Music in different world religions

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After exploring music in Christianity, the tweens led the rest of the kids through some very interesting stations exploring music in different world religions – both different types of music and the different roles that music plays. Exploring different items from different traditions and parts of the world was also a lot of fun! Thanks, tweens!

Praising God through Music

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Psalm 150

Praise for God’s Surpassing Greatness

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty firmament![a]
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

This past Sunday was “special music Sunday” at Fairlawn. Due to this, we developed a special music theme for Spirit Space. We began with exploring music in Christian traditions and talked about how the book of Psalms in the Bible is a whole book of music meant to praise God. We used Psalm 150 in small groups to have kids develop rhythm and melody to share a part of this psalm with the larger group. Having kids write music or set parts of the Bible to music can be a great way to explore the meaning and emotion in the text – try it with a Psalm or another part of the Bible!

Affirm Sunday


This past Sunday was a very special one for our church, as we celebrated becoming an Affirming congregation, meaning that we are openly and explicitly welcoming of LGBTQ people.

This celebration was very much something that the kids were a part of. Kids worked for weeks before hand to decorate pink bandanas that were handed out at the start of the service (pink has become a colour signifying anti-bullying, as there have been instances of boys in particular being bullied for wearing pink) and many people wore beautiful pink outfits to church! We read the book And Tango Makes Three with the kids and talked about how there are different types of families, different people like different things (and there aren’t/shouldn’t be “boy things” and “girl things”, something kids are really aware of from an early age) and then explored various stations focused on being Affirming.


One station had the kids make rainbow keychains for their backpacks as symbols of being people who are supportive. We talked about how it is important to make sure people know that they are supportive because sometimes kids are very careful who they talk to about gender and sexuality issues in their own lives or of their friends/family members.

Here are some suggestions of books you might want to consider reading with the kids in your life!

Fanesca Recipe (Equadorian Easter Soup!)

Some folks have been asking for more information about Fanesca, the soup we made for Messy Church before Easter. We did a modified version of the recipe (no salt cod!) but did have 12 different types of beans in it!

Here’s more info:

And a New Yorker piece:

And a recipe!


Easter Beaded Cross Craft

One way to connect to the Easter story is by making things that involve a level of transformation and paradox. For example, making items out of things that might otherwise be thrown away, making toys that transform from one object to another, origami, baking, planting seeds, raising butterflies from caterpillars, etc. A symbol which can also be used to express this paradox is the empty cross – a sign of both crucifixion and death and also resurrection and God’s work for life even in impossible situations. Here are the instructions to make a beaded cross necklace:

Talking about Easter with Kids

Easter/Holy Week can be a bit of a tricky thing to talk about. Parents have different levels of comfort exposing their kids to stories about death and violence, and I think particularly this story. In the United Church, this discomfort is part of what has led some people to totally overlook Good Friday all together – go straight from the joyful palm procession on Palm Sunday to Easter. I think some of this discomfort also has to do with the idea that Jesus had to suffer, his suffering was payment for sins, etc. Personally, I have always felt more settled with the idea that Jesus didn’t die for our sins but from our sins – the ways that people in power deal with dissent all too often by violently stifling it, that we too often give up our support for our friends when things get difficult, etc.

I think some people, myself included, also feel that too much emphasis on personal sin/failing can be problematic – that it creates a dichotomy between humanity as bad; God as good, etc. But I think we can re-focus it by putting some communal emphasis on Jesus’ crucifixion, it was systems and many people (many of whom denying their responsibility and saying they are just doing their job/acting as part of a larger system) who caused the death.

I think some emphasis on the death is important. Death is a part of life that touches us all, metaphorically and literally. Also, resurrection only makes sense to it’s depth in the context of death – what do we need to be resurrected from if there isn’t anything that is hard or sad? And of course resurrection itself is tricky. Do we mean something literal or metaphorical? I don’t think it matters too much on one level – there is definitely value in saying real bodies and real lives matter, but at the same time, it is a mystery and there are a lot of questions about why resurrection in this case but not others, how it fits with a scientific worldview, etc.

I think with kids we can  encourage questions, wondering, open-mindedness, etc .At the very least, we can all affirm that life overcoming death makes real sense on a metaphorical level and this time of year we see it all around us – new life emerges from winter hibernation, new hope emerges even after loss, community and love can overcome loneliness, proclaiming that we believe in justice and that a better world is possible when there is so much in the news that would say otherwise.

And, I think too, at a certain level some of the stories can just be left to speak for themselves. We can share what is in the Bible and then follow where the kids’ interests go – do they want to interrogate the stories? Do they want to make connections to their own lives metaphorically? Do they just want to know more details about the characters in the stories? At different times in our lives, different things can seem more important. I think a lot of what we are doing is planting seeds, nurturing wonder, and just sharing the depths of really complex stories that people spend their whole lives trying to understand.

Jesus as Cornerstone

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Matthew 21: 42 Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes”?
43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’
In this passage, Jesus is quoting Isaiah (a prophet from the Old Testament) who said:

14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers
who rule this people in Jerusalem.
15 Because you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement;
when the overwhelming scourge passes through
it will not come to us;
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter’;
16 therefore thus says the Lord God,
See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone,
a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation:
‘One who trusts will not panic.’
17 And I will make justice the line,
and righteousness the plummet;
hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and waters will overwhelm the shelter.

