by Donna Ellis, Licensed Lay Worker
As I sit here working on the article of what we did at St. John’s Ancaster to help children of young families entre into lent, “Journey into Lent” I am feeling like it was so long ago. In just 4 weeks our world has been turned up side down. What I did confidently then, seems like a lifetime ago. In the space of isolation and trying to find ways of reaching out and connecting with families, I find myself on unfamiliar ground.
After 24 years of ministry to youth families and children I am faced with suddenly and quickly trying to find ways to connect with youth and families that are unfamiliar. Just two weeks ago, I sat back feeling accomplished as I had our Journey through Holy Week all mapped out for families on Good Friday. Life certainly has a way of pulling out the rug…….and then there is God. I am struck by the feeling of how timely this virus has us. Lent. A time when we need to give up to make more time for God…and there I was teaching our youngest generation how they might possibly do that not thinking for one minute how the magnitude of what that means would hit me.
I began this time by jumping in with both feet depending solely upon my ability and experience to find ways families could connect with one another and to us. As you know, when you leave God out of the equation (despite I felt I was doing for God) one hits a wall. Yes, and my wall came roaring at me. Then feelings of inadequacy. In a moment of taking a break I decided to reorganize all the resources I brought home from the church I found a Homily that one of our parishioners gave on Lent 1. Right there in black and white it jumped off the page at me. The temptation is always “You can be like God, you can do it, you can overcome”. But that’s not what Genesis is trying to teach us and not what Jesus models for us, but to return to the source of life by dying to self (Gary Wiebe)
So, the goal for this Licensed Lay Worker is to lovingly submit and give God the space to direct and guide me through this strange valley and to be attentive to that ways God provides. One of the ways was right in front of me. The Diocesan Family Hub. It is organized by Sarah Bird. I was invited along with several awesome people in Youth, Child and Family Ministry to work at providing a space for families to access lots of ideas and resources. Collaborating on this project is a gift.
Below is a quick synopsis of the old world and how we began Lent together with children of young families.
This year we created a series of 5 stations.
We started off with a cup of jelly beans. The cup was our life. Nice and full. Now to add more intentional time for God during lent. I added more jelly beans but they overflowed. Hmm now what? A child offered that we should take some out first. “Great idea” I said. And we went on to discuss what we could take out of our lives to make room. Even for 5 to 10 minutes. The kids came up with some very creative ideas. Ie: go to bed 5 to 10 min. earlier. 5 to 10 minutes after supper. Wake up 5 to 10 minutes earlier.
We then began our journey.
- First, we made footprints with sand. I told the story of Jesus in the desert for 40 days and how He was tempted. I illustrated the story using the box of sand we planned to use in the craft. After the story we discussed how this story shows us “what Jesus would do”. This prompted a discussion on what we can do when we are tempted? We went on to discuss scenarios we might face and thinking about “what would Jesus do”.
- The next station was making W.W.J.D. bracelets. We talked about thinking about what Jesus would do, allows God to mold us into the person God wants us to be. Something God does our whole lives.
- The next station was air dry clay and kids had fun rolling, pinching, pushing, creating with their hands.
- We then moved to create a prayer cross with coloured beads to help us with our new time for God. Each colour was a reminder of whom we should be praying for.
- The last station was planting seeds that should bloom in 40 days. (Easter)
We had a wonderful time together and taking home tangible items helps them remember this time what each item represents.
Over the course of Lent, 14 youth participated in “Give it up for the earth” with the expectation that by reducing our carbon footprint by just more one for thing for 40 days, it will become a habit for the benefit of creation. Ways in which they are doing it: shorter showers, giving up the use of plastic straws, cups etc., unplugging electronics when not in use, purchasing gently used clothing, taking the time to make cookies instead of buying them.
As well, we get together over Zoom chat to encourage and check in with one another.
Donna Ellis is the Director of Children & Youth Ministry at St. John’s (Ancaster)