The last couple of weeks have been incredibly busy (in a really good way) with engaging children with the Easter story. It has been a real joy for Michelle and I, and I hope for many others too!
Jesus engages with children a number of times in the Gospel accounts of his life. Indeed – he marvels at the minds of children; minds of openness and love; and he references them as he teaches the disciples (us), “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-3).
Michelle and I were having a discussion the other day about how best to engage children with the Easter story, in terms of talking about Jesus’ death. Doing things in a children friendly way is never about ‘dumbing down’, it is about making things relevant. Indeed, some of the most challenging theological questions fired at a vicar in ministry usually come from children. Children are naturally curious; they want to know, to understand, and yet they still also have the ability to hold onto facts lightly enough to leave room for the cosmic, to accept wholeheartedly things that are beyond understanding. As we see from Jesus’ own ministry to (and from) children in his time, this was clearly also the case 2000 years ago!
It is fascinating to me therefore that, to my knowledge, children are not mentioned at any point in the Gospel accounts of The Passion. They would certainly have been there – it is impossible that they weren’t – certainly on Good Friday as Jesus is paraded through the city to his execution. As adults we often assume we know best; that our experience is superior, or our testimony is more valid. Jesus certainly thought different, and if we look – we can see different too.
The Easter story is meaningless unless you are prepared to confront the truth that Jesus actually died. He was dead. Not sleeping, not resting, not performing a clever trick or pretending. Actually dead, and actually buried. And so we do have to talk about death, because without it there is no resurrection – no Easter glory. Therefore, if you are going to take children through the Easter story you do have to talk about death in real terms.
So we did. Thorncombe and Tatworth schools came into churches with various year groups and travelled through interactive ‘stations’, hearing and experiencing the Easter journey. Winsham school produced wonderful Stations of the Cross, which you can see in St Stephen’s, and the children there led their own Easter service! We had 16 children at Wild Church on Saturday who spent the afternoon engaging with the journey, and at the truly uplifting service delivered by Rev Michelle for Palm Sunday in Chaffcombe, 6 children provided the visual aids during the liturgies of the Palms and the Passion.
One moment (among many) that will stay with me was an experience in Tatworth Pre-School. 21 children aged 2-4. I led them through the story, and it was alot of fun! I had a box full of things to help tell the story, such as food, towels, cross… and the box itself was the tomb. As we got to Jesus’ burial I put everything we had been using back in the box and closed the lid. There was another opening into the box and I asked one of the children to look inside – even put her hand in. She did, and after tricking me by saying it was full of mice – declared it was completely empty. Cue 20 other children all rushing forwards to check the box, and indeed finding it empty! We then talked about the resurrection, and reaching into the box I took out a large flag and we all cheered and waved in joy! I could tell you how I did it but….
Honesty and wonder. I challenge all of us to approach Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday in that spirit and with the minds of children. To embrace the awful truth, wonder at the unimaginable and see the glorious. Look at the cross, dare to peer into the empty tomb, wonder at the revelation of the risen Lord.
Maundy Thursday (14 April):
7:30pm St Mary Magdalene, Cricket Malherbie. Maundy Thursday Eucharist. Rev’d Philip Butcher
9:30am Good Friday for all ages – St John’s Tatworth. Activities, crafts and refreshments.
12pm – Good Friday Meditations – St Mary’s, Thorncombe. Rev’d Philip
2pm – Good Friday Meditations – St Stephen’s, Winsham. Rev’d Philip
Easter Eve (Saturday 16th April):
8pm – Easter Vigil and Easter Eucharist – St Michael and All Angels, Chaffcombe. Rev’d Philip.
8am – BCP Holy Communion, Forde Abbey. Rev’d Philip
10am – Easter Day Communion, St John’s Tatworth. Rev’d Terri
11am – Easter Day Family Communion, St Mary Magdalene, Cricket Malherbie. Rev’d’s Michelle & Philip
10am – Easter Day Stations of the Resurrection, St Mary’s Thorncombe. Lay Led.
6:30pm – Easter Day Communion, St Stephen’s, Winsham. Rev’d Philip
Please hold the following people from our parishes in your prayers:
Dave Boyland; Sheila Clement; John and Wendy Cotton; Hannah Knott; Mary Marsh; Tony Taylor; Rosemary Walton; Margaret Bandy; Dorothy White, Tony Meech, Di Nicholls, Hester Down.
We remember those who we love but see no longer, remembering especially at this time Victor Pratley whose funeral will be in St John’s at 1230pm on 29 April, and Michael Hebditch who sadly passed away yesterday.
Please also hold in your prayers for all of those preparing for marriage, in particular Alison Rixon and Philip Fletcher, and Alexandra Woodruff and Jonathan Vincent, whose Banns are being called on Easter Day in the Benefice.
An Easter Collect:
God of glory,
by the raising of your Son
you have broken the chains of death and hell:
fill your Church with faith and hope;
for a new day has dawned
and the way to life stands open
in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
My blessings to you all
The Reverend Philip Butcher
Rector – Two Shires Benefice (Tatworth, Thorncombe, Winsham, Chaffcombe & Cricket Malherbie)
3 Home Farm
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