Monument to Hope

Hope4CE is marking the 20th Anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001 with a recorded service of testimony and reflection found here. One the generous people who submitted a video testimony was Chef Rossi, who also blessed us with this article on her experiences, as well. You will also find a file of the adapted liturgy we used for this service at bottom of this article for use in your own faith communities. We hope you find this as meaningful as we did. (Feature Photo is of memorial at Ground Zero in New York)

On September 11th 2001 I was a twenty-something year old chef with a new, but growing catering company in New York City. It was a beautiful morning. The sun was radiant, the air crisp. I was looking forward to spending time on the roof deck. Then the world as we knew it ended.

I watched the towers burn from my roof. Then the impossible happened. Like a deck of thousands of silver cards, the first tower collapsed.

I’d never heard the sound I heard after the tower fell: thousands of people screaming.

The empty space in the sky became a monument to loss.

A few days later, I walked to South Street Seaport. The security guards at Seaman’s Church, knew me from my time catering there. They yelled, “We got a chef!”

Chef Rossi at Seaman’s Church, Ground Zero in 2001

“Send her to St. Paul’s!” A fireman shouted.

They handed me a yellow hard hat and paper mask and put me in the back of a pickup truck.

The truck made its way through police barricades, ruined cars and piles of debris. The air was so thick with dust, it felt as though it were snowing.  It stopped in front of an old church.

Two flustered women were flipping burgers on two small backyard barbecues. They were only too happy to step aside. I flipped burgers all day, into the night.

They said we fed a thousand first responders that day.

I came back the next day and the next and the next. I roped in my friend Brian to help.

On September 18th, Brian and I talked about how surreal it felt to spend Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, at Ground Zero.

As we were talking, a man in an Army uniform with a long white beard started to recite the Rosh Hashanah prayers.

We’d made it to services after all.

The Army rabbi took out a shofar from his bag.

“Te-ki-ahhh!” said the rabbi and blew.

“She-va-riiiim!” sung the rabbi and blew three pulsating blasts.

The horn’s mournful cry rose up over the burnt wreckage of the towers, the paper and dust covered tombstones in St. Paul’s cemetery and the firefighters in the tent near The Pile.

I thought of the volunteers who took turns hiding in the wreckage so the dogs that had grown despondent from days of finding no survivors could sniff them out. Everyone cheered as each volunteer was found and the German shepherd barked in glee.

I thought of the silver-haired fireman who’d driven from Cincinnati to join the bucket brigade.

“Do you know anyone who was lost?” I asked.

“We’re all brothers today,” he responded.

I looked at the empty space in the sky.

“Monument to hope.”

Chef Rossi, writer, chef, public speaker, and blogger based in New York City.

Recorded Service Link and file of liturgy from recorded service adapted from PC(USA) worship resources for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Principle 7- Many Highly Significant Life Transitions Occur in the Last Third of Life

Post 8 of 11 in a series on the 10 Principles of Older Adult Ministry (banner image by Raul Petrie from Unsplash)

“These are key opportunities for fostering spiritual exploration, inviting growth, empowering resilience, developing coping strategies, providing special care, connecting to a small group with similar changes or needs.” (Joyce MacKichan Walker-Principle 7)

Some of Rev. Joyce MacKichan Walker’s earlier principles highlight the wide variations that can be found within older adults (e.g. understandings of Christian faith, and religious-spiritual identities and needs). A person’s condition, for their age is also subject to wide variation; we all know people who we regard as young for their age while others are deemed “old” for their age.  While few, if any, of us like to think about or discuss growing older, the silver lining is that it is arguably the one and only thing that unites us as humans, irrespective of color, race, creed, geography etc.  So, maybe it is a worthwhile subject to not only embrace but also talk about with our fellow humans.  After all, we quickly find that we have a lot in common!  If we think in a counter-intuitive manner about aging, we first start to realize that becoming old is a privilege that not all humans get to experience. Moreover, despite our declining mental and physical abilities, we can start to discover, recognize and use our spirituality so that it becomes our “front and center” sustainer in our “Third Thirty” years.

Chart from Chris Pomfret’s workshops on the Third Thirty

Inevitably, “events” will happen in our Third Thirty.  Perhaps the historic reluctance to think or talk about aging is because we know these events (illness, loss of spouse, falls, etc) will occur at some stage; we just don’t know when, but we know that the clock is ticking.  Additionally, our egos are fed by our continuing to conduct activities that we have previously performed (climbing ladders, yard work, driving ….. ).  Our spirituality, deep within us, can help us to accept the loss of physical or mental acuities with grace and peace of mind.  It can also help us to be at peace with the finality of life and to find the strength and will to prepare everything so that our loved ones have an easier time after our death.  By gracefully accepting that our abilities are declining, we can find the means to accept help when offered, or ask for help, rather than our intuitive egos believing that to do so is a sign of weakness. The counter-intuitive result of accepting help or asking for help is that we give to the person assisting us; how wonderful is that?!

