Celebrating Godparents

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Godparents’ Sunday is less than 2 weeks away. What are you doing to prepare for this special Sunday this year?

This initiative, begun by the Church of England is a really important way to connect – or reconnect – with families who come to the church for baptism. Godparents’ Sunday is a response to research undertaken on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council looking at parent’s real experiences and expectations around the baptism of their child. In 2016, Godparents’ Sunday took place for the first time with resources made available to help create a great day of welcome and celebration.

In 2018, it will take place on May 6th, but you can celebrate the role of godparents at any time of year if you wish. One of the biggest findings of the research was that godparents really, really matter to families. Godparents are part of family life for all the years ahead, a relationship that will last into adulthood and beyond.

So setting apart a Sunday to celebrate and pray for this special relationship is a great opportunity to share with families and ask for God’s blessing on godparents and godchildren everywhere.

Look at the website www.churchsupporthub.org and keep to date on Twitter (@CofE_CSH) and Facebook for new posts and videos. #godparentssunday #prayinggodparent #blessedgodchild #lovechristenings

Here are some ideas for how to celebrate Godparents’ Sunday in a simple way where you are

  1. Pray intentionally for all who have been baptised in the past year or few years, or those who are preparing for baptism, in the lead up to Godparents’ Sunday
  2. Create a prayer tree, prayer board or include in the intercessions names of those to be baptised or those who have anniversaries of baptism. You may also think about sending baptism anniversary cards. These are great ways to build links with families and show them you care about them and remember them in prayer.
  3. Set up ‘baptism buddies’ where a member of the congregation ‘adopts’ in prayer a family who have come to the church for baptism in the past 1-3 years. This can also work when regular congregation members attend the baptism of a child when it takes place outside the service, meaning that if they come along on a Sunday morning they will see a familiar face.
  4. Hold a special service for Godparents’ Sunday and carefully consider the following; Welcome – ensure that there is a good welcome on the door as families come to celebrate Godparents’ Sunday. Try and see if there is a family already attending the church who might help with this. Accessibility – is the way your service is presented helpful to newcomers or those less familiar? Is there something you can do specially for this Sunday to make it more accessible to all? Inclusion – all-age worship can be hard to do well but make sure whatever you do that there is something for everyone and a place where all ages can feel part of worship and fellowship together. Make sure simple things are done too e.g. providing a changing mat for small children or set aside space for children to use during the service Timing – consider not only the time of your Sunday service but how long it takes, how much time you have afterwards to speak to families and spend time together and how long it will be before you have another ‘Family Service’ or event for them to engage in worship together.
  5. Plan a follow up event – Don’t leave it too long! It sounds simple, but you need to have your next event ready so that you can advertise it on Godparents’ Sunday. Whatever you are doing next, make sure there are posters or fliers available so that any families who come along know what’s happening and feel encouraged to come along. It might also be a talking point for them to get to know others and ask questions.

Finally download our full resource pack here

Godparents’ Sunday

with lots more ideas, resources and some of the research behind the whole idea. Whatever you do – please do support Godparents’ Sunday this year!

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What a weekend!

Around 30 young people from the Diocese of St Davids departed from the Bishops Palace in Abergwili at 4pm last Friday, waving goodbye to their families . The leaders struggled through the energetic singing from the back, and were thrilled when we arrived at the Urdd Centre on Cardiff Bay. We arrived, had a little time to unpack, and then had our first meal. After this we had a worship session, where we had the opportunity to get to know our group leaders, and the other members of our team. We also had rainbow paper in the shape of a cross to answer questions such as ‘Why did we come on the Youth Residential?’ and ‘ Who was Jesus to Us?’ After this we went downstairs for hot chocolates and board games and then went off to bed, but I’m not sure many of us had much sleep at all!

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We woke on Saturday morning by the very loud alarms going off on our roommates phone, got dressed and went down for breakfast. Next, we had morning worship, where Archdeacon Dorrien came to talk to us about following Jesus. We even gave him one of our Youth Residential T-shirts.

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After this, we walked over to the Millennium Centre, to where the hop on hop off bus stop was. We hopped on, plugged in our headphones, and listened to the commentary as we passed The Doctor Who Experience, BBC Cymru Studios, The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and many other places. We went back to the Urdd Centre to have lunch, and had some free time, to play pool, giant jenga and buy slime from the shop at the centre! Next we had  the option to go to the National Museum, Shopping in the Centre of Cardiff or a tour of the Senedd building, where the Welsh parliament members meet. We split up and met back up 2 hours later.

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We then went back to the Urdd Centre to have food, and some down time. During this time, the hall was open to go and sit with some of the leaders to ask questions and to pray. Next we had evening worship where we did some more group activities thinking about who we are in Jesus and played around of the sticky head game – where we had post it notes on our heads with a celebrity name on and had 20 questions to guess who we were.

