Social Justice, Caring, and Sharing

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This week we started to prepare for the various projects we will be taking on for Advent! One is to support, through the kids’ weekly offerings, projects through Gifts with Vision (giftswithvision.ca) that relate to children. This is a special United Church initiative that supports specific work done by organizations that have a partner relationship with the United Church working on long term, positive systemic change.

We talked with the kids about what projects they might like to support and the things they can do individually and together through Spirit Space to raise money. Joanna helped kids make a beautiful clay offering plate that we will use each week to collect money for these projects.

Another initiative is a book drive again for the Children’s Book Bank in Regent Park, which is a beautiful space that offers literacy programs and gives children new and nearly new books to keep! This past week, we decorated our collection box that will be in the lobby of the church over the next few weeks!

Consider using Gifts with Vision for Christmas gifts for family and friends or to raise money for throughout Advent as a family: giftswithvision.ca

Millennials and the Church

There seem to be a lot of articles coming out lately on what “millennials” are looking for in the church. A lot of this really resonates with me – particularly the aspect that they want something different from the rest of our lives. Often, churches try to mirror the lives of young people in an attempt to attract them – and there are certainly places for some of that – but ultimately I think young people look for something that isn’t gimmicky, rather that is challenging, engaging, and deep.

Here’s one of those articles:

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/unexpected-things-millennials-want-church

“Christ the King”

In Spirit Space, we are focused on social justice in the last few weeks leading up to Advent. “Christ the King” Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent begins, is generally a time when people have talked about the second coming of Jesus and the “reign of Christ” over the world. I use quotes because for many, the hierarchy of Christ as “king” really doesn’t resonate, (the idea of Jesus ruling over humanity like the kings of human societies is problematic) but some people also re-claim this language saying that Jesus wouldn’t be a tyrant like king, calling Jesus king turns the whole concept of kingship upside-down. Anyway, all that to be said, this time of year (the end of the Christian year) is generally a time when we think about the end of time in a broad sense. For mainline Protestants, that is usually not so much about a physical second coming return of Jesus but more metaphorical, about the coming of a reign of peace and justice where all things are right in the world between peoples, nations, and with the whole planet. So, for us, focusing on themes of social justice can be about ways that we involve the kids and the congregation in being part of bringing that reign of peace and justice now – not passively waiting for an external saviour but actively embodying parts of that salvation through our work and our lives.

Comfort and Remembrance

This past Sunday, we talked a lot about the theme of offering comfort to those who are sad or grieving as part of our Remembrance Sunday exploration. Jan from the prayer shawl ministry came and shared about how she first learned about prayer shawls, what they are, and why Fairlawn has a prayer shawl ministry now. The kids responded by embroidering/painting hearts that will be attached to a prayer shawl that we will give away next Sunday and also by writing cards to university students from our church that will be included with our Christmas care packages for university students.

At home, you might consider as a family how you can pray for and support people you know who are going through a sad time or a very busy time. Consider how a prayer shawl might be used as a sign and reminder of God’s love that is always wrapped all around us.

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Remembrance

Our theme for November in Spirit Space is remembrance, with a focus on our personal ancestors and our ancestors of faith, part of the great cloud of witnesses referred to also as the “saints.” We had the kids think about saints in their lives (both living and dead) and the qualities of them that they admire and would like to live into for themselves. A cool station last week was making finger mandalas, which are meditative tools. The kids chose designs and traced them on paper, then covered the lines with glue and then salt so the designs can be felt as well as seen. Tracing the salt lines of the mandala shapes can be a great tool for prayer and reflection. Mandala designs are easy to find online or you can design your own!

Saints in our lives can be a great family discussion. Consider going through family picture albums and sharing about the relatives you know and the stories you have been told. Kids can also interview family members and write down or video the experience to create memories they can keep for the future to continue to pass along to future generations.

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Praying in Colour

This is a really great book/concept by Sybil MacBeth - http://prayingincolor.com

It really opens up prayer in new ways! This week we used in in age groups – my age group got so into it that it was hard to get them to wrap up when it was time! Here are a couple of examples, but basically it is just using colour, shapes, connecting lines, etc. to map out prayers on paper!

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Building an “altar”

In Spirit Space, we’ve been continuing to explore the stories of Exodus, this week focusing on the building of an altar as a place of worship. Together we built an “altar” during story time and talked about what worship means to us. As the space we use for Spirit Space is pretty empty, we will be working with some of the kids over the next few weeks to make some pieces that we can use consistently as a focal point for our time together in Spirit Space.

This might be something interesting to try at home, to set up a table or a tray that can be moved around or anything really that could be an “altar” or something that can be used for prayer or worship at home. It could have candles, images, a finger mandala (see our last post!), a money jar for donations/offerings, things related to the liturgical season (i.e. table cloths in the colour of the liturgical seasons, an Advent wreath, a creche, etc.) – perhaps some things that are constant and some things that change with the seasons.

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Manna from Heaven

The week after Thanksgiving, the story of Manna from Heaven provides a very different perspective/experience of food! In this story, the Israelites were given food by God each day, but were only able to collect enough for one day and couldn’t store up any for future days as it would go bad. The only exception was on the sixth day, when they could collect enough for two days so they would have enough also for the Sabbath.

This can be a challenging story as we live in a society of refrigerators and bulk stores that encourage us to stock up – and a culture in general that prizes people who save for the future rather those who live day by day. What is the challenge we might hear in this story? When have you trusted that what you needed would be there for you when you needed it? Do you find it hard to trust that what you need will be given to you?

One of our activities was to make “bread” out of delicious-smelling gluten free playdoh (with cinnamon and other spices!) and another was to begin a project to make a circular seasons of the church year calendar.

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Youth Volunteering at Out of the Cold!

On November 1, we will begin serving at the Out of the Cold program at Blythwood Baptist Church (near the Sporting Life store on Yonge south of Lawrence) each Saturday evening from 6-8pm (this can also count for high school volunteer hours). We will also participate in a Nov 22 Presbytery (United Churches in Southeast Toronto) day-long retreat at the Christian Resource Centre about youth poverty in Toronto and Christian responses to it. Through a variety of activities, we will be engaging in both service and advocacy, action and critical reflection. Please contact Sheryl for more information or to express interest!

out of the cold poster