Mothering Sunday – all age talk

Here’s something I did last year and which worked pretty well. But NB it only works in a church that would recognise what a chasuble is and in which the service is Eucharistic, so apologies if your church isn’t that kind of church or you’re not doing a Eucharistic service (and please do search ‘Mothering Sunday’ on this site for alternatives – there are quite a few I’ve posted). Anyway, if your church does do chasubles please read on…

Beforehand:
1. Ensure that you’ll be using the Exodus and John readings
2. Find an old (pale coloured) bedsheet, ideally one that’s not really manky – the perfect bedsheet for this is one with a coffee stain in the corner but which is otherwise still quite respectable. Fold it in half so the short edges meet and the long edges are halved. Cut out a poncho/chasuble shape complete with neck hole. You might need to hold it up against yourself to make sure it’s roughly the right size and shape. But it doesn’t have to be perfect.
3. Get hold of some sharpies or fabric pens, and make sure you have somewhere in church you can lay it down, unfolded. You might want to protect that surface with a plastic sheet or something in case the pens soak through.
4. Recruit someone to stand by the blank chasuble during the service, starting from when people come in – ideally this should be someone who knows your children and families and can get them involved. Tell your helper that when people arrive they can start writing and drawing on the chasuble words and pictures that they associate with mothering, on one half of the chasuble (ie either the front or the back of it). Give that person some hand gel that they can get everyone to use.
5. Recruit someone to do the intercessions that day who is able to respond pastorally and appropriately to anything difficult that emerges from the talk. Mothering Sunday is the worst day of the year for a lot of people…

In the service:
1. In the notices, encourage any families (or indeed anyone who likes doing stuff rather than listening to stuff) to go over to the chasuble area and the helper you have there will encouarge them to start decorating the chasuble once they’ve used the hand gel.
2. After the readings, encourage any families or others who like that sort of thing to go over to the chasuble and keep working on it while you all reflect together on what you’ve heard.
3. Ask the chasuble team what sorts of things are already on the chasuble – what have people written and drawn?
4. Look back at the readings, and see what you notice about mothering in the two stories, for example:
– mothering isn’t just about being a biological mother (there are four women who have a role in mothering the baby Moses; on the cross Jesus creates a new family) – this can be affirming for people who find mothering Sunday difficult because they feel that their own families are not ‘standard’.
– mothering often involves courage, cunning, sadness, ingenuity, improvisation, rebellion, solidarity, sorrow….
Ask your chasuble team to find ways to express these suggestions on the other half of the chasuble.
5. Draw attention to the wide range of gifts and feelings, and allow people if they wish to give voice to some of the really difficult aspects of mothering, and of being mothered. Is there room for these on the chasuble too? Reassure everyone that these are things that will be included in the prayers.
6. When the chasuble is decorated with all this, get the team to bring it forward, and either put it on yourself, or get someone else to put it on, so that everyone can see it – maybe even walk down the aisle and round the church. It will likely be both beautiful and chaotic. It will not be pefect. That’s OK. Thank the chasuble team – they can go and sit down now.
7. Some background for this next bit: my son when he was little always said ‘chasuble hugs are the best hugs because chasubles are like wings’. So at the end of each service I’d always wrap him in the biggest chasuble hug, and I’d tell him that it was like when Jesus described himself as a mother hen who wanted all her chicks tucked under her wings. When I did this talk last year, I had someone that I could hug to demonstrate this, but this year because of Coronavirus we’re not doing hugs, so here is my alternative:
Tell the congregation about Jesus being the mother hen – and you can tell them about what my son said, too, if you like. Suggest that the chasuble is a challenge for the church to see how the church can be a mother hen for people. At the moment hugging isn’t a thing we can do safely, in order to care for and protect one another. But there other ways that we can be a mother hen, and some of those ways are already written and drawn on the chasuble.
8. Get the congregation to suggest ways for us as a church community to be mother hens for one another and especially for the most vulnerable. Link to any initatives that the church is already taking. Let this take you into the creed (‘Let us stand and affirm in God, who made us and loves us and cares for us, in Jesus Christ, our mother hen, and in the Holy Spirit who wraps us in God’s love every day of our lives’ or whatever).
9. If you’re presiding, you can wear the chasuble for the rest of the service, or you someone else can.

