Lent

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This past Sunday, we began our exploration of Lent through stories in the Bible that relate to rocks. The story we explored was that of Moses getting water from a rock to sustain the Israelites in the desert with that of Jesus going into the wilderness before his death. The idea of water from a rock presented an interesting image of getting nourishment and sustenance from rocks – and also the season of Lent and the exploration of hard places.

One of our activities was walking the labyrinth as one spiritual practice for renewal and connection to God this season of Lent. We also had the kids make finger labyrinths by sticking yarn on the outline of a labyrinth design so that it can be used without looking and so that the finger can be really guided along its path. Many labyrinth designs are available on the internet if you’d like to do this at home!

Also, public labyrinths can be found outdoors around the city! One of my favourites is downtown next to the Eaton Centre and the Church of the Holy Trinity. Sometimes you will also see them painted or drawn on the ground at parks, on the street, or in church parking lots! Keep an eye out!

We were also blessed to have three of our Spirit Space members present a dance to the congregation during Spirit Space time and to share that spiritual practice and expression with us. They did an amazing job!

#FairlawnRocks

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During the season of Lent, we are inviting individuals and families to consider the symbol of rocks as part of their Lenten journey. Rocks can symbolize the hard places in our lives and in our world, firm foundations, things that ground and centre us, and much more. To connect our reflections, we would encourage you to sign up at coffee hour to take the Fairlawn Lent rock into your life and the places you go for a few days or to use your own rock or rocks you encounter in your daily life to guide your reflections. To share our reflections with one another, we will be making a slide show out of pictures taken by Fairlawn folks, so please take pictures of your rock in meaningful times/places and share them with Sheryl by e-mail or on Twitter/Instagram with #fairlawnrocks.

What is worship?

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This week, we explored the last in the series of Faith Questions the kids came up with. This question was about worship – what it is, why we do it, and what people like or find important about it.

We started off by going through the bulletin and identifying the different parts of worship services. The kids were surprised that last Sunday’s service had 11 musical parts to it! We then went through the different parts and talked about how they help people connect to God and why they might be part of the service.

The kids then had the opportunity to make their own worship service by writing their own hymn, making their own worship space through visual arts and symbols (we painted different symbols of Lent on rocks to begin this project), and working on dance and movement as ways to connect to God in worship.

Meanwhile, the tweens are progressing on their faith questions video project! They finalized the list of questions they want to ask and began their interviews on camera. One of their first interviewees was Christopher (pictured above). Thanks to everyone for your support!

Faith Questions: What is life?

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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

Jesus

This past Sunday, we continued our faith questions series by exploring some of the questions the kids asked related to Jesus. A lot of their questions related to who Jesus is – how he was born, what he did, why he died, what we can understand resurrection to mean. In talking with the kids, I was interested to learn that a lot of them had familiarity with different parts of Jesus life and some of the occasions that we mark his life, but they weren’t always sure what went with what. For example, some were confused what happened on Easter (was Jesus born? did he die? was he resurrected?) or with the fact that we remember the last supper both on Maundy Thursday (before Easter) and also at other points in the year (when we have communion).

This confusion is really common for kids – and it makes sense. It’s not that often that we talk about Jesus life in totality – often we are just focusing on one story or another. Often too, it is adults who are presenting the story about Jesus and then we ask the kids to apply it to today or to their own lives – very rarely are they asked to come up with a story that relates to a situation or to remember what stories are traditionally connected to different holidays.

One activity that might be interesting to do at home is to make a timeline of Jesus’ life – and then whenever you read a Bible story or celebrate a part of the church year, you could put it on the timeline. Another activity could be to create a matching game with different Bible stories in one set of cards and different holidays/themes/messages in another, i.e.:

Christmas – Jesus’ Birth

Epiphany – The wise men visit Jesus

Easter – Jesus’ resurrection

Pentecost – The church is born

We focused on the theme of all of Jesus’ life last Sunday and then participated in stations related to some of the major stories from his life – i.e. creating fishing poles relating to the fishers of men story (Luke 5), feet washing (John 13), and the last supper (all of the gospels, including Luke 22).

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Questions

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This past Sunday we began a series focused on faith questions. The kids had the opportunity to go to several stations that helped them to generate their questions including one where they could write questions privately for a question box, one where they could add their questions to a word map that had already been started with faith-related themes, and one where the beginning question words were provided and they could fill in the blanks (i.e. who is… what does… why do… etc.). All of these generated some really profound questions that we will seek to explore (rather than answer) over the next several weeks.

Questions can be really great to discuss at home, whether related to faith or other topics. Having an ongoing question box where kids can write down things they are wondering about can be great – or just collecting written questions that can be drawn and then asked of various family members (i.e. what was the best thing that happened in your day? what is your funniest memory?) can be a great family conversation starter!

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

This is a week that is celebrated each January by Christians of a variety of denominations. It is often a time to reflect on both our similarities and differences and to consider what unity might mean in light of this difference. More information can be found here: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/week-of-prayer/

In Spirit Space, we are lucky to have staff who come from a variety of Christian traditions (non-denominational, Salvation Army, Catholic, and United Church). This Sunday, the kids had the chance to learn a bit about each of these traditions and about the reality of the variety amidst Christianity in the world – and in our neighbourhoods and in many of own families. These puzzle pieces were a symbol that demonstrated how no tradition has all of the answers but we all have something to contribute, hold a piece of the puzzle that is the mystery of faith.

There are often special services during this week – consider attending one if you can, or talking to family or friends who are part of a different church. Visiting different churches can also be an interesting exercise, as is marking the different churches (and places of worship of different religions) on a map of your neighbourhood!

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Third Sunday of Advent

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Here are some images of our third Sunday of Advent – a day when we focused on the story of Jesus’ birth in a new way – by comparing it to the story of the birth of the Buddha. We also talked about materialism and looked at prayer flags (meant to disintegrate in the wind sending prayers out into the world and also to remind us that material items don’t last), made our own prayer flags, coloured mandalas in our independent station, and lit the third candle on our advent focus table. We talked about materialism also in the Bible and the things Jesus had to say about material things rusting and going to waste over time but values like love and joy enduring.

Birth of the Buddha

With our older kids, we compared and contrasted Jesus’ birth story with that of the Buddha, something one of our Spirit Space leaders has studied. It was a really interesting conversation and it led to some really interesting conversations about both traditions.

There are a lot of resources online to learn about different traditions – here is a video about the Buddha’s birth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIqAVVv9j_k

You might want to study some different faith traditions as a family – reading different stories, visiting different places of worship, celebrating different holidays. When talking about birth narratives in different traditions, you might want to look for the name of the religious leader (and if that changes through their life), whether they are said to have been born of a virgin, what their relationship to God was as a child, what they were like as a child (and if that is similar to what is said of them as an adult), who taught them, whether they were poor or wealthy, etc.