Lent family devotional—Count Your Blessings

As a church we are trying to follow the Count Your Blessings Lent devotion/action plan. There is an adult version that will be given out as paper copies from Sunday 5 March and this accompanying children/family orientated version that you can download or view in a browser at high resolution. It's originally an A2 document and comes out pretty small if you print A4 but it is useable like that if you prefer paper and haven't got an A3 or A2 printer! count-your-blessings-lent-calendar-2017-children_1

Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide – Lent – Open Doors UK & Ireland

Here’s some child friendly things to look at and do on Shrove Tuesday, wherever you are. This has also got me thinking about running another ‘Secret Underground Church’ for SJ Club soon…

The greatest gift you can give a persecuted Christian is the knowledge that they’re not alone. Send a letter of encouragement today.

Source: Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide – Lent – Open Doors UK & Ireland

SJ Club News Winter/Spring 2017

SJ Club newsletter Spring 2017

Testing testing!
I trust that you have picked up on our restructuring of the SJ Club morning dubbed ‘Trial of the Zones! This style of meeting is designed to allow children the choice to respond in a way that suits their spiritual styles, learning styles and feelings on the day. It also gives them a solid place of belonging within their age group at the beginning of the morning. We come together at the end to celebrate and share what each Zone has discovered or produced. So far, the feedback on this is good, both from the children, the SJ Club team and parents. We would love to hear how you feel it is going for you and yours if we haven’t already. We really do want every child to feel happy in SJ Club and that it is a place where they can meet with God, make friends and grow in faith (see the website for our more detailed aims). We are observing each other each week and after the 6 week trial we will be reviewing the effectiveness of the system and making any changes we feel are needed. I’ve posted the questions we are using on the blog so why not have a read and let us know your thoughts in the comments section on there or in person?

Baptism and Communion preparation
Over the last couple of months some of our children have asked about being baptised and last week, during K4J, another responded to the story by saying that he wants to be baptised too! This is very exciting and so we are planning to have multiple baptisms on Easter day! We will also offer children the opportunity to get prepared to join the great feast of communion. I need to know who is definitely up for these so we can get ready. I am planning to start sessions on the first week after half term on Monday afternoons after school sometime so will need to know if this really can’t work for you. There will be 3 weeks of preparation for Baptism followed by three more for Communion. I am then planning to turn this into a more permanent discipleship group for any of our children who want to get stuck into the bible and learn some spiritual disciplines as we follow the Jesus trail.
For clarity, ‘People are not admitted to communion by virtue of their age. However candidates will need to be old enough to express for themselves a wish to receive communion, to ask for baptism if they have not already been baptised and to take part in the preparation provided. As a general guideline it is suggested that seven be considered an appropriate age for this’ Diocesan Framework for admission to communion. Please do ask any questions you have about this.

SJ Club groups
For those of you new, and for clarification for all, there are 5 groups within SJ Club: Seedlings Crèche for 0-3‘s, Acorns for 3-5‘s, JIGSAW for 6-7‘s, K4J for 7-9‘s and Strawberry Juice for 9-11‘s. Children can leave Seedlings to join Acorns from the term after their 3rd birthday if potty trained and parents and leaders all agree. This, we hope will allow us flexibility to move the older children in Acorns up to JIGSAW before they move to Year 1 e.g. from Easter in their Reception year.

Parent helper Rotas
We ask every parent, where possible, to help out in a group once each half term. This role is to support the group leader as they ask and gives you a great chance to see what your child is doing. If you end up on a rota but feel this is too much, please let me know. Equally, if you are not on a rota and can be, please tell me as we are often short.

I am always on the look out for people to join the teams and lead groups as well. So if you are passionate about helping children meet with God please talk to me.

Easter
Wine Tasting

Trial of the Zones!

For parents of children in SJ Club, these are the questions that we are asking each other each week. They might form a good basis for you to think about how it is working for your children. Why not comment in the box at the bottom? That would be FAB!

Session Evaluation Form
to be completed by the mentor/observer and talked about with the leader

Leader’s name Date:
Mentor/observer’s name
Aims of the session:

Description of the Session/Activity/Zone and which Spiritual Style is it aimed at (Intellect, Emotional, Mystery, Justice)

As you observe the activities, please comment on the following with the aim of the session and our general aims in mind:

Atmosphere and engagement levels

Have you seen any glimpses of Spirituality happening? If so, describe them. Remember the 4 categories: I–me, I–you, I-world, I–Other

Effectiveness of content/activities in helping the children to reflect and respond to what God is saying to them.