Our spirituality can also help us determine when the right time is to let go of doing certain tasks by being mindful and “listening to our body”.  We thus become willing to let go of things that we have previously believed to be important, be they material things or past grudges.  Uppermost for many of us will be the courage to stop driving when the time comes and feel at peace that life can indeed go on without being at the wheel. We can also pass on legacies and experiences either by writing them down as a “life review” exercise or by creating precious memories with loved ones by carving out time, one-on-one, with them and story-telling.  All these things take mindfulness and conscious acceptance of the stage of life that we are in.

The reality is that many more transitions will likely occur in our Third Thirty than happened in our second thirty. Finding and using our spirituality can help us to accept that unwelcome fact, and do the things to prepare as much as we can for the final third of life to be as enjoyable for ourselves and our loved ones as possible.

Chris Pomfret is a retired aerospace engineer and business owner, who decided as a result of watching his parents age, that we needed to be much more conscious of the challenges of aging before it becomes too late. Chris thus started “The Third Thirty” in 2012, a curriculum to encourage people to think, plan, and prepare for aging and adopt a positive hands-on approach, instead of ignoring the realities of later life. Chris lives in New Orleans with his wife of 42 years and has two grown children.

A Note from the Editor: Chris Pomfret’s curriculum, “The Third Thirty” is available free of charge, by contacting him either through the Hope4CE contact page on this site or through a private message to him directly on Facebook.

Picture Books in Ministry

Our Children’s Ministry Team is trying something new this summer.  We have been meeting online for over a year (as most of you have been, too).  We are going to start slowly restarting in-person worship and Sunday School.  We are requiring reservations for worship, which means not everyone will be able to come each Sunday.  This also means that the number of kids in Sunday School will be dramatically decreased, we will have a variety of ages (4-11) and we expect sporadic attendance.  We thought – this is a great time to try something a little bit more relaxed and open-ended. 

Our plan: (about 45 minutes)

  • After the Children’s Message, the kids will be dismissed with leaders to the front lawn of the church.  We will sit on foam squares, in the grass, in a circle.
  • Open with prayer and a couple, fun, camp-style songs. 
  • Introduce the book with “See, Think, Wonder” questions: show the children the cover of the book, ask what do you see?  What do you think this book is about?  What do you wonder about?”
  • Read the book. 
  • Ask a few “Wonder Questions”:  Where can we find God in this story?  What does God have to say to us through this story? How does Scripture tie-in to the story? 
  • End time together with something fun.  Chalk drawing, parachute play, bubbles, nature walk, spray bottle (water) art, hopscotch, 4-square, etc.

I asked educators and pastors to share their “best reads”, “Top 10” or “recommended titles” for this post.  I got a HUGE response.  The whole list of suggestions loaded in the “Files” on the Hope4CE Facebook Group and found below as an attachment

A couple of websites to check out:

  •  Compassionate Christianity shares their new Children & Youth Books & Resources Database. It is a searchable database of progressive books and resources.  These resources are great for ministry leaders, pastors, parents, and Sunday school teachers.  They have been classified by theme, age range, type of resource, and scripture passage to help facilitate planning.
  • Story Path from Union Presbyterian Seminary – you can search books by Revised Common Lectionary date, Scripture passage, or theme)
  • Picture Book Theology -last post was 2019 – but you can search books, authors, themes — there is A LOT of great info on this site

Why use Story Books or Picture Books to teach Sunday School?

From Picture Book Theology: (author Hanna Schock) We all learn through making connections. This very human strategy never ends. Ideas have to have something to attach to. The more attachments we can muster, the stronger the learning. Likewise, the more varied a concept’s attachments, the broader our understanding will be and the more likely we’ll be able to generalize our learning to new situations. Repetition of ideas leads to deeper learning. Strong, broad, and deep learning occurs when concepts are easily and quickly accessed in a variety of situations.

Below you’ll see the attached file curated from a variety of sources:

Whitford Recommended Books 2021

Jenni Whitford is a Certified Christian Educator in the PC(USA) and Director for Children’s Ministry at Worthington Presbyterian Church (Columbus, Ohio). She is also a member of the Hope4CE Steering Committee.