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After this, we walked over to the Red Dragon Centre, where we went to hollywood bowl. In our lanes, we bowled and took some very funny photos, and a member of the Hollywood Bowl team came over to us all and gave out strike stickers to those who had strikes!

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Sunday morning we were all up early after a great night’s sleep, and we headed downstairs for breakfast. Next was what we’d all been waiting for…THE CAMERA CHALLENGE. We departed in our teams, with our leaders and took part in challenges such as finding a giant question mark, a random act of kindness, pictures with statues, and even exercising on outdoor gym equipment!

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After lunch at the Urdd Centre, we headed out into Cardiff, to where we arrived at St Mary’s Church. Fr Dean welcomed us, and we had a eucharist service. During the service, we had time to write our own prayers, and have a look around the church.

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After saying thank you to Fr Dean,  we walked back to the main part of the bay, to have some down time, and tidy our rooms for the room inspections! We had dinner and then went out for the speed boat ride, where we went in 3 different groups along the water.

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We then went into 4 different groups, to work on readings, a drama, prayers and a song for the final worship the following day. We then had late night worship, where we had time to take part in activities, have the leaders pray for us, and light candles. We then went off to bed, as tomorrow was going to be a busy morning.

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Monday morning, we all woke with a smile at the thought of sleeping in our own beds that evening. We went downstairs for breakfast and then went to try and pack all of our belongings back into our suitcases, which believe me was a struggle. We put our suitcases downstairs and headed up to the Urdd hall, to where we had our final worship. We sang songs and  had groups take part in activities. We then saw the photos of the weekend, which were hilarious and the awards were given out. After this, we hopped back onto the bus to return back to our families.

Overall, the Youth Residential was great, and was a good way to meet other young people of the same faith. We have all made many new friends, and can’t wait to see them all again very soon. A huge thank you to all of the leaders, and a special thanks to Clare for organising this fantastic event.

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Written by Caitlyn, aged 13

Billy Graham

Billy GrahamBilly Graham (1918-2018): The most influential evangelist of our time

© www.premierchristianity.com

David Barnes reflects on his long life

Billy Graham was one of the most important Christian leaders of the twentieth century, and possibly the most important evangelical leader in history.

Graham preached to millions in a career that spanned over 60 years. The deep-voiced Southern Baptist preacher had talent and theatrical flair, yet his success was based on the simplicity of his gospel altar calls. His audiences were invited just to come forward, repent of their sins and invite Jesus into their life.

Millions responded across the globe, walking up to the strains of the hymn ‘Just as I Am’.

Billy Graham was born William Franklin Graham Junior in November 1918 in the town of Charlotte, North Carolina, and was baptised into the Reformed Presbyterian Church. In 1934, after hearing an address by the evangelist Mordecai Ham, the 16 year-old Graham made a personal commitment to Christ. Graham initially attended Bob Jones University, then Bob Jones College and by many accounts a grim, forbidding place. Bob Jones University was later to boycott Graham’s crusades, accusing him of welcoming ‘false teachers’ – Graham always strived for ecumenical support for his campaigns.

In 1937, Graham persuaded his parents that he should transfer to the Florida Bible Institute (FBI) where he graduated in 1940. It was here that Graham became a convinced Baptist, and was baptised by full immersion twice – once at the FBI, and again by the Southern Baptist leader Cecil Underwood. In 1940, Graham transferred to Wheaton College, Illinois, where he took a second BA, this time in anthropology.

It was while at Wheaton that Graham met Ruth Bell, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries to China. Bell had no intention of marrying, and had imagined herself as an ‘old maid’ doing missions in China. But she was immediately drawn to Graham’s energy, charisma and humble devotion to God. They married in 1943, just after graduation. Ruth, who died in 2007 at the age of 87, was Graham’s soul mate and closest spiritual companion. She could be tough on him. Graham liked to joke that, when he had been considering running for the Presidency, Ruth had said that she didn’t think that the American public would take to a divorced President. The implication was clear. From 1945, the Grahams had settled in Montreat, North Carolina. They had five children: Virginia Leftwich, Anne Morrow, Ruth Bell, William Franklin, and Nelson Edman.

Crusades

One of the first positions Graham held after college was president of Youth for Christ. Traveling around America and Europe as the Youth for Christ representative gave Graham insights which would later serve him well in his ‘crusades’. In 1947, Graham began to plan his own evangelistic campaigns. At his first major crusade, in Los Angeles in 1949, figures such as the former gang member James Arthur Vaus Junior and the teenage delinquent and Olympic athlete Lou Zamperini came forward to receive Christ. Zamperini was impressed by the ‘clean-cut all-American type’ Graham.