Please feel free to adapt this to your circumstances – I’d love to know what you did differently and how it went, so please do leave a comment if you’d like to.

Preaching with All Ages

I got an opportunity to pull together some of the things I’ve been going on about for the last decade and make them into a book. I just got my author copies, so it must be real. The book is about reflective practice and preaching, particularly all age preaching. And it has pictures!

You can hear me talk about the book on this podcast, courtesy of the Church Times.

Ordination Explored – Episcopal edition

Have you ever taken a small child to an ordination? It’s really important for children who have a significant adult being ordained to be able to take part and support that person at such a joyful and significant moment. It’s also really important to affirm that children are full members of the body of Christ- especially as we celebrate the way that God calls each of his people to ministries of different kinds.

But ordination services can be long, and while there’s lots going on, it may not feel very accessible to children.  The original ‘ordination explored’ resources were compiled to help children engage with the event. You can download them all here:

https://reverendally.org/2017/09/14/ordination-explored/

We are now very excited to launch a revised ‘ordination explored – episcopal edition’ booklet designed for children who are attending the consecration of a bishop! You can download it here – make sure you print your copy before you set off if you’re heading to an episcopal consecration with children in tow.

Trinity Sunday – all age songs?

A friend was lamenting the lack of all age songs suitable for Trinity Sunday (at her church their service will also reflect on the church as a community in which all offer their gifts). If you’re stuck on the same thing, how about one of these:

First, singing in a round is a nice way of matching form and content when thinking about distinction and unity, so how about a round to the tune ‘Frere Jacques’?
Praise the Father, Praise the Father,
Praise the Son, Praise the Son,
Praise the Holy Spirit, Praise the Holy Spirit,
One in three, three in one.

Second, here’s one I made earlier, really based on 1 Corinthians 12. The tune is from the game Tetris, but is actually a Russian folk song.

Everyone here has a part to play as we love and serve the Lord today. Come to Jesus, follow in his way, in all we do and think and say. All are members of one body, building God's community!
Gathering song to the Tetris theme

Songs for advent and Christmas

Here are all the songs I’ve written for:
– The Lighting of the Advent Wreath
– Christingle (whenever it’s held)
– Advent generally
– Christmas

We’ll kindle a flame (Tune: Colours of Day) – for Christingles held in Advent

Jesus, you’re coming, bringing the love
That draws the earth near to heaven above,
We’ll wait as the darkness covers the earth,
And long for the joy of remembering your birth.

We’ll kindle a flame to shine through the night,
Living our lives to shine with your light,
And sharing your love in all that we do,
your wonderful story is our story too.

Fruit of the seasons, blessings to share,
This wondrous creation placed in our care,
The city and forest, ocean and land,
The whole world is treasured in God’s gentle hand.

We’ll kindle a flame to shine through the night,
Living our lives to shine with your light,
And sharing your love in all that we do,
your wonderful story is our story too. 

Love like a circle, love never ends,
The love of a God who calls us your friends,
A love without price, a free gift of grace,
That holds all the world in a heavenly embrace.

We’ll kindle a flame to shine through the night,
Living our lives to shine with your light,
And sharing your love in all that we do,
Your wonderful story is our story too. 

An extra verse to ‘This little light of mine’ for use with the sparkly Christingle talk:

When I am feeling dull and grey,
and sunshine seems so far away,
when I don’t know quite where to start,
I remember the stardust in my heart:
all it needs is a tiny spark
to get me shining in the dark,
So Jesus, give me your fire divine
to let my little light shine!

Advent Wreath Song (to the tune ‘Father we place into your hands’)

Mothers and fathers of the faith, who lived in times of old,
Leaders and judges, kings and queens were faithful, true and bold,
Travelers, heroes, shepherds, all with stories to be told:
Still they show us how to follow you.

Prophets and seers who spoke the truth in answer to your call,
finding new ways to bring your word to people great and small,
living their lives to show your love was meant for one and all,
still they show us how to follow you.

John, in the desert calling out, ‘The Kingdom has come near.’
‘Come and repent, and be baptised, there’s nothing then to fear.’
‘Jesus is coming now, the One you’re waiting for is here.’
Still he shows us how to follow you.

Mother of Jesus, angels called her favoured, full of grace,
Holding the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, in her embrace,
She is the one whose ‘yes’ helped God to save the human race,
still she shows us how to follow you.