Suitability of session to children

Relationship building (child-to-child, child-to-God, child-to-adult)

What would you say the children have taken from the session?

What ideas do you have that could improve this session?

Discuss together all the above and write any further notes below

Benedict’s Box—an Advent, Christingle story

Betty and Joe lived in the hill country, far from any towns and cities, in a small, poor village. They lived a simple life with their mum and dad who grew oats and apples and made all sorts of things out of wood to sell at markets in the towns far away.

But their village was under threat. A strange darkness had gripped it ever since an old man called Benedict had died. He was a wonderful man, full of love and warmth, who spent his life helping others who were in need of anything; someone to talk to, something to eat, something to wear, wise advice for difficult times. After his death, the villagers had slowly forgotten about Benedict and the strange darkness had grown.  It was a darkness in people’s hearts, words, and actions. They spoke angrily and bitterly to each other, they stole what few possessions and little food they had from each other, and they fought over small things too. Even the sun rarely shone.

Betty and Joe felt this darkness too. Yet they fought against it with all their hearts. One day, they were both woken early by a cold wind that seeped through the cracks around the windows of their room. It was still dark as they ate their porridge, but as the light grew they saw that the wind had brought with it snow. And lots of it. Both their faces lit up with excitement and they rushed to put on their thickest jumpers and jackets before waving to mum and dad and running off into the fresh white, powdery snow.

First they played snowballs, aiming at each other, until they both had taken one too many in the face! And then they aimed at any old target they could find in the village– a wall, a lamppost, a sign…until their joy was snuffed out by an angry shout, ‘Oi you two! Get away, we don’t want kids playing round here’. Joe and Betty jumped at the fierce voice, and then ran. Up the hill they ran, past all the houses and out of the village. When they finally ran out of breath they slowed to a walk and trudged through the snow, up an old lane where some houses once stood that led into the hills. Everything looked different with a thick covering of snow and even though it was still quite dark, they enjoyed talking about how pretty things looked with their new white icing–like layer on top.

After a while, they were some way out of the town and into the hills. The lane passed through a wooded area with tall pine trees growing closely together. But then, through the trees, Joe spotted an old building. ‘Come on Betty, let’s explore…’ and they ran off to find a way in. As they pushed branches aside and came closer to the building, they could see that it was an old church. Some of it’s windows were broken and the stone bricks covered in moss and ivy. But it’s large, heavy, wooden front door was ever so slightly open. ‘Hey on Joe, shall we go inside’ Betty  suggested with a glint in her eye. Cautiously, they opened the door wide enough for them to slip through. It was cold and damp and it all looked shabby and uncared for. But it felt somehow different to their village, somehow not so dark.

Outside, the snow had stopped falling and the clouds were not so thick. Betty and Joe walked slowly into the old church, looking around at the stained glass windows, many of which were broken, and at the bronze candle holders that were dusty and dull. Then as they reached the front of the church, where there was a rail, some cushions and a large table with more dusty candle holders, a gap appeared in clouds outside, and the sun, which was just rising, shone brightly and cast a beautiful orange, red and yellowy glow through the door that they had left open. Joe and Betty turned to see the opposite wall bathed in the warm colours. They stared, almost transfixed as the narrow shaft of light travelled through the church; further in and higher up as the sun rose. Then their gaze was drawn to a box. A plain wooden box, dusty and dirty like everything else but with the same warm light seeping out from the edges of it’s lid and it’s sides where the wooden panels no longer quite fitted. ‘Wow’ they said to each other, ‘What could it be?’, they asked each other as they knelt beside it. ‘I wonder what’s inside?’ said Betty, ’Should we open it?’

What do you think they should do? What do you think is inside?