The extraordinary response to the Los Angeles crusade famously led newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst to call on his editors to ‘puff Graham’ – ie build him up. The positive response of Hearst’s newspaper empire to the crusade meant it lasted five weeks longer than planned. Hearst’s sons even believed that Hearst – famously the model for Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane – went to the crusades disguised in a wheelchair. Graham’s first major international crusade was in London in 1954, where he preached to thousands at the Harringey Arena in north London. Graham also had a private audience with Winston Churchill; according to Graham’s memoirs, Churchill had said: “I am a man without hope. Do you have any real hope?”

What was behind the success of the Billy Graham crusades? Many pointed to the ‘utter simplicity’ of Graham’s appeals, based on a number of carefully chosen biblical texts. Others were more suspicious of Graham’s methods, seeing them as overly emotive.

Some saw him as a salesman, using modern techniques of PR and publicity to create a buzz around the crusades. Graham defended the style of the rallies. “In every other area of life, we take for granted publicity, bigness, modern techniques”, he told a reporter in 1956, “why should not the church employ some of these methods?” Still others within the fundamentalist community in America felt that Graham was too ‘liberal’ or ‘modernistic’.

Graham was clear on his position; if ‘fundamentalist’ meant an orthodox belief in Scripture, the atoning work of Christ, and his physical resurrection, then Graham was a fundamentalist. If ‘fundamentalism’ referred to what he called ‘a series of reactionary positions’ defined against liberalism, however, then Graham would have no part of it.

Politics

Politically, Graham avoided controversies, and regretted some of his earlier involvement in political questions. He had been outspoken as a young man against communism and socialism. Graham came to believe that Christian ministry was strongest when it was identified with neither Left nor Right.

Although he was firm friends with Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and both Presidents Bush, Graham was actually a card-carrying member of the Democratic party. Graham met every American President from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. But Graham felt that political questions were essentially a distraction for the church, although he encouraged Christians to enter politics. Graham never courted the powerful for reward; as the academic Stephen Winzenburg has said, ‘Graham made a conscious effort to befriend people in power so he could gain access to bigger crowds’.

Graham came to believe that Christian ministry was strongest when it was identified with neither Left nor Right

Graham soon became a celebrity, and was well-suited to the world of film and television, with his tall, striking frame and his clean-cut good looks. His distinctive voice – fiery and dramatic as a younger man – mellowed with age. Yet even well into his eighties, Graham would practice his vocal exercises every day like an opera singer. Prayer was the engine of Billy Graham’s ministry – prayer each day, every day, morning and evening.

Every morning began the same way, with Graham praying for the strength to complete the work God had given him. It could be said that Graham was simply an old-style evangelist, in the mould of Dwight L. Moody, John Wesley and George Whitefield. It was the world that had changed – a world of mass-media and global communication. Harold Bloom called Graham ‘the Pope of Protestant America’, and although one could argue the point, one could see what he was getting at. In terms of reach and influence, Graham’s peers were John Paul II and Mother Theresa.

Graham went behind what was then the Iron Curtain to preach the gospel in Communist Russia, Poland and Hungary. He met Gorbachev and Yeltsin, and in 1978 was invited to Krakow by the Polish bishop Karol Woytyla, later to be Pope John Paul II. Woytyla was the only Catholic figure to welcome Graham, and the two men had planned to have tea together, but by the time Graham’s plane landed, Woytyla had gone to Rome to accept the pontificate.

Graham’s 1982 visit to the Soviet Union was widely criticised in the United States, the New York Times among others accusing him of denying Soviet repression. Graham was outspoken in favour of peace – the visit took place at the height of the Cold War – and he also met with Russian Christian leaders.

The culmination of Graham’s groundwork behind the Iron Curtain was his extraordinary Moscow crusade in 1992. On the first night in Moscow almost 11,000 people had pledged commitment, on the second night, almost 13,000. The national and international crusades took it out of him; preaching at Madison Square Gardens in New York City in the 1950s, he lost 30 pounds in weight.

Everyone who met Graham talked of his humility, and he always tried to deflect attention from himself and onto Christ. When the million-dollar Billy Graham Library opened in 2007, Graham said that its purpose was ‘to please the Lord and to honor Jesus, not to see me or to think of me’. At its opening, the preacher complained that the ceremony gave the public ‘too much Billy Graham’.

Graham always worried that too much focus on him as a personality would weaken his message, compromise his integrity. It was an integrity he worked hard to maintain. Graham and his senior advisers pledged to avoid any situation where they might be accused of financial impropriety or other scandalous behaviour. Graham famously never met with any woman alone other than his wife. He also founded the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and was ultra-scrupulous about the way he raised funds.

