to learn new skills to enhance and support family relationships. Many of the kids attending with their mothers grow up to be camp staff, itself a leadership program with year-round programming and documented life-altering impacts. Most of the campers would not be able to attend camp without financial assistance and do not have the luxury of going on other family trips or participating in many extracurricular activities during the year. Learn more at lakescugogcamp.org. 

The cost to send a camper to Lake Scugog Camp is about $1000. In 2013, Fairlawn raised over $4000 to cover the costs of four campers. Our goal for 2014 is to raise $6000, through a variety of initiatives and we would love your support! Here are some ways to be involved: 

  • On Sunday, April 27, there will be a time and talent (silent) auction right after worship. Families (and adults without kids too!) are invited to have a table where they can either sell items (i.e. bracelets or craft items made by kids, sandwiches/baking, art, etc.) or auction off whatever you would like (i.e. a week at your cottage, help with your taxes, a night of babysitting, a loaf of bread), with the proceeds going to Scugog. We will help you set the starting bid! 
  • Drive up to Lake Scugog Camp on Saturday, May 10 to join other folks from Fairlawn for their annual camp clean-up/work day! This is a great chance to see the camp facilities and meet camp staff and volunteers! 
  • Come to worship on May 11 for a special “Lake Scugog Camp Sunday” led by Scugog staff and featuring many fun camp activities for kids!
  • Make a direct donation to the camp! Please make cheques payable to Fairlawn Ave. United Church and write “Scugog Lake Camp Fundraising” in the memo line. 
  • Join the “Scugog Birthday Club”! Like Will Sparrow spoke about in worship, kids and adults are invited to consider having friends and family make a donation to Lake Scugog Camp as a birthday (or anniversary, retirement, etc!) gift to them. Websites like echoage.com make this easy to set up! 
  • Do your own family fundraiser for Scugog – i.e. garage sale, bake sale, etc. 
  • Participate in Sunday School fundraisers. Different Sunday School classes will be having their own fundraisers throughout April and May – please support them as you are able!  

Supporting Scugog can open up many important conversations about social justice with your children. Consider talking about the ways that going to camps (or lessons, extracurricular activities, trips, etc.) have been life-changing for you and for them. Talk about why some kids can afford to go to camp and others can’t. Talk about the importance of having time in nature, especially for kids living in busy, crowded neighbourhoods. Talk about why some parents might need help and might not normally have very much time to spend with their kids. Consider how experiences and relationships can be more important than things. Think together about what Bible stories might relate to helping kids go to camp (i.e. loving your neighbour as yourself – Luke 10: 25-37, being Christ to others – Matthew 25:35-40). 

Thank you so much for your support of this and other programs at Fairlawn!

What will be your Lenten practice this year?

Sunday, March 9 is the first Sunday of Lent. The Sunday School and youth are inviting the whole Fairlawn community to consider a practice they would like to take on for Lent (i.e. daily prayer, reading a particular book, contemplative walking, a community service project, practicing music, etc.) and/or something they would like to give up (i.e. chocolate, Facebook, the snooze button, using plastic, video games, online shopping, etc.). On Sunday, March 9 we would ask that people of all ages bring in items (or symbols/pictures) of their Lenten practice to church to be placed in a box (items will be returned on Easter – if you would like to make sure you receive your item back, please label it!). Also, if you (again, children and adults are both encouraged to do this) would consider being “interviewed” briefly by Sheryl about your Lenten practice during children’s time on one of the six Sundays of Lent please let Sheryl know! Thank you! 
PS- If you are at church on March 9 you will receive a special present made by the Sunday School to help you get into the Lenten season! 

Mark your calendar…

Mardi Gras Party! Tuesday March 4 (5:30-7pm). Messy Church will be happening on a special night this month to celebrate the tradition of Shrove/Pancake Tuesday and Mardi Gras! People of all ages are invited to get their pancakes in the auditorium from the Amnesty International crew and also drop by the gym to make Mardi Gras masks and learn some salsa steps! It’s going to be a great party – hope to see you there!