Creative Stations of the Cross

This morning at church we worked together (all ages) to create the(biblical) Stations of the Cross.

Three of the stations were mine to plan, and I’m posting here what we did.

My first station was the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. We cut paper into strips, and used crayons to make rubbings of silver coins on the paper, while we talked about Judas’ story, and how he tried to take back what he had done, but the consequences were already happening. We thought about the consequences by making our strips of paper into a chain, representing Jesus as a prisoner. The chain and all its interlinked loops also reminded us that all our actions affect other people, but that we can make that a good thing, not a bad thing, by the way we are with our friends, and with the people we find it hard to get on with- especially when we have things to forgive, or when we need to say sorry.

My next station was Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate. Pilate was supposed to be the one responsible for justice, but he didn’t know what to do so he washed his hands as if to say ‘what happens to Jesus is nothing to do with me’. This is how injustice keeps happening, even today.

For this station we cut cross shapes out of sugar paper and wrote on them an issue to do with injustice that we felt strongly about: poverty, bullying, #metoo, racism, prejudice, being blamed for something that’s not your fault… We carefully folded the ‘stalk’ and then the ‘arms’ and then the ‘head’ of the crosses into the middle so we had a little folded square. We looked at how we had hidden the issue that we’d written on the Cross. Then we floated that square in a bowl of water and it opened again, revealing the truth hidden inside. Some of them opened slowly, some quickly. That’s how justice happens: someone dares to speak the truth, so that everyone can see it.

My final station was when Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry the cross. I cut the ‘way of the cross’ out of fabric, and everyone made little people out of salt dough. The people were placed on the fabric road, in groups, with a cross for each group so that they could share the burden. We talked a lot about how tired they were, and about who supports us on our life journey – and who we are able to support – especially when life is hard.

You can see some of the other stations on this film that my son made during the morning – he didn’t manage to catch all the Stations but here’s what he managed to photograph, in order. https://youtu.be/Df7LoKS83fI

Epiphany – ideas for children’s groups

This one works well with older children – maybe primary age.  Not so good with toddlers. But can be done well by family groups. It uses a simple origami star craft activity – a video demonstration of this part of it is linked below.

1. Talk about what everyone’s favourite Christmas presents were – what made them just right? What would be the best presents for a baby?

2. Talk about the gifts that the magi brought, and why there were just right, even though they look a little unusual at first.
Gold is precious – it’s expensive, and it lasts, so we use it for things that mean a lot to us, such as wedding rings.  The gold was given as a symbol of our offering of the most important things that we have.  The gold is a sign of something important about Jesus, like a wedding ring is a sign of love.
Frankincense makes the most wonderful-smelling smoke – it’s as if we can see our prayers and songs rising up for God to breathe in and enjoy. All our hearts’ longings, our joys and sorrows, our hopes and dreams, breathed in by God in our prayer and worship.
Myrrh is harsh, but healing  – like the antiseptic that stings as it we put it on, but helps a wound to heal.  It reminds us of hard times – illness, grief – but also of God’s ability to bring healing and life.

3. Give out long strips of paper – maybe 2 feet long, by 3cm wide  (I cut mine from a roll of paper) and pens.  Ask the children or family groups to use just one end of their paper strip for this activity.
Remind them that God gave the magi something they needed – a star to follow. On one side of the paper, ask them to write down something that they still need as a gift, for the coming year.  This isn’t a ‘thing’ like a new toy, but a more personal gift, such as more patience when school work is a struggle, or when younger siblings are frustrating! Or more time to relax (particularly for parents!).  Or help with making new friends, if that’s been a challenge before. Or help making a big decision, or facing a big change.
Remind them that the magi also gave something to Jesus – their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.  On the other side of the same end of the paper strip, ask them to write down a gift that they already have that they would like to offer to God – this might be just a lot of smiles that they can use to brighten up God’s world, it might be a certain amount of time each day just to be with God, or it might be a particular talent that can be offered.

4. Take one of the strips as an example, and follow the instructions in this video (https://youtu.be/FDDvYwb-D44) to make it into a 3D star. (These aren’t hard to make, but you will need to practice in advance – I don’t recommend trying to teach how to do it in your children’s session, as it can be frustrating when it doesn’t work first time!  If you have teenage or adult helpers, you might like to teach them how to do it in advance, so that they can help you make all the strips into stars on the day).
As you start to make the star:
– tie the knot in the end with the writing on, so that it will be hidden in the heart of the star by the time you have finished.
– as you tie the knot, explain that when something was important to remember, people used to tie a knot in a hanky to remind them.
– as you wrap the strip around the pentagon shape, say that when something really matters we want to protect it and keep it carefully, so we might wrap it up.  You might also like to compare it to wrapping a present, or even (going back to the myrrh and the healing) bandaging a sore finger etc.
It’s a good idea to get the children to decorate their stars to make them personalised – they’ll need to be a bit careful so they don’t squash them accidentally!

5. When everyone’s paper strips have been made into stars, encourage the children to hold their star in the palm of their hand, and remember what they wrote in the heart of it.  Ask them to think about what they need and what they have to offer this coming year, and ask God to bless those thoughts.

Jesse Tree Christmas baubles

Because I am just a bit crazy, I thought it would be fun to do our Jesse Tree a little differently this year. To that end, I have bought some of those transparent plastic baubles – the kind that you can take apart and put things in – and we are going to use them for our Jesse Tree symbols. Here’s what I have planned so far:

1. Creation – we’re going to press blue and green play dough into the two halves of the bauble, to make a vaguely earth-patterned sphere. We’ll get one of the littlest children to do this one.

2. Adam and Eve – my daughter has very kindly made me both a snake and an apple out of loom bands!  We’ll supplement it with a green and blue play dough background.

3. Noah – Yep, it’s a blue play dough bottom half to the sphere, with a loom band rainbow!

4. Abraham and Sarah – I’m hoping to get a small amount of play sand and stick it to the inside of the sphere using PVA glue (or, let’s face it, , stick some stars in the top half of the sphere, and put footprint stickers round the edge.

5. Moses – this is the easy one: two small stones, with I, II, III etc written on, for the ten commandments. The sand and footprints might be used again too….

6. David – a loom band sheep (because he was the shepherd-king), a tiny tinfoil crown, and some small pebbles (from his slingshot). And possibly also a star of David if I can find one small enough. I think the playdough background for this one might be red or purple (nice royal colours!)

7. Prophets – scrolls with a favourite quotation on them – possibly making a backdrop from a scanned and printed out bit of bible….

8. John the Baptist – I am really trying not to involve locusts here!  I’m thinking sand, and blue playdough for the Jordan.  Maybe some hessian sackcloth?  Any other ideas?

9. Mary and Joseph – a lily, and a nail and some wood, and a heart.

10. Jesus – a small baby from a nativity set, and a cross, with a star at the top. And a small pile of straw in the bottom of the bauble.

So….. am I crazy trying to put these together with a bunch of kids?  Or will it be very cool?  And, more to the point, if you have any suggestions for better things to put in the baubles, please do let me know!  Thank you!