Controversy

But Graham’s life and legacy were not without controversy. Some, for example, accused him of not taking a firm enough stand against segregation during the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. Although Graham was critical of the Jim Crow laws that existed in the South from the early 1950s, many thought his stance was not provocative enough. ‘He stressed individual conversion over political change,’ wrote the New York Times, ‘supporting legal reforms in lukewarm terms while insisting that only the Gospel could really improve race relations’.

Certainly, Graham’s emphasis was on the coming kingdom, but it is hard to argue that he was a reactionary figure. He staged desegregated rallies, and got to know Martin Luther King as a personal friend, inviting him to preach at one of his rallies. Dr King said that Graham’s help had been instrumental in the success of his campaigns: ‘Had it not been for the ministry of my good friend, Dr. Billy Graham, my work in the civil rights movement would not have been as successful as it has been’.

Graham was also criticised as apparently anti-semitic remarks he made in conversation with President Nixon in 1972 were found on tape. When confronted with the remarks, Graham was contrite. ‘I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office conversation with President Nixon and H.R. Haldeman some 30 years ago’, he said. ‘They do not reflect my views and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks.’ He added: ‘I realise that much of my life has been a pilgrimage – constantly learning, changing, growing and maturing. I have come to see in deeper ways some of the implications of my faith and message, not the least of which is in the area of human rights and racial and ethnic understanding.’

Legacy

Graham’s son Franklin Graham gradually took over the running of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (he was made CEO in 2000). Franklin Graham has proved readier to be involved in politics than his father, and at times has been roundly criticised for his controversial statements on Islam. His description of Islam as ‘a very evil and wicked religion’ were ‘lovingly rebuked’ by other evangelical leaders. He also found himself in hot water when he appeared to give credence to ‘birther’ theories about President Obama’s parentage, hinting that Obama might not be a Christian.

Other projects that Billy Graham was involved in included the founding of Christianity Today magazine in 1955. The magazine was intended as a focus for the evangelical community within the United States. Graham was also instrumental in the founding of the Lausanne Movement, which helped to unite evangelical Christians across the world. The first International Congress on World Evangelisation was convened by Graham in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974. Many evangelicals consider the Lausanne movement, and the accompanying Lausanne covenant, as re-emphasising the need for social justice and care for the poor within evangelical Protestantism.

“I have never converted anybody. Only Christ can change the course of a man’s life” – Billy Graham

Along with other leading Christian figures such as John Stott, Francis Shaeffer and Carl Henry, Graham stressed the need for the Lausanne movement to understand the contemporary world. Lausanne attempted to weld together a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of different cultures and an emphasis on social action, with an unflinching commitment to historic, biblical Christianity. In the covenant’s own words: ‘We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all people. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression.’

Final years

In 1992, Graham announced that he had Parkinson’s disease, and he began to cut back on his full schedule. In 2006, Graham preached at his last crusade in New York City. The old showmanship was still in force; Jon Meacham, former managing editor of the US magazine Newsweek, who was watching the crusade, talked of the ‘great stagecraft’ of the event. Meacham was impressed by the then 87-year old preacher’s ability to ‘convince an audience of a reality we cannot see ourselves’.

Meacher commented that, although Graham’s message might seem ‘sectarian’, it was nonetheless a message that ‘opens up the possibility of grace for everyone’. It was the universality of Graham’s appeal that made him so successful: white and black, Democrat or Republican, all could relate to his simple, gentle charisma.

In more recent years, Graham retired from public ministry and has battled Parkinson’s, cancer and pneumonia. His son Franklin told Premier last month, “He’s just tired; he doesn’t say much anymore – he’s gone very quiet. We’re planning to celebrate his birthday but I’m not sure he’ll care. He told us when he was 90 he was going to live to be 95 – I didn’t believe him.”

Graham has lived a long and fruitful life. He died today, age 99 – just seven months shy of his one hundredth birthday. He will be remembered primarily for influencing millions of people across the world. Hundreds of thousands of people will today mourn a man who played a significant role in their coming to Christ.

Yet for Graham it was always God’s work, not his. “I have never converted anybody,” he said in 1956. “Only Christ can change the course of a man’s life”. His daily prayers were simple: ‘Help me, Lord’. Once, when asked what he thought when he saw a videotape of himself preaching, he replied: ‘I think of him as another person speaking, because the spirit of God begins to speak to me through him.’ That was classic Graham – he longed that he might disappear so that only God would be praised. He didn’t have his wish – he became a celebrity. But in terms of the advancement of Christianity, he is surely one of the key figures of our age.

David Barnes is a writer, critic and lecturer whose work has appeared in The Times and The Guardian. He studied for a Masters’ and then a PhD at Queen Mary, University of London and currently resides in north London.

