Eastertide with Children

This year, Easter weekend was warm and beautiful, yesterday the temperature reached 80 degrees here in Berkeley and all the spring grasses on the median of Sacramento Street were cut and mowed. It felt like we had solidly passed into the part of Spring where it feels more like warming of the world than the thawing that comes first.

In the church calendar, observing a season of Easter instead of a day means taking some weeks to be freshly curious about post-resurrection Jesus. It’s a time even longer than the 6 weeks of Lent to marvel at the reality of our faith. That somehow Jesus is still with us, with the world, in a way that could only happen because of his death and resurrection.

In Godly Play at Haven during these weeks, we’ll be working with the story “Knowing Jesus in a New Way”. We did one of these stories last year, but this year, we’ll be doing all 7, leading up to Pentecost. Each part of the story is an appearance of Jesus to his followers after his resurrection. We learn in these stories how Jesus was changed, how it was the beginning of something completely different for his followers, then and now.

We talked on Resurrection Sunday in Haven Kids a little about the idea of Easter lasting 7 weeks. Many children wondered if that meant you could have an Easter egg hunt every day! In the same way that the 12 days of Christmas can be an opportunity to luxuriate in the festivities of the season, Eastertide can be that too. Maybe that does mean another Easter egg hunt. Or maybe it just means feeling like you have more time to do the things you wanted to try for Easter Weekend, but didn’t get a chance to do, like:

  • Arrange flowers in your home

  • Dye eggs-try a few different creative ways. (Pinterest!)

  • Have ice cream with sprinkles after dinner

  • A family date to the movies.

  • Make a banner for your home to celebrate spring and new life.

  • Plant flowers and seeds.

  • Sometimes people celebrate May Day, leaving small bouquets of flowers tied on friends and neighbors’ doorknobs on the first of May. You can do this with Eastertide in mind.

  • Bring treats or flowers to teachers, caregivers, the local fire station, any little gesture to share the warmth of Spring and the love of Jesus.

    The idea is to bring intention to your fun activities, acts of service or leisure time that signals “We are in a season of celebration!” Of course this isn’t necessary, it isn’t a rule, it isn’t anything but a suggestion and quite truly just for fun! Observing the seasons and the liturgical calendar is usually a natural feeling thing-a way of being and doing in response to the stories of the holidays, the weather, the rhythm of the year. Just a way for humans to make meaning with their stories and their world. So, happy Eastertide to you, Haven Faith Community!

Lent with Children

On this rainy Wednesday morning, I am staring down the 40 days of Lent ahead with a mixture of wonder and worry. I am grateful for the rhythm that observing Lent brings to the year. But as someone who would prefer to skip the sad parts and celebrate on Resurrection Sunday, I have some anxiety about settling into the long season of pressing in, looking inward, acknowledging my frailty as a human person.

Lent is the observance of 40 days of preparation for Eastertide. Those 40 days don’t include Sundays, which should always be celebrated as mini-resurrection Sundays. Sometimes, it’s the thought of those Sundays that gives me the strength to try a Lenten fast! This period of time is to get ready, to remember and to come close to our own humanity and “the one who is Easter”, Jesus. It’s easier to focus and pay attention if distractions are stripped away and that’s where taking on Lenten disciplines of fasting, scripture study, increased prayer and contemplation can help with the intention of the time.

For children, fasting or taking on new habits can be part of a family experience during lent. For example, eating vegetarian meals is a common Lenten observance. You can work together as a family to cook vegetarian meals, remembering the added cost of eating meat both in terms of life and money.

Similarly, if you usually have a weekly burrito out, you could make simple food at home instead and donate the money saved by eating in to the Berkeley Food Pantry.

Sometimes, it’s those visual cues or some daily ritual that help shape the season, even if there is no fasting or disciplines. Bringing out a purple cloth for the dining table and lighting a candle with a Lenten prayer at meal time can help signify to the whole family what the focus is now.

For a prayer you could try a traditional one like this:

“In a world where so many are hungry,

May we eat this food with humble hearts;

In a world where so many are lonely,

May we share this friendship with joyful hearts.

Amen.”

For me, I put out the purple cloth today and read Ash Wednesday by TS Eliot, like I do every year. I’m looking forward to following along this year with this Lenten Study series by Christena Cleveland, Christ Our Black Mother. Whether you are meeting this season in your family with open arms, ready to try something new like reading the bible together, or fasting, or whether you are weary and wish to skip the whole thing, I pray for all the families of Haven Faith Community that Jesus in all his most humble kindness meets you during Lent.

Advent with Children

This coming Sunday, we begin the season of advent, a time of preparation for Christmas. During advent, we focus on the idea of Christ’s coming into all times and all places. We remember that Jesus was born as a little baby once here on earth, that somehow Jesus comes into our world today and into our own beings and doings, and that one day, Jesus will come into every injustice, every hurt, every broken part of the world and make it absolutely right and healed.

For children, advent can feel a strange time to exist in. They are excited and are pretty focused on Christmas. Setting aside time to reflect, be still, light candles together, can all help center the whole family on the season of pondering that advent can be.

In Godly Play class, the children will hear the advent story in terms of a journey. We are all on the journey to Bethlehem together, starting with the prophets who showed the way, the Mother Mary and the Father Joseph, the shepherds and wise men, all of these players in the story are headed once again to Bethlehem with us in this time and in this place.