The two of them, brother and sister, held each other with one hand, and each put the other hand on the lid of the box. Together they opened it and the light shone out with such intensity that they had to close their eyes and they fell backwards. But the light felt so good! And for the first time in years they felt joy in their hearts. They realised that the darkness they had felt had been chased away and they felt lighter and happier and free. Together, they bravely reached inside the box, through the almost blinding light to see if there was anything inside. And sure enough, there was; a hat, a pair of shoes and gloves and a small book, a bible. As Joe flicked through the pages of the bible, a piece of paper fell out and on it was some writing, ‘Remember, my friends, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1. Remember the light. You who read this note must remind the people of the light.’ It was signed, ‘Benedict

Even though they didn’t fully understand it all, they knew what they had to do. Joe and Betty put the gloves, shoes, hat and Bible back into the box, picked it up and ran. They ran back through the pine trees, and down that long lane, their small feet sinking into the snow with each step but their bodies feeling strong and fast and full of light.  Back into the village they ran, shouting with excitement. They put the box down in the middle square of the village and picked up some snow. Snow which they made into snowballs and threw at every house they could. Angry voices shouted back at them but this time they carried on throwing the snow balls until the people came out of their houses and into the square and when the square was full of people shouting at them and at each other they knelt by the box and once again, hand in hand, they lifted the lid. And the light shone out! Radiating off their faces, lighting up the grey buildings, throwing warmth and light onto the faces of the angry and bitter people; melting their cold hearts with it’s love.

The shouting died down, men and women, boys and girls all stopped still. Some sank to the ground. And when it was quiet enough to be heard, the two of them took out their treasure and read the note aloud, ‘Remember, my friends, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Remember the light. You who read this note must remind the people of the light. John 1. It’s from someone called Benedict!’

That name seemed to send shockwaves through many of the villagers as they remembered. As they remembered what it was like to love and to be loved; as they remembered what it felt like to have ‘light’ inside them. The light was chasing away the darkness from within them.

By now, the sun was fully up and there were large blue pieces of sky between the clouds. From somewhere in the crowd, a snowball flew through the air and hit a sign, spraying a fine snow shower. But instead of angry shouts, laughter broke out among them and before long there was a fight, but not a angry fight, a fun–filled, light–hearted snowball fight in the glow of Benedict’s box.

Reflection

I wonder who this story reminds you of?

I wonder what you think it has to say to us, to you?

(Let’s close our eyes.) The Christmas story is about the light of the world, Jesus, coming to our world to chase away and beat the darkness to bring us peace in our hearts and lives. How can you share peace and love with people around you?

Dear God, thank you for sending Jesus, the true light, to shine in the darkness. Please help us to shine love, peace and light in dark places too. Amen

Tim Blake

by Rachel Andrew CC license

 

Fair Trade Products & Ethical Gifts | Traidcraft Online Shop

In the first of a few posts about Advent and how we can celebrate it, here is a link to buy some real Advent calendars, i.e. calendars that tell the story of Christmas. Some even have chocolate too! The Real Advent Calendar can, apparently be bought at Milton Tesco.

With the UK’s widest range of fair trade products, Traidcraft stocks fair trade clothing, ethical gifts, organic groceries, and more… Shop online now!

Source: Fair Trade Products & Ethical Gifts | Traidcraft Online Shop

True Advent Calendars…

In the first of a few posts about Advent and how we can celebrate it, here is a link to buy some real Advent calendars, i.e. calendars that tell the story of Christmas. Some even have chocolate too! The Real Advent Calendar can, apparently be bought at Milton Tesco.

Start your Christmas countdown in style with our fair trade advent calendars. Not only do some of our calendars offer Divine Chocolate, they are also UK printed.

The Easter Story with Lego

In SJ Club we have been looking at the events that lead up to Easter during September and October. This is a slightly unusual time, but gave us the chance to explore some of the main events of Easter week, but without the need to do them during the week!

The series finished on 9th October with Rob McKinley presenting the crucifixion using Lego to tell the story from Luke 23, Matthew 27 and John 20. To help those at the back who might have had trouble seeing the figures he prepared a series of pictures which were on the screen behind him.

We thought they were so good we should share them.