In a lot of ways, this passage is similar to the story of building your house on a rock that we explored last week, although it is also different. I think a key difference in this story is the idea that actually Jesus as a cornerstone is not necessarily a safe, logical choice (unlike the obvious firm foundation of building on a rock vs. sand). In this story, the builders, who know a lot about logical, safe ways to build, have rejected this stone altogether, not only have they not seen it as a cornerstone. The imagery of the natural disasters (floods and hail) in Isaiah is also interesting – it seems that it is actually a cleansing sort of disaster with positive effects, not only something to withstand.

I think in a lot of ways this connects well as we start to move into Holy Week. This story in Matthew, for example, comes towards the end of Jesus’ ministry. He is again trying to get the disciples to understand who he is and is quoting the Old Testament to try to explain that – he is the fulfillment of what was promised, he is the messiah even though he is not the sort of messiah (strong military leader) who the people were expecting. The gospel of Matthew is the one most known to have been written for a Jewish audience who would have been very familiar with this story from Isaiah, and to appeal to them the writer of Matthew is trying to convince them of Jesus’ connection with the ancient Jewish tradition.

This week we spent time again building with rocks and talked about which stones would make the strongest/best bases to build from and which would be the hardest to build on top of. We talked about the shaping effects that the different types of bases have on what comes above (analogy being when we base our lives on different things, the actions and words that follow are different). We talked about different types of success and how even though we often want to build the tallest or strongest tower, this is not the only type of success.

The wise man built his house upon a rock (song)

You might have heard your kids singing this song about the story this week! Here are the lyrics so you can sing it at home. Also, some of the kids had fun adding their own verses to the song – this is another way to extend the metaphor!

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

And the rain came tumbling down

Oh, the rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the wise man’s house stood firm.

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

And the rain came tumbling down

Oh, the rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the foolish man’s house went “splat!” [clap hands once]

Build your house on a rock

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The focus for the multi-age group last week was being “doers” and not just “hearers”  from the story about building your house on a rock (Matthew 7:24).
We had the kids in their multi-age groups build houses on different foundations – the youngest age group having a nice, firm foundation of play-doh and the oldest group having the added challenge of a table on a slant! As we told the story, we used these structures built by the kids to illustrate the differences – especially when we tested the structures with rains (sprayed from a bottle), winds (blowing), and earthquakes (shaking the table).
For station time, we had the kids continue with a building project/activity focused on different building materials and eco-friendly building, games that involve listening to instructions in a variation on pin the tail on the donkey (with the added challenge of having wrong instructions being called out too!), and a continuation of our pink shirt day anti-bullying project (with a focus on not just being silent when we learn about bullying but being active in taking a stand against it).

There are two aspects of this story that are often picked up on – one is that we should build our houses on rocks, i.e. have a stable foundation for our lives and take care in planning, etc. and secondly not merely to listen to the words of Jesus and to be passive about faith but to be active and to take things to heart. I think these things can connect well when we think about Lent – many spiritual practices are about having a firm groundedness in our own bodies and our spirituality/relationship to God and then also to try to live out our faith actively by taking on spiritual disciplines and choosing for ourselves something that will be a challenge for us.

This text can be sort of problematic too, though, particularly in a more literal way – i.e. what about people who don’t have the resources to build their houses out of sturdy materials? What about people whose homes are destroyed by natural disasters? This story can seem to be a bit of an “everyone for themselves” sort of thing where people are supposed to just take care of themselves and it can sort of be implied that we don’t have any responsibility for other people.
At it’s best, though, I think this passage can be about being proactive. What are the practices and routines that we can set up for ourselves that will ensure the best foundation for faithful and ethical living? I think about how if I have enough sleep I am better equipped to live in the ways I want to, if my house is clean and tidy I am much more likely to be hospitable and able to have people over at a moment’s notice, if I’m on top of my work I am much more likely to be graceful when interruptions come, etc etc. And when I think about being a doer and not merely a hearer of the word I think about all of the values I’d like to espouse and think are important but have to ask whether I act on all of that as much as I should, etc.
What are the practices that as a family help you to be grounded?
What are some of the storms/winds/challenges that you encounter?

Going back 100 years to 1915

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As many of you know, Fairlawn (well, the first of the churches that amalgamated into what is now Fairlawn!) is celebrating 100 years this year. This Sunday, we celebrated in a special way by having a service in the style of 1915. The kids were no exception – and the tweens did a great job of helping to lead some fun stations (after our more serious 1915 style “lesson”) about how kids might have had fun 100 years ago!

When we re-designed Fairlawn’s Sunday School to become Spirit Space last year, one of the things we spent a lot of time looking at was how the context has changed a lot but Sunday School, in some ways, hadn’t. Last Sunday was a good chance to explore some of the context of the earlier part of the Sunday School movement! Here is an article for more information on the history of how Sunday Schools developed!