ADVENT SPIRAL GARDEN

Take a look at this interactive, reflective, faith formation event held at our Wildwood Presbyterian Church in Newport, NC.   Definitely one for the Advent folder!

Below is an email from Rev. Robbie Phillips, the pastor at Wildwood Presbyterian Church sharing the idea.

Hello Kaye,

I wanted to let you know what we did here at Wildwood for the first Sunday of Advent, an evening program.

We fellowshipped with a meal and then everyone had a chance to walk the Advent Spiral (Advent Garden…..Spiral Garden).   It is similar to a Labyrinth.  It was made with pine trimmings and leaves in the front yard.  (Ill try to put a picture on FB)  Folks walked in contemplating darkness, chaos, busy lives……whatever they needed to consider.  In the center was an angel.  She handed out little votives (battery operated) and folks walked out of the spiral with the light of Christ.  It’s a contemplative, centering practice.  We then went into the sanctuary with our lights and picked up some chrismons.  We sang some favorite Christmas Carols.  Everyone helped decorate the tree.  It was lit at the end, while we sang O Come all Ye Faithful.  It was a great evening.  We began the season with quiet reflection.  We all can hang onto to this peaceful image of our faith, as we move into a very busy time around here.

Share with others as you see fit.

Grace and Peace,

Rev. Robbie C. Phillips

Pastor of Wildwood Presbyterian Church

Newport, NC

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Try Developing Faith Through This Language Activity

Creative Writing in Faith Formation

Posted by Sharon Pearson on February 22nd, 2013

When we draw on the arts in faith formation, we often turn to the works of professional writers, musicians and artists to stimulate our imaginations, deepen our reflections and inspire our prayerful responses. We can also remember, however, that all of us have creative abilities on which we can draw directly through creative art experiences.

Learning to communicate with others is one of the first tasks of childhood. Even as adolescents and adults spend less time in spontaneous drawing or music making, we find ways to communicate through language every day. From emails to shopping lists, from memos to birthday cards, from office gossip to family jokes, we use language – and play with it – every day.

That doesn’t mean that creative writing comes easily to everyone! As with movement or drawing, some of us have decided we can’t use language easily or well.

One easy way to involve everyone in a language activity is to work together. This takes the pressure off of individuals to perform alone. You can put up an incomplete sentence such as, “Peace is . . .” Ask how many ways the group can finish this sentence. Write down their contributions, if you suspect some group members can’t read or write. Encouraging people to call out their answers out loud invites more responses because that’s how brainstorming works. We respond not merely to the initial sentence starter, but to one another’s ideas. A tip: studies show that by switching the color marker you use from time to time, you’ll generate both more responses and more kinds of responses as well.

Click the link to read about magnetic poetry kits.  http://www.buildfaith.org/2013/02/22/creative-writing-in-faith-formation/#more-8869

Making the Most of Advent

5 ideas to make the most of Advent

December 2nd, 2014

There are more reasons to take Advent seriously than there are decorative lights on your Christmas tree. Advent is often overlooked as a pre-game warmup for Christmas, which is unfortunate because it is a rich season for spiritual growth. It launches a suspense-filled journey leading us through the darkness of the world to the hope found in the Christ child. Over the four weeks of Advent, space is made for us to move closer to God’s presence, and to receive the love, mercy and healing our hearts desperately desire.

If you desire something more meaningful than an Amazon gift card can purchase, then I recommend you thoughtfully observe Advent this month. Choose to carve out time from the relentless holiday pace to encounter the holy. Finding this time is easier said than done this time of year, but it is possible to keep the beauty and blessing of Advent from slipping through our fingers. Below I offer five ways to make the most of this season.

1. Practice waiting

Waiting is a radical act in the month of December. Resisting the sprint towards Christmas requires us to go against the grain of popular culture, which is more consumed with unceasing activity than the long and slow journey to Bethlehem. Waiting demands we slow down, open our distracted hearts and make room for the sacred in the middle of the frenzy. It means not rushing to the manger, but absorbing the unfolding story of Scripture that leads us to the birth of the Christ child. Waiting can also mean not singing Christmas hymns the first few weeks of Advent, keeping the tree in the box for a while and setting up the Nativity scene on Christmas Eve. In the end, those who wait are rewarded with the deeper satisfaction of growing closer to God rather than the empty feeling associated with holiday exhaustion.

2. Find a devotional

Daily devotionals encourage deeper thought and reflection. Choose a challenging devotional, something outside your comfort zone that causes you to closely examine your spiritual life. Richard Rohr’s “Preparing for Christmas” is guiding me this Advent, but there are many other resources. Select one and build a regular time, fifteen to thirty minutes, into your daily schedule. Before you open the devotional take a deep breath, consider meditating on the suggested scriptures, think deeply about the author’s writing and reflect on how it intersects with your life. If you don’t have that much time to spare, read the devotional as long as it takes you to finish your cup of morning coffee. A few focused minutes of devotion goes a long way!

3. Write in a journal

If you choose to use a devotional guide, then I encourage you to journal. A blank page reserved for your scattered thoughts and raw feelings will help you to move to a deeper place. The daily refection is bound to shake loose emotions and thoughts that you’ve kept below the surface, which is why it’s helpful to provide an outlet for whatever rises up. Find an appealing journal and a favorite pen or create a private blog online to record your progress through the season. Use the freedom of the blank pages to be vulnerable before God. Another reason to journal is that it will serve as a reminder in years to come of the struggle you experienced and the ways God was present in your life during these moments; it will give you perspective on your growth and hopefully inspire you to continue on your spiritual journey.