 

Continuing our Easter journey

armour of GodFrom Easter onwards is a really lovely time in the church’s year. It’s a time when we can explore some of the deepest truths of our faith – such as the mystery of the resurrection – and also some of the most joyful celebrations – such as Pentecost.

This set of planning chooses to focus however on what it means to be a believer and follower of Jesus and how we need to equip ourselves for the task of following him. It looks at the Ephesians passage of putting on the armour of God, thinking about what that means in reality and looking at each ‘piece’ of the armour and how God wants us to act and think and prepare ourselves for following him in the light of the Easter message.

Planning for eight youth group sessions on the armour of God using games, drama, activities, craft and opportunities for reflection.

Why not intersperse these sessions with a games night, a film night, a quiz night or perhaps a trip somewhere? We are also offering a ‘Games and Grill’ session during half term, 11am – 2pm in Milford Haven. Email us for more information or to book a place for a young person aged 10-17

Youth – Armour of God

Here is also planning for eight sessions for a Sunday school or other children’s group (perhaps an After school club) using the same theme – the armour of God.

Children – Armour of God

Journey through Holy Week

This is an adaptation of an idea which has been around for some time called ‘Holy Week in a Box’. Holy Week in a Box uses simple objects tucked into a small box, along with scripture, to tell the story of Holy Week. Each item in the box is a symbol, representing a piece of the gospel narrative: from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, through the Last Supper, betrayal, burial, and finally the empty tomb on Easter morning.

Originally this has been used with one box and as a way to tell the story of Holy Week. However I am now using the idea as an activity with the children making or using the materials for the story as an activity for each section.

Materials

Small box
Green paper leaf shapes
3 coins
Coin shaped piece of paper
Small organza bag
Pipe cleaner
Small heart
Piece of white cloth
Pebble

Palm Sunday

It’s Palm Sunday. The people cut down palms and cheered as Jesus entered Jerusalem.

Take the green paper out of the box. Cut the paper into palm leaves by cutting slits into the leaves. Place them beside the closed box. The people waved palm leaves to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem.  Mark 11:1-10.

When they were getting close to Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of his disciples on ahead. He told them, “Go into the next village. As soon as you enter it, you will find a young donkey. Untie the donkey and bring it here. The disciples left and found the donkey just as Jesus had said. They untied it and led it to Jesus. They put some of their clothes on its back, and Jesus got on. Many people spread clothes on the road, while others went to cut palm leaves from the trees. In front of Jesus and behind him, people went along shouting, “Hooray! God bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hooray for God in heaven above!”

How can we welcome Jesus into our lives and homes?

Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

When Jesus came to Jerusalem, he went into the Temple. There were people cheating others out of their money. Jesus was very angry. Put one of the coins into the bag.

How can we use our money wisely?

The religious leaders asked Jesus if it was right to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor. Let’s read Jesus’ answer in Mark 12:13-17.

Jesus told them, “Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.”

Put the second coin into the bag I wonder how we can give to God?

Jesus watched people in the Temple giving money to God. Some made a big show of giving lots of money. But one person didn’t. Read her story. Mark 12:41-44. Jesus was sitting in the temple near the offering box and watching people put in their gifts. He noticed that many rich people were giving a lot of money. 42 Finally, a poor widow came up and put in two coins that were worth only a few pennies. 43 Jesus told his disciples to gather around him. Then he said: I tell you that this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 44 Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had. Now she doesn’t have a penny to live on. Put the last coin into the bag How can we give to God’s kingdom? Write onto the paper coin something you can give to God and add it to the bag

 

Maundy Thursday

 

Today we remember the last Passover meal Jesus had with his friends. Use the top of the box as a table. Draw a cup and plate on it. Use the pipe cleaner to make a person (Jesus) and put him by the table. Mark 14:12-25

During the meal Jesus took some bread in his hands. He blessed the bread and broke it. Then he gave it to his disciples and said, “Take this. It is my body”. Jesus picked up a cup of wine and gave thanks to God. He gave it to his disciples, and they all drank some. Then he said, “This is my blood, which is poured out for many people, and with it God makes his promise.

In church, how do we remember this meal?

Share some bread and grapes together to remember Jesus

Good Friday

The religious leaders wanted to get rid of Jesus. They told lies about him. Jesus was arrested. It was a very sad day, because the authorities put Jesus to death on a cross. Change the pipe cleaner into a cross and place it in front of the box. Mark 15, 22-25, 37 They nailed Jesus to a cross and threw dice to play a game and see who would get his clothes. It was about nine o’clock in the morning when they nailed him to the cross. Jesus became very tired and thirsty but all they offered him was a sponge soaked in vinegar. At about 3 o’clock that day, Jesus shouted and then died.

How do we see Jesus loving us through the cross?

