The Eucharist Has Left The Building

Jesus told the Samaritan woman in the Gospel of John, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither worship God on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem…But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21-24

For the first time in my lifetime, the entire congregation is on the church’s shut-in list. We have been mandated to “shelter-in-place” and practice social distancing whenever we venture out of the house due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, churches have turned to social media platforms like Zoom, Periscope and Facebook Live to carry on the business of the church. Bible studies, small group gatherings, and the worship experience have been moved from the church house to our house. We are forced to go beyond the four walls of the sacred sanctuary into living rooms, and family rooms to partake in study and worship.  For some of us this is the first time that we’ve had spiritual formation experiences outside of the church. Our biggest challenge, however, has been what in the world do we do for communion? For the most part, we have adapted to going to church in the living rooms across the country. It is reminiscent of the early church which got its start in the homes of the early Christians.[1]  So, what does that look like for us on first Sunday? How do we experience Holy Communion when we are not there to physically partake of the liturgy and elements?

Continue reading

The Village

Our story is so common, a 125 year old congregation, inner-city, wants to minister to the community around it, I’m sure you have heard it all before.

The Facts:
Our average attendance: 170ish
Average Sunday school was: 30ish (all in, all ages)
Most families attended once a month
We have a separate family chapel, attended by substantially more persons than Sunday school hour.

Our take away was that families are interested, but not in our traditional model.
We kept coming back to the old adage “it takes a village…”

Continue reading

A Lord’s Supper Series for Grades 3-5

I created this lesson series to fulfill my Educational Design requirement for educator certification in the Presbyterian Church (USA). I focused on scripture and liturgy together, in the context of biblical miracle narratives.

The first lesson focuses on the Lord’s Supper in its Passover context. Lessons 2-6 incorporate the miracle narratives: The Wilderness Miracles in Exodus 15-16, The Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12), Feeding the Multitudes (Matt 14:13-21), Cast Your Nets in the Deep Waters (Luke 5:1-11 and The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Students experienced the miracle narratives and learned the Words of Institution while handling the elements. Continue reading

Christmas Participation Story

I wrote the Christmas Participation Story over 20 years ago. When I was a student at The Presbyterian School of Christian Education, one of my textbooks was A Guide to Recreation, by Glenn Bannerman and Robert Fakkema. One of the activities in that book was a participation story with a “cowboy setting.” It was a popular activity but written in a period where inclusive language and political correctness had yet to develop. I really enjoyed the format, however and began to write similar stories based on biblical texts. I paraphrased the text into a storytelling format in which I repeated words and phrases throughout and assigned groups to respond with certain words, actions, inflections, volume etc. Continue reading

Illustrated Children’s Ministry

In my ten years of ministry, serving four different churches, one element of worship that has always been hit-or-miss was the children’s moment.

More often than not, a well-meaning pastor or lay leader would invite the kids up for a few cute jokes, or maybe a creative object lesson that would just go over the kids’ heads. This always annoyed me.

In my last call, as I was exploring and reclaiming my identity as an artist, I began creating illustrations of the lectionary passage for the day, and used those as visual aids to simply tell children the biblical story for the day. I then gave the children a copy of the illustration to take home. Continue reading

Young Worship Tool Box

Church culture change is hard! Our congregation had Sunday School at the same time as worship for decades. That changed almost 10 years ago, but we are still finding that families have a hard time feeling welcome in worship. The culture for including children has not yet changed. A team of people decided to make some small steps to work on that. Continue reading

The Essence of Being Human

Ubuntu is an African worldview that is hard to translate into Western culture. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has offered several definitions. One of them is “my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.” But he offers another definition, simple and profound, that resonates with me: Ubuntu is “the essence of being human.”

Two weeks ago a group of Columbia Theological Seminary students representing various ethnic and cultural traditions began their journey as Practical Theology students. None knew what to expect – of the school, the program or each other – but we were all united as one by the radical love of Jesus and the unifying power of the Spirit.

During an intense week-long session, half of the class journeyed to be with members of the Friendship Center of Holy Comforter Church. For over 15 years, the Friendship Center has provided services to individuals marginalized by poverty, serious mental illness, and disability. Funded by small grants, the Episcopal Diocese and friends, The Friendship Center offers three programs: Wellness and Recovery, Art and Gardening and Community and Relationship Building. Continue reading

The Experiment

We arrive at church for Sunday School early. While I assemble two large salads, my children set up for our feast. The scent of pizza wafts through the door ahead of the steaming boxes. People of all ages gather in a circle to share laughter, prayer, and grace. Tuesday Night Sunday School begins.

It started out as an experiment. Sunday School teachers were difficult to find. Parents were choosing between dropping children off for Sunday School and attending worship, as doing both seemed too time consuming. We wanted worship to be the family focus on Sundays.

Sunday School was banished from Sunday mornings, participation by parents or guardians insisted upon. Amidst skepticism from Church Council members, Tuesday Night Sunday School was born. Continue reading