4. Join a small group

While a personal devotional and journal are helpful, sharing Advent with others is a meaningful way to experience the season. Try joining or starting a small group during Advent that will give you a place to offer your struggles and reflections for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. An organized small group focused on the themes of Advent can take you to a place that cannot be reached on your own; it can build relationships that enrich and sustain your spiritual life. Include an appropriate book or devotional for the group, and consider structuring the time together around another activity. One of the most successful Advent activities I’ve experienced was a weekly soup and discussion group.

5. Create a ritual

There are several meaningful traditions surrounding the season of Advent. One way to embrace the season is the Advent wreath, which offers a beautiful symbol to mark the journey to the arrival of the Christ child. Wreaths, used both in homes and worship spaces, contain special candles that are lit alongside guided Scripture readings and prayers. If you are searching for a unique ritual, create your own meaningful activity. A colleague shared with me a creative idea her congregation is embracing this Advent. The ritual involves passing statuettes of Mary and Joseph from household to household. Each home is invited to sign up for a day or more to host the holy family as they make their way to Bethlehem for the birth of the Christ. When it is time to pass the statuettes to another family they are invited to celebrate with them over coffee, singing, prayer, etc. Another colleague offered the thoughtful idea of creating a personal Advent calendar for your home that lists an act of kindness each day for your family to carry out.

I offer these ideas to help you make the most of Advent. They are only a few of the meaningful ways to experience the season. I am curious to hear your ideas. What would you add to this list? I invite you to share rituals, practices and ideas that have helped you move deeper into Advent as you patiently wait for the coming of the Christ child.

This Church Had to Close its Sunday School Wing – The Positive Effects Shocked Everyone

Reposted from an article by Elizabeth Windsor, Director of Christian Education at Sudbury United Methodist Church in Sudbury, MA.

Like many churches, ours has Church School space in the basement. Like many churches, our Church School space has unhealthy mold. And in the way most things happen in the Church, we found this out just before Church School began last fall. Our only option was to combine our 6 year olds through 5th graders and gather them in our fellowship hall — a big space with a stage, and an adjacent kitchen.

We knew that others use the space throughout the week and that coffee hour takes place in the hall at the end of Church School. After our initial “how can we make this work?” reaction, my Christian Education Team and I tried to figure out how we might use the space effectively to engage our children and deepen their formation experience. Here’s what we learned:

Dream BIG

The stage became our focal point for the theme of the month’s lessons. While it took effort on our part to do stage set-up, we created a visual space that invited the kids to actively engage the lesson. They made a Creation mural using different media, walked a labyrinth of prayer (See “Praying Obviously”), went to jail with Paul, and “fished for people” from a wooden boat.

Worship is Portable

As many other groups use this same space both on Sunday and during the week, we could not always be guaranteed a space to worship with the children. A portable cabinet on wheels became our altar. We stored everything we needed in the cabinet. “Worship-to-Go” allowed us to not

only worship in whatever portion of the hall was available, but also to roll down the handicap ramp and worship outside when the weather cooperated.

Visibility Builds Relationships

With the Church School in the hall, members of the congregation saw the children every Sunday. Soon they starting asking the children questions about what they had done that day. They watched our Creation mural develop over several Sundays, read the words written on the doves of hospitality placed in the tree with Zaccheus, and watched us turn a sword into a plowshare. Members of the congregation took more initiative in connecting with the kids. New relationships were built.

Be Open to New Possibilities

We were nervous about the kitchen, as other groups use it on Sunday before worship and Church School, but it turned out to be an asset. We expanded the ways in which we invited the kids into more creative exploration of the lesson. In the lesson about being “the light of the world” and “the salt of the earth,” we made candles in salt shakers — something that would never have occurred to us had the kitchen not been in view. We baked earth-shaped cupcakes to celebrate creation and shaped “pretzel prayers.” Plenty of adults on hand kept kiddos safe around the oven and stove.

Embodied Learning Empowers

The open space of the Hall allowed us to invite kids to use their bodies in ways our classrooms never permitted. The kids walked a path of Christian words, played blob tag, prayed with their bodies, and had space to sing and dance. They loved creating big movement to go with the music we sing each week. We were able to use stations for age­ appropriate crafts while intentionally engaging our kinesthetic learners. It also worked well for those with sensory integration disorders through deep-pressure activities (rolling the altar into place each Sunday and returning it to storage space became the valued contribution of one child with Asperger’s), and other sensory movement.

What began as “making-do” quickly became our preferred way of doing Church School. Our children had an amazing year of faith formation, and the congregation came to know and value what our children experience in Church School. Adults who were not comfortable teaching felt they could melt candle wax, lead a game, or build an Epiphany star of yardsticks.

Looking Ahead

Plans are underway to renovate our building. Church school space will eventually be re-claimed. But as a result of this year’s experiment, we know we want a space that allows us to engage all of our children’s senses in exploring their relationship with Jesus. When told that much of the space we used this year will also be renovated, and that Church School will be regularly relocated for the next few years, our response was “Wow — Church-School-to-Go! We can do that !”