We have continued our process of examining the questions related to faith that the kids have asked. This week, the theme we examined was life, death, and life beyond death. As leaders, we talked a lot about how to affirm the diversity of opinions about this topic and that no one really knows very much about what comes after death (and therefore, many liberal protestant churches have tended to focus much more on life than death!) while also wanting to name that we can and do believe that God is good, death is natural and part of life, and therefore we can trust that death and life after death is good, in some way. Not good in a way that negates the goodness of this life on earth or takes us off the hook to try to achieve justice, but good in an ultimate way that means in some way that we don’t need to be afraid – even though for many of us it is scary.
So, as you might imagine, this was a tricky topic to address! We started by playing a game that started to identify some of these basic questions and affirmations and then moved into three stations:
-Imagining life after death through art projects that helped kids to imagine heaven. By starting with drawing a picture with pencil crayon and then colouring over with crayon, kids were able then to scrape an image through the crayon to create a third picture. This helped to get at the idea that death is something that is hard to see into and that in some ways we are separated from people and things who have died, but through our imagination and metaphors and stories from the Bible, we can glimpse through that veil of separation and see enough to know that there is goodness on the other side.
-We also created family trees (with family members who are dead and others who are alive) and then wrote letters to family members who are dead or alive to remember that through relationships, our lives can continue past death and that we are able to communicate and remain in relationship with those who have died or who we otherwise don’t get to see very often
-Imagining heaven on earth: Often one of the criticisms of focusing too much on life after death is that it can take us off the hook from working for justice in this world and in this life. So, at this station we talked about people and groups who might be lonely or marginalized in some way and how we can help to bring elements of heaven like reconciliation and connection to them in their lives and situations.
All of these activities are things that you can do at home! It can be helpful for kids also to experience attending funerals, look at photos of deceased relatives and friends, and visit cemeteries. In many ways, kids and people in general today don’t necessarily get much exposure to death and that can add to it being a scarier thing than it needs to be. There are also some great books for kids written about death which can be a great resource.
One of my favourites is The Fall of Freddy the Leaf by Leo Buscalgia. Here is the text of the book: http://achievebalance.com/spirit/theleaf.htm