Over 40 children, parents, and grandparents joined us on Saturday, December 7th for our annual Children’s Ministries Advent in the Light event. Our theme this year was prophets – both ancient and modern – and how they help us wake up to hope and pay attention to God’s message during Advent. Prophets are carriers of the messages about how God longs for our world to be, and they share these messages loudly (check out this video of Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Action Summit in September, furiously calling out world leaders for not doing more to tackle the climate crisis). We asked children and parents – what do you hope, pray, and imagine for our world this Advent? Can you think about what God wants for our world and imagine how you can be a part of that change? Before entering the labyrinth, people wrote their prayers on gold stars and then carried them into the center (these stars of hope are now hanging outside the sanctuary!). Children and adults also engaged in making play dough stars, creating 3D star ornaments for our Gift Tree in the sanctuary, painting kindness rocks, and decorating our Imagine poster. As always, the evening was filled with warmth, light and delight in coming together during this dark season to share hope and peace as a community. Enjoy the pictures from our evening together!
Tagged with Children’s Ministry
We had a fantastic evening with children and families last Saturday, December 8th. Take a look!
On Sunday March 2nd, fourteen adults, eight children, and two teens participated in a service trip to Cradles to Crayons, located in Brighton. After signing in at the warehouse we gathered together with other groups who were volunteering that afternoon, for an orientation session. They serve children from the ages of newborn to twelve who are living in homeless shelters or low-income situations. The children receive the things they need to thrive – at home, at school and at play. Requests are received from social workers for a particular child. Then volunteers fulfill this need by putting together, in large, clear plastic bags, hand-selected items, such as a seasonal coat, clothing for a week, shoes, books, developmental toys and new school supplies. These are given out free of charge to each child. The items Cradles to Crayons gives out are in new or gently used condition, as they believe that “quality equals dignity” and only the best will do. It is a matter of respect and dignity, for a child in need to open up his package and find clothes and shoes he or she is proud to wear and books and toys that are almost new.
Next, we were divided into two groups. One group worked sorting and cleaning shoes, the other group worked with children’s books. Those nine individuals who were in the “shoe group” had the job of deciding which shoes were up to Cradles to Crayons standard. About three shoes were rejected for each one accepted. (Rejected shoes are given to other charities who will accept them.) Once that was determined, they needed to be cleaned with bottles of Simple Green and toothbrushes, along with lots of scrubbing. Survivors were then rubber banded together and labeled with the size. Finding those labels wasn’t an easy job, either. Though probably the most difficult job there, the leader reminded the volunteers that saving shoes is the most important job, as shoes are essential and every child asks for a pair of shoes. Ruthie, Claire and Mark worked diligently to save every possible pair of shoes. By the end of the two-hour work shift, 140 pairs of shoes were cleaned and ready to be shelved.
The “book group” was faced with several large bins of donated books. Again the standards are high. We had to reject books that had torn binding, written on pages, books on religion, holidays, or about a particular family member, as these facts aren’t known about our recipients. (Again, these rejected books are given to other organizations). Once we determined which were worthy of saving, they needed to be sorted into bins labeled by developmental age. Board books are especially needed. It was extremely helpful to have so many children of various ages working with the adults, as they were the ones who knew best what reading level was right for a particular book. Tim was our expert on young adult fiction. Then three to five or six books (depending on age level) were rubber banded together and put in bins labeled by age and gender. This caused some interesting discussions about gender discrimination, why can’t a girl read a book on trucks, why can’t a boy have a butterfly book? Ethan wanted to know why they separate the books by gender. He was also concerned about how appropriate a violent themed book is for a pre-schooler? Jacob was concerned about the kids who don’t speak English, since most of the books are written in English. Adults had fun reminiscing over our favorite books from our, or our children’s childhood. The children worked well with the adults and were highly engaged in the process. By the end of our shift we had made up 156 book packs.
These are some of the reflections from participants:
“Great and meaningful trip!”
“Thoughtful and engaged children.”
“So much useful work was accomplished”
“I had a delightful time sorting books with my son.”
“Meaningful, powerful and joyous.”
“Mom, thank you for bringing me here!”
Special thanks to Ellie G. for organizing the pre-trip pizza luncheon and all the logistics involved in such a trip. We are grateful to be able to give of ourselves to such a worthy organization. Mix children and adults working along side one another for a common cause, with thought provoking questions, add lots of laughs, and you have the recipe for a Sunday afternoon well spent. Join us next time, and see for yourself!
Looking for new ideas to celebrate Advent, I came across a tradition called an Advent Spiral on a Waldorf School website. The idea is simple, yet magical: construct a spiral from evergreen trimmings, place a large candle in the center, and give each child one candle to light and place around the spiral. Slowly and beautifully the light grows in the spiral, symbolizing pushing back the darkness of Advent and waiting for the Light of Jesus. Melissa Tustin echoed my excitement to try this gorgeous activity, and suggested we add a tree-decorating component, based on another beautiful and simple tradition of creating natural ornaments to trim a wild tree in the woods or in a garden to feed the local wildlife. Yet another example of finding light and life in unexpected places during the dark, cold days of Advent. On the evening of December 7th, Melissa and I invited the preschool children and their families to come experience the mystery, wonder, and quiet waiting of Advent in a whole new way. Sixteen children and 13 adults joined us for a story, a walk in our spiral, delicious refreshments, and an assortment of natural ornament crafts created to decorate a tree in our Welcome Garden (look for our tree the next time you visit the garden!). It was a wonderful evening filled with beauty, meditation, and lots of joy, and the beginning of a tradition we hope will continue for many years to come. ~Jessica
I have greatly enjoyed working with the children in our Sunday School program over the years. I love the spontaneity and creativity of children. You never know what they are going to say, or how they will interpret a lesson or project. When Emily was in that age group, it was wonderful getting to know her peers. Now I am volunteering to get to know the next generation. I hope the newer, younger families can experience the same connection and support from members in different phases of their lives as I have. I want these children to feel nurtured by a wider church community and have them grow up feeling known, supported and loved at WCUC.
As we welcomed back our preschoolers to Sunday School this September, we began with a four-part series on the Season of Creation. When we asked the children, “Does God Play?,” we got head shakes and a couple of tentative nods, but the preschoolers had a hard time picturing God frolicking, exploring, and experimenting with His vast creation. Yet this is exactly how God is described in our series of Psalms, and our youngest children are the greatest teachers of this lesson.
Creation’s wisdom is alive in our children. We can try and see through their eyes and be willing to hear, taste, smell, and touch the treasures of God’s Earth. Young children are so much better than we at living in the wildness and freedom of creation, and we can see through their profound curiosity, wonder, and joyful spirit that God does, indeed, play.
While exploring creation in our own backyard, our preschoolers reenacted God’s joyous creativity. Their wisdom as they worked: “Trees need leaves.” “The dogs are with the mountain goats on the mountain.” “Birds are chirping.“ “Some flowers smell like bees.” “This is a farm.” “I can slip and slide on ice. I jump from snow to ice.” (from wiggle walk to the concrete circle) “Bees are on the flowers!” “Forest, river, tallest mountain …” “The elephants are eating the coconuts (flannel-graph desert scene).” “I found a pine cone!”
How does having children in our midst change our spiritual lives? Young people influence all of us, parents or not, in all kinds of ways. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg reflects in the New York Times about how praying with and praying around children has impacted her.
How do children teach you about God? How does their presence at WCUC matter to you?