Good Friday Continued When Jesus had died, his friends took his body down from the cross and wrapped it in linen cloth. They placed Jesus’ body in a tomb cut out of rock.

Wrap the cross in a piece of white cloth. Place it in the box, put a pebble on top and put the lid on. Mark 15:40-43, 46, 47. They took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped him in the cloth, and put him in a tomb that had been cut into solid rock. Then they rolled a big stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and some others were watching and saw where the body was placed.

I wonder how his friends felt?

Write a word onto the pebble about how you feel

Saturday: Stillness On the Saturday, everything was so still you could almost hear the earth breathe. There was nothing that could be done. Holy Saturday is a waiting day.

Place a tea-light by your box as a way of showing that you are waiting.

Finish by colouring these symbols and making them into a cross shape on a piece of card

Good Friday pictures

 

 

 

 

Kitchen Table Project

Facebook-Header-851x315-6A new project has been launched by the amazing Care for the Family team called the Kitchen Table project

Following on from our report on the Riding Lights theatre event ‘Where Adventure Begins’ it seems really appropriate that this particular project looks at faith in the home.

We are offering to run ‘Inspire’ sessions with parents/carers at your church to help inspire and equip them to share faith at home as part of their daily lives. There are lots of resources you can use to help publicise the Kitchen Table project, to use it and pray for it as a church www.kitchentable.org.uk

If you are keen to host an ‘Inspire’ session email clarewilliams@churchinwales.org.uk and she will be in touch about how you can do this together.                                                            

What happens at Inspire?

A few mums, dads, carers and others get together at someone’s home or church. There are two short five minute video clips that help introduce the topic and what the Bible says about faith at home, and the leader’s guide gives some questions to help you discuss your thoughts and experiences.

The questions help to get you thinking about why it’s important to share our faith with our children at home.

You can then choose from a pack of 28 questions that help you to think about specific examples of how we can do this more intentionally in the everyday things of life, and what would work best for your family. There are enough questions that you could meet up again to talk through more if you’d like to!

Who is it for?

Inspire is for all mums and dads, whether they are parenting together, alone or as a stepfamily, with birth children or those who are adopted or fostered. The session is primarily aimed at parents of children under 11, but can also be used for parents with older children as well.

You may find that others wish to attend too! That could include grandparents or other members of the wider family, godparents or children’s leaders.

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All belong

all belongToday we welcome guest blogger Zoe Watts describing amazing news with all inclusive work in her church community

“The additional needs ministry in our Church was set up some 10+ years ago. It started with a few children from within the church family whose needs were not provided for within the mainstream groups, but has grown to be 3 dedicated groups for children with additional needs on a Sunday with 35-40 children most weeks! We have run a number of holiday clubs in the summer holidays; we have a thriving group for our parents who meet in the week for fellowship and bible study; and we run a number of one-off events for the children and families, as well as running a family support group with trips out in the holidays and expert visiting speakers.

We firmly believe that this ministry is God-inspired & week by week we see God’s hand at work with the children & their families. The ministry started small, but has become one of the biggest sources of growth within our church in recent years, & reaches out to many families who might otherwise be excluded. Our children ‘get’ God; they see & experience His powerful love for them & they flourish under His love & care.

This is great for us & for the precious families in our area. However, we are all too aware that almost 20% of children in the UK have an additional need & that 90% of families who have a child with an additional need find themselves outside of the church – often because their local church is not accessible or inclusive.  These are shocking statistics…

Having been involved in supporting (not leading) the ministry for many years, God worked various elements together a year or so ago to convict me that it was my job to get our fantastic resources online to help churches elsewhere to love & support these special children…

Frankly speaking, web design isn’t one of my strengths, so on the face of it, I wasn’t a good choice. However, as I expect many of you can testify, that’s not a problem to God – & he put some amazing people around to encourage, support & help me.

The website went live about a week ago now! We will add more as time allows, but it offers you bible stories & powerpoints that are suitable for children with additional needs (we use them with minor tweaks for children between the ages of 3 & early 20’s!) They are simply told, but are designed to stimulate a range of senses, which help children & young people engage. We also provide craft ideas & clear instructions & guidance notes on all sorts of related areas such as equipment & toys, worship, praying & games ideas, child registration forms etc, as well as training that you could use.