  • Then the whole group of Jewish leaders who had been questioning Jesus stood up and led Jesus to Pilate who was the Roman governor, a powerful man who could make judgements. They began to accuse Jesus. They told Pilate, “We caught this man telling things that were confusing our people. He says that we should not pay taxes to Caesar. He calls himself the Christ, a king.”
  • Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Yes, that is right.”… Pilate called all the people together with the leading priests and the Jewish leaders. He said to them, “You brought this man to me. You said that he was making trouble among the people. But I have questioned him before you all, and I have not found him guilty of the things you say. …. Look, he has done nothing for which he should die.
  • Every year at the time of Passover the governor would free one person from prison…At that time there was a man in prison who was known to be very bad. His name was Barabbas.… But the leading priests and elders told the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be freed and for Jesus to be killed.
  • Pilate said, “I have Barabbas and Jesus. Which do you want me to set free for you?” The people answered, “Barabbas!” Pilate asked, “What should I do with Jesus, the one called the Christ?” They all answered, “Kill him on a cross!” Pilate asked, “Why do you want me to kill him? What wrong has he done?” But they shouted louder, “Kill him on a cross!”
  • Pilate saw that he could do nothing about this, and a riot was starting. So he took some water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. Then he said, “I am not guilty of this man’s death. You are the ones who are causing it!”...
  • Then Pilate freed Barabbas. Pilate told some of the soldiers to beat Jesus with whips. Then he gave Jesus to the soldiers to be killed on a cross.
  • … At that time, there was a man coming into the city from the fields. His name was Simon, and he was from the city of Cyrene. The soldiers forced Simon to carry Jesus’ cross and walk behind him. A large crowd of people was following Jesus. Some of the women were sad and crying…
  • There were also two criminals led out with Jesus to be killed. Jesus and the two criminals were taken to a place called the Skull. There the soldiers nailed Jesus to his cross. They also nailed the criminals to their crosses, one beside Jesus on the right and the other beside Jesus on the left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” The soldiers threw lots to decide who would get his clothes. The people stood there watching. The leaders made fun of Jesus. They said, “If he is God’s Chosen One, the Christ, then let him save himself. He saved other people, didn’t he?”… One of the criminals began to shout insults at Jesus: “Aren’t you the Christ? Then save yourself! And save us too!”
  • But the other criminal stopped him. He said, “You should fear God! You are getting the same punishment as he is. We are punished justly; we should die. But this man has done nothing wrong!” Then this criminal said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!” Then Jesus said to him, “Listen! What I say is true: Today you will be with me in paradise!”
  • It was about noon, and the whole land became dark until three o’clock in the afternoon. There was no sun! The curtain in the Temple was torn into two pieces. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, I give you my life.” After Jesus said this, he died. The army officer there saw what happened. He praised God, saying, “I know this was a good man!”
  • Many people had gathered there to watch this thing. When they saw what happened, they returned home. They beat their chests because they were so sad. Those who were close friends of Jesus were there. Some were women who had followed Jesus from Galilee. They all stood far away from the cross and watched.
  • A man from the Jewish town of Arimathea was there, too. His name was Joseph. He was a good, religious man. He wanted the kingdom of God to come. Joseph was a member of the Jewish council, but he had not agreed when the other leaders decided to kill Jesus. Joseph went to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus. So Joseph took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in cloth. Then he put Jesus’ body in a tomb that was cut in a wall of rock…
  • The women who had come from Galilee with Jesus followed Joseph. They saw the tomb and saw inside where the body of Jesus was laid. Then the women left to prepare perfumes and spices…
  • The tomb was sealed because it was night time and then the Sabbath, day of rest
  • Early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. It was still dark. Mary saw that the large stone had been moved away from the tomb.
  • So Mary ran to Simon Peter and another disciple. Mary said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb. We don’t know where they have put him.”
  • So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. They were both running, but the other follower ran faster than Peter…and reached the tomb first. He bent down and looked in. He saw the strips of linen cloth lying there, but he did not go in.
  • Then following him came Simon Peter. He went into the tomb and saw the strips of linen lying there… Then the other follower, who had reached the tomb first, also went in. He saw and believed...
  • Then the followers went back home. But Mary stood outside the tomb, crying. While she was still crying, she bent down and looked inside the tomb. She saw two angels dressed in white. They were sitting where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and one at the feet. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
  • She answered, “They have taken away my Lord. I don’t know where they have put him.” When Mary said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there. But she did not know that it was Jesus… Jesus said to her, “Mary.”…
  • Mary Magdalene went and said to the followers, “I saw the Lord!” And she told them what Jesus had said to her.
  • When it was evening on the first day of the week, Jesus’ followers were together. The doors were locked, because they were afraid of the elders. Then Jesus came and stood right in the middle of them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. His followers were thrilled when they saw the Lord.