The Evolution of Family Friday

Emma, Ivan, Ryan and Kaine with Deacon Nancy McBride
 on May 9, 2024

For a few years now, the parish of St. Paul’s in Caledonia has offered a children’s program called Family Friday. In the early days, the event, called Messy church, was held quarterly on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The name failed to resonate so we started calling the time ‘Thank God, It’s Family Friday’ or TGIFF. When we came out of the pandemic restrictions, the program took the simpler name of Family Friday.

In January 2023, the current version of Family Friday began. We offer seasonally themed monthly events on a Friday evening from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. We attract about 25 people each session. The energy level is high!

Let’s pause for a moment to discuss families, because they come in all shapes and sizes, and so do ours. We have one little boy, who brings his mother, his grandmother, two great aunts, and a cousin or two. A mom and dad, two children family brings their neighbors, a single parent dad and his daughter. Recently, two families from a neighbouring church have joined us. We’ll see one parent with each family each time because the other parent is at work. We have people with no family. We have a grandad who bring his grandson. We have a blended family, with stepbrothers, and stepsisters. Sometimes they bring their grandparents. We have two people ready to be grandparents whenever their children get around to it! We are open to everyone, regardless of race, colour or creed.

The format has remained the same since the beginning 10 years ago: a story, a seasonal craft, an activity and a meal. During the very first session, the children built their own advent wreath from a Styrofoam circle, battery operated tea lights and decorations of ribbon and artificial greens. This past year, we planted a tree, learned about indigenous culture through stories and crafts, and assembled an inukshuk beside our peace pole.

Perhaps our most popular event happens at Halloween when each child carves a pumpkin. The Pumpkin Prayer is a good guide, with some children carving fish, or the word love.

One year, we had a contest to see who could carve the best religious themed jack-o’-lantern. The children’s efforts were showcased during the Sunday worship.

During the pandemic, several craft and story packages were delivered to our families. The first Christmas, the family built a gingerbread house, which was shown off during a Zoom meeting when the Christmas story was told by the rector. One Easter, the children received a lamb to assemble with pom- poms, felt ears and tails, with googly eyes. Jesus is the Good Shepherd!

This past Advent, the families received an Advent calendar. In week one, the family assembled and decorated an advent wreath, (a salt and flour clay base with coloured birthday candles). For weeks two and four, children decorated a peace dove and a star to add to their Christmas tree. In week three, they learned the story of the origin of the candy cane, receiving a box of candy canes and the instruc- tion to share them with family and friends! Each week, they received a story letter from the rector and me.

For Holy Week, the families received a collection of 12 numbered boxes accompanied by a story package giving a bible reading and some background and context. On opening the first box, they found a donkey and colt, a strip of ribbon representing a cloak, and a palm leaf. As the week progressed,, a new box is opened, revealing money and doves, a bag of coins, a rooster, a crown of thorns, a cross and a stone, among other trinkets. This idea is not mine, and I have freely borrowed from and expanded on the Resurrection Eggs product, which I have always admired. Our version is called ‘A lot can happen in eight days.

To run an event like Family Friday, one needs volunteers! Some assemble the craft materials, some arrange and serve the meal, some bake and some clean up. As my own family says, ‘it takes a village’. We could not run the program without them.

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