We light the advent candles each week, enjoy the light, but when we blow them out we acknowledge the light has been changed, now, the light of the prophets, the light of the holy family, can go out and fill up every space and be with us wherever we go. This language of “changing the light” so that it can not just be in one small flame but spread out thinner and further until we can’t see it anymore but know that it is with us is very helpful.

May the light that grows in advent shine on you and your families.

Who are the good guys?

This summer, we've been coming close to very old stories from the Bible, ones that make us wonder a lot about humans and what it means to be family, know God, experience nature, and lots of other things. One of our biggest ponderings came after hearing the story of Abraham and Sarah one week, and how God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great family. We had good feelings about Abraham and Sarah and were excited when the story ended with Isaac, their "laughter" son, being born. The next week, though, we heard Hagar's story and felt so bad for her in the way she was treated, the way she was taken from her home. It was hard to imagine Old Sarah being so cruel to her. We talked about jealousy and how it can make people behave. We talked about how our view of who the good guys and the bad guys are change as we hear stories from different perspectives. This wondering has stayed with us as we heard the story of Jacob and Esau this past week. Different feelings were expressed in the wondering time about what was fair for the brothers and how each of them might have felt at different points in their story. 

We will continue in these Old Testament stories for the next few months, and I wanted to share the updated story schedule with you: 

August 19: Joseph, September 2: The Exodus, September 16: The 10 Best Ways, October 7: The Ark and The Tent, October 21: The Ark and The Temple, November 4: The Exile and Return, November 18: Jonah

Starting at the Beginning...

Starting at our June 3rd Sunday gathering, we will begin a new series of Godly Play stories, starting at the very beginning of the stories collected in the Bible. Our story schedule for the summer is as follows:

  • June 3: Creation
  • June 17: The Flood and the Ark
  • July 1: The Great Family
  • July 15: Hagar and Ishmael
  • August 5: The Exodus
  • August 19: The Ten Best Ways

I'm looking forward to exploring these stories with the children, and as the adults at Haven also encounter experiences with origins stories during Leah's sermon series, hopefully there will be some good conversation points for families.

Knowing Jesus in a New Way

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 Last week, the story of Thomas was our lesson in Godly Play.  The script says "And of course he had some doubts. Their minds were stretching, stretching, stretching to be big enough to know Jesus in this new way." 

The Godly Play script uses the texts Luke 24:36-43 and John 20:19-29 to tell Thomas' story. I was really marveling the details and sense of wonder of these experiences told together--Jesus' appearance in the locked room to the disciples and then his subsequent appearance to the disciples when Thomas was present.

We are always learning to know Jesus in a new way, that is the truth of these stories. Instead of continuing with the post-resurrections stories next month, as might be the traditional Eastertide story cycle, we'll be going back to the very beginning in our Godly Play class, telling the stories of the people of God from the Old Testament.  I'm looking forward to sharing these stories with the children.

 

Haven Kids Family Meeting

Our Haven Kids Family Meeting has been rescheduled for April 29, 10:00am-11:30am. At this meeting, you'll have a chance to hear all about Godly Play, the curriculum we've been trying out in Haven Kids at Sunday gatherings. We'll also have a chance to talk about Haven Kids in general and my vision for this ministry. Bring all your thoughts and wonderings!

Childcare and snacks will be provided, and location will be determined by the size of our group, so please RSVP to Jill if you are interested in attending. 

Holy Week with Kids

Holy Week begins this year on March 25 with Palm Sunday. On this day we remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, greeted as a king, riding a borrowed donkey. It's a strange story and the beginning to a week of observances remembering the last week of Jesus' life, his death and resurrection. Holy Week can feel intense, it can feel distant and everything in between. Endeavoring to walk through the week deliberately, imagining what each day could have been like for Jesus helps lead us to a meaningful Easter.

Sometimes I think of Holy Week as a long sabbath. I want to be able to let myself slow down, tune in and be still as I come close to the mystery of this significant week in Jesus' life.

Here are some ideas for celebrating Holy Week and Easter with children.

Faces of Easter

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The Lenten story for Haven Kids is the Godly Play story series called "Faces of Easter". In this story, Jesus' life is traced through 7 key stories that represent facets of Jesus' identity and work. I've told this story for many years, to children and adults and every time I tell this story I am full of wonder for some new part.

This year, I am using images created by Peruvian artist Marco Gomez. They are beautiful, but also highlight different places of meaning in the stories for me. At the last Sunday gathering, the children heard the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. I've been meditating on the humanity and the divinity portrayed in the plaque from that story and wanted to share the picture with you:

Haven Kids Corner

Greetings!

I sent an email in late February introducing myself and testing out the idea of an email newsletter. I truly am so delighted to be leading the community of children at Haven and offer you my support as you endeavor to spiritually parent your children. 

Instead of an email newsletter, I'll be posting here on the Haven Kids Corner here and there. With information, announcements, reflections.

For now, please do save the date for a Haven Kids Parent meeting, April 15, at 12:30pm. Location TBD. At this meeting, we'll chat about Godly Play at Haven, hopes and plans for the kids and your questions and wonderings. Anyone interested in supporting the children, not just parents, is invited!

Take Care, Jill