Now we want you to use it! Please have a look & share it. The resources are free & we are praying that you will step out in faith and build God’s church to be a body where all belong & all can experience His love – & contribute together to be the body of Christ. I have no doubt that if you are inspired to share God’s love in this ministry, you too will be immeasurably blessed by it too …”

Thank you Zoe – please see more information and support for you and your church here:

www.allbelong.co.uk

The Adventure has begun…

Where Adventure Begins – Review

Last month we were blessed in this Diocese to have brought to us a production by Riding Lights Theatre Company called ‘Where Adventure Begins’. This show illustrated the importance of faith at home and of our church communities being places of welcome for all ages to allow faith to grow.

adventure1

Mark Griffiths from St Padarn’s who sponsored the tour in Wales says this

“The catalyst for this initiative was a round table discussion in 2015 between various denominational leaders and para church organisations that I was privileged to attend.  The subject was how we better enable Christian parents to communicate faith to their children.  The subject was brought home by a survey conducted by Evangelical Alliance in 2012 that showed that of all the Christians in UK churches, 6% had come through Alpha, Emmaus, Christianity Explored or some other form of course but 56% were there because they had grown up in a home where parent(s) were followers of Jesus.  Faith in the home is a significant factor in increasing the number of Christians.  And if you are wondering, the majority of the rest were in church because a friend invited them – it’s always relational.

There were other statistics being presented at this time.  Theos the Christian think tank concluded that one in every two children who grow up to  in a Christian home walk away from church.  That is a worrying statistic.  The final piece of the puzzle came as a result of some research I did at a large Christian conference where I asked parents to talk about their priorities for their children.  1200 people completed the survey, of which the majority listed “faith” as their number one priority for their children. Their other priorities included, family, good friends, education, and way down the list came “Church” (The research is written up in the Research periodical Future First).  The research highlighted a significant problem because to pass on faith from one generation to the next outside of the context of a Christian community, a church, is very difficult.  We need an environment where we can ask for help.

So in response to all this in 2016 we commissioned Riding Lights Theatre Company to prepare a play to communicate one central theme, “Why parents should communicate faith to their children.

The rationale was this, if parents recognise WHY, then they will work out HOW.”

adventure2

A youth and children’s worker who attended says this

“To be entirely honest, I did not know what to expect from Riding lights performance of “Where Adventure Begins”. I thought I might be entertained but never realised how much of impact it would have on me. By the end of this fun and quirky story I was left feeling not just entertained but also encouraged, and inspired. I also was reassured that I am not the only one faced with the everyday challenges of a Youth and Children’s Worker but, that they are widely recognised.

I believe this helped highlight the importance of positive relationships not just with the children/ young people but also with the families. This has encouraged and inspired me to pray more, and not feel dismayed by limited numbers, for our families and continue to develop and maintain lasting relationships even if it is just with one family because I don’t know the potential God has for that one family and what can happen.

It has also reminded me that is ok to have weaknesses and to admit I am only human, for example I tend to struggle with organisation. Just as the Characters had their own weaknesses they were able to work as a team and help both children. Also, it reminded me of how man or women can accomplish anything they put their mind too – regarding the centre at the end. However, that came about through difficulty and uncertainty. This has inspired to keep pressing forward in our youth projects.

The characters are very relatable and creative, and the Riding Lights cast did an excellent job in representing them. This combined with the retro original tunes and not to mention puppets led to a very entertaining but also inspiring performance. I think one of my favourite aspects, was the use of puppets, which allowed us to see things from a young person’s perspective. Thank you so much for a fantastic show!”

A young person (aged 17) who attended says this:

“My expectations for the play was that it was going to be entertaining, funny and I hoped that it would be relatable to what growing up in faith is really like. The play definitely was entertaining, funny when needed and I felt it was relatable throughout. Overall I really enjoyed the play and I would recommend it to anyone that is interested or has grown up in faith.”

Lent, Holy Week & Easter

holy-weekLectionary based talks, assemblies or ideas for all-age worship for Lent 3, Holy Week and Easter

 

Lent 3

John 2. 13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Story

Begin by talking about how this time of year when the sun comes out and is higher in the sky, when it shines into your house it’s very lovely but it also shows all the dust and the corners where you haven’t cleaned for a while. You could also talk about how this happens in church too and so you’ve been thinking about having a spring clean so let’s have a look at what belongs in church and what you might need to throw out.

Illustration

What belongs in church?

One table with some toy farmyard animals on it

One table with some money bags etc. on it

One table with religious artefacts on it

Go through each one at a time; animals and money…It is not really about one thing or another not being allowed in church, Jesus wasn’t upset because there were animals in church or even because there was money in church. Jesus even turns the rules that were made in the Old Testament upside down when he stops the idea that there are things which are clean and things which are unclean. Jesus simply reminds people in this story that they have forgotten what God’s house is really for.

Questions

So what about the religious symbols here? Are they more important to have in church?

Jesus was reminding the people in the temple that day to get rid of the things that were getting in the way of what God’s house is really all about, things they were doing instead of prayer and worship. So there is nothing really that belongs in a church more than something else, what really matters is making God the top priority.

So what was Jesus doing by throwing out those people and turning over the tables?