And this last verse, for Christmas day, is by my friend and colleague Gill Robertson:

Jesus our Saviour, born a king, we welcome you today,
Lord of all time, Immanuel, with joyful hearts we say:
You are the Christ who came to earth for us; and now we pray,
Help us all to daily follow you.

Advent Sunday song (Tune: Sing hosanna)

There’s a story to tell of creation,
And the patriarchs’ faith of old,
There are stories of prophets and sages,
We’ll repeat them ‘til the world’s been told:

Sing together! sing together!
Sing to welcome in the King of Kings.
Sing together! Sing together!
Sing to welcome in the King.

There are stories of sin and forgiveness,
Of a Kingdom of truth and love.
Of a girl who gave birth to a baby,
To fulfil God’s promise from above:

As God’s people prepare for his coming,
And remember those days long gone,
Our own stories are yet to be written,
As we live to make God’s kingdom come:

We will patiently wait for the morning,
Through the night we will watch and pray,
As we look for the light that is dawning,
We’ll be ready at the break of day:

Advent Hymn (Tune: Picardy)

Longing for a hope-filled morning,
Kingdom of the Son, draw near!
Waiting for the day soon dawning,
Light of love that casts out fear.
Dayspring, come from heav’n, in lowly birth,
Come to warm this cold, dark earth.

Sorrow through the world is sweeping,
Bitter conflict rages still,
Heaven hears its children weeping:
cost of humankind’s freewill.
Come, O Price* of Peace, in lowly birth,
Come to mend this broken earth.

Pattern of the world’s salvation,
God and human side by side.
Colour, language, creed or nation,
No more should the world divide:
Come, Emmanuel, in lowly birth,
Show how heav’n embraces earth.

*This word started off as a typo, but I quite like it, as it echoes the ‘cost’ of the previous line…  If you use the hymn, you can choose whether to use Price or Prince

Little baby (Tune: The Sugar Plum Fairy)

Little baby, sweetly slumbering,
Cradled and cuddled in Mary’s loving arms.
In the sky are angels gathering,
but for now, here below, all is still and calm.

Little baby, our Emmanuel,
God with us, one of us, born to be our king.
Little baby, while you slumber,
Far above you angels sing.

We know you came to save us all…
But how can God become so small…?
For God so loved all he had made
He sent his Son the world to save……

Little baby…

Here we are giving (Tune: Bunessan) – Christingle song for Christmas/Epiphany

Here we are giving
Out of our plenty,
Fruit of thanksgiving,
Tribute of love.
Hearts overflowing
Cannot stand empty
Constantly growing
With grace from above.

Gathered as one, and
Thankfully bringing
All that we are and
All that we do.
Serving and caring,
Praying and singing,
Building and sharing,
Offered to you.

Love beyond measure,
Total compassion,
We are your treasure,
Wonderfully giv’n.
Made in your likeness,
Imaged and fashioned,
Life that is priceless,
Valued by heaven.

Star of wonder (Tune: Sing Hosanna) – Christingle song for Epiphany

We give gold for a king, keep us serving,
We give gold for a king today,
As we give, it is Christ we are serving,
We’ll keep serving Jesus every day.

Star of wonder! Lead us onwards,
Show the way to find the world’s true light.
Star of wonder! Lead us onwards,
Shine around us through the night.

We bring incense today, keep us praying,
We bring incense to him today.
For the needs of the world, keep us praying.
Keep us praying to him every day.

Star of wonder…

We bring myrrh to remember his passion,
As he shared in his people’s pain,
In our lives we will show his compassion,
As we live for Jesus every day.

Star of wonder…

Hope for God’s world (Tune: Favourite Things) – Christingle song for Candlemas

Earth is so small
in the whole of creation,
Continents, oceans
And each unique nation,
Cultures and languages,
All so diverse,
All on one planet
In one universe!

Thanks be to God
For a million reasons,
Food on our plates
From the fruit of the seasons,
All that we have
Is a gift from above,
Plenty for all
if we share it with love.

Light of the world
For a people in sorrow,
Faith that can give us
Real hope for tomorrow,
Since on the cross
Jesus bore the world’s pain,
Bringing new life
At his rising again:

When the world seems
Full of trouble,

God will hear our prayer:
Our mission is living as lights in the world
for everyone everywhere!