Youth Faith Connections for Mental Health

In a previous article I lamented how this pandemic had exhausted me. At one time it had energized, but now I was just done. Not only are we dealing with our own emotions and fatigue, we have congregations to hold up, including youth and children that have gone through a traumatic year.

Milestones missed. Grades at risk. Athletic seasons wiped out. Friendships lost. An entire school year that did not match any that came before it. This is a lot on top of the stress that the tween and teen years can bring all on their own. We check in with our kids and youth, but sometimes we do not have enough time or the right timing to get into the deeper feelings they are having.

In my ministry I struggle with assuming needs. I absolutely want to fill needs, but I don’t ever want to assume what they need. What I see from the outside may not be what they are feeling inside. A few years ago I received a call at 10:30 pm on a weeknight. It was our parish nurse and she was with the family of one of my youth whose father had been released from the hospital to pass away at home from a glioblastoma. They figured it could be a matter of hours and our nurse thought I should be there for my youth, an only child at 14 years old. I went into panic mode. What was I going to say? What was I going to do? This was my first touch with death from one of my youth with a beloved parent and it sadly would not be my last.

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Is Everything Fine?

Everything’s fine…

That is what I keep telling myself. The truth is that it is not.

I have no new ideas.

Asian woman with post-it notes all over her and her computer

 

I see your ideas on Facebook and hear them in Zoom meetings. I do. They’re great. I read them and feel like I am in 8th grade again and am jealous of Kristin’s Guess Jeans. I want a triangle on my bum, but my mom says I have to pay for half and I am lazy. I am jealous of the ideas, but am so burnt out right now.

 

Am I down on myself? For sure, but after meeting with the Hope4CE Steering Committee I know that I am not alone. We are all feeling it. Maybe you can’t pack one more bag, do one more porch drop off, edit one more video, look at one more poorly attended Zoom meeting. I am here to tell you that it is ok.

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Micropracticing

“What is the simplest this can be and still be effective?”

Over the last twelve months I’ve found myself asking the question above over and over. I’m exhausted by the realities of day-to-day living during a pandemic, and I’m guessing many families around the world would say the same.

As I was brainstorming what to offer for Lent in Vibrant Church Communications, the question of simplicity was front and center in my thoughts. As my thoughts tumbled around, the rough edges knocked against each other and smoothed into shape: micropractices.

directions for planting seedlings

On the surface, micropractices are simple. They are an action that can usually be taken in the moment or easily done at some point in the day. They follow the three pillars of Lent: praying, fasting, and giving. There’s an additional fourth category called “more” for practices that don’t fit into the first three.

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A Glimpse: What Fall Ministry Might Look Like

We’re starting a week on planning in a time of uncertainty by this reblog of another excellent post by Christine V Hides. Please share your own plans for the fall and what you are doing to prepare this summer either as a comment here or on the Facebook group page.

Christine V Hides

In the spirit of collaboration and modeling vulnerability, I am offering you a glimpse of the first iteration of our plan, designed in the shape of a teeter totter, able to pivot smoothly between gathered and online as needed. Here are the steps we took to get to our first iteration from which we will learn, adapt, and grow.

FYI,  I’m part of two upcoming planning webinars that will delve deeper into planning in these unpredictable times:

Step 1:

Remember your why. While just about everything has changed over the last few months, your ministry purpose has not. There are many ways to say it, but our purpose has always been to nurture disciples who know, love and serve God and in so doing transform our hearts, minds…

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FIG-Families In the Garden

Is your church searching for a family activity that moves slowly into an expanded social bubble while providing an opportunity for the congregation to begin to “regather” in person on your campus? Why not be a FIG and DIG?

family in the garden (003)
Children of God, of all ages, are looking for ways to connect beyond screens. Church activities have been fairly two dimensional in the last few months. Now, we are all ready to head outdoors and back to working together doing kingdom work with kingdom hands. Second Presbyterian Church is reviving one such project called FIG. The “Green Team” tends the Northside Community Garden to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to the Northside Ministry’s Food Pantry. They collaborated with the Children’s Ministries Team to include members of all ages. Three years ago, a program called “FIG” began.
“FIG” is a collaborative partnership between the Community Garden and the Children’s Ministries program. It stands for Families in the Garden.

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Insights for Churches from Our Camps and Conference Centers

As churches consider what it will look like to offer in-person programs for children and youth, you may want to gain insight from the experiences of others. While most of our camp and conference programs were cancelled due to COVID-19, some sites are currently offering face-to-face programing this summer. Here are just some of the insights shared by our camps and conference centers:

T-shirt front that says "Six Feet Apart but Closer than Ever" and has an outline of a camp saying "Summer Camp 2020" at the bottom.

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