*Show another table with cleaning products on it* It was just like having a spring clean. So maybe rather than worrying about what belongs in a church, what we should and shouldn’t do in church we should focus on ourselves and our lives. Do we need to have a spring clean to make sure we are focusing on God as our top priority?

What did we learn?

Jesus doesn’t mind animals in church, he doesn’t even mind money in church, he doesn’t mind what we wear or how loud we are. What he wants us to do when we come to God’s house is remember God first, before everything else and perhaps during Lent he is reminding us to have a spring clean of our lives to make sure we do that every time we come to church.

Pray

God help us this Lent to spring clean our lives and hearts, let your light shine in all the dusty corners and show us what we need to get rid of in order to put you first. Help us always to make you our top priority, especially when we come to worship you in God’s house. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Lent 5 into Holy Week

John 12. 20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Illustration

Show two bunches of flowers, one which is new and all the flowers are blooming brightly and one which has gone ‘to seed’ and looks very much dead. Explain that you picked them from your garden. Ask which ones are the most beautiful?

Most children will say that the new, bright flowers are the most beautiful.

Questions

But in the story, Jesus tells us that every grain of wheat, every flower, everything that grows eventually has to let go of the seed, so that the seed can go back down into the earth and grow new life.

Can you think of some things in your life which are a bit like that? Things where have to stop and start again?

Examples:

  • New school year – you leave everything behind and start again, but it’s what helps us grow
  • Food and drink – we don’t just eat all the time, we need food but we have a meal and then we stop and start again so that the food can be digested and all the goodness from it can help our bodies
  • Friendships – even sometimes in our friendships there might be times when we have to stop and start again – how do we do that? When we have to say sorry for something and then start again.

What did we learn?

Sometimes there might be things we need to let go and start again anew. So to me, the flowers which look as if they are dead are most beautiful because they might have stopped looking beautiful themselves but because of that there will soon be new flowers growing.

Has anyone changed their mind about which bunch they think is most beautiful?

Why?

Pray

God we thank you that you give us new life. Help us to see what things in life we need to stop and start again in order to grow. Amen.

Easter Day

John 20. 1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Story

When I woke up this morning my husband/wife/son/daughter came rushing in to tell me that there had been a flood overnight, the washing machine was broken and the whole kitchen has been completely flooded. To make matters worse the water had also damaged the cable for the fridge and so that was broken, meaning all the food for Easter Sunday lunch was ruined. I jumped out of bed straight away and in a panic began to rush to get myself ready to get downstairs to try and begin to sort this mess out. I was in such a state that I barely even heard my husband/wife/son/daughter say the words ‘April fool’. I think by that point, he/she was so worried about my reaction that all the fun had gone out of the joke anyway…

Questions

Has anyone ever played an April Fool joke on someone? Has anyone ever had a joke like that played on them?

How does it make you feel?

In the Easter story today perhaps Peter and the disciples thought Mary Magdalene was playing a joke on them, perhaps they thought that what she was saying couldn’t possibly be true. They were looking for Jesus and he had disappeared, how could that have happened? They even thought someone had taken his body away as a joke.

What did we learn?

But we know that the story of Easter is no joke. When the disciples ran to the tomb it was empty, but that didn’t mean something had gone missing or that anybody had taken the body away as a joke. Jesus’ body was not there because he had risen again.

Pray

God we thank you for giving us the greatest gift this Easter. We thank you that this is no joke but the biggest surprise, that it is not an April fool but an Easter triumph, that it’s not something missing but something being given, the tomb might have been empty but we are filled with new life. Help us to celebrate and remember today. Amen.

Make a start

SU18

In addition to all the training, events and opportunities which are on offer in 2018, we are also offering to work more closely with parishes and Ministry Areas to help discern what ministry with children and young people might work in the area.

This could be something completely new, a re-launch of something which used to happen, a series of ‘one off’ events to try things out, a monthly event such as Messy Church – absolutely anything which you feel a heart for and have some local people who will support.

Meet with us and talk about the support we can offer and what else is available – grants, training and much more!

Then we will get things going in these three ways.

  1. Pray it into being – nothing will work without prayer behind it. We commit to praying for you and we ask you to prayerfully consider what ministry you will offer, where it will happen and who will help to make it happen.
  2. Launch it at Pentecost – this might not be the right time for you and that’s fine, but we are hoping that with prayerful beginnings at the start of the year, new work may be able to begin at Pentecost (20th May) or just after with a week of mission or into half term right at the end of the month.
  3. Support through the summer – we will continue to offer support through the summer with leadership, financial support and help with resources. It is our hope that with this strong start, whatever you have worked for will be able to be fully up and running by September for the new academic year.

None of this will be possible if you don’t start now! So get in touch clarewilliams@churchinwales.org.uk for an initial meeting.