So it’s Monday morning, and I’m going to treat you all to an easy post full of pretty pictures.
A few people have been asking for ideas for All-Age Worship, and I think photos and concrete ideas are one of the best ways to get inspiration. While you may not want to, or be able to, reproduce these ideas exactly, I hope this at least gets you thinking in exciting new directions.
This is Pentecost – we made doves and flames in Sunday School and the children and young people carried them in procession as we started the service. You could do similar things at Christmas, with children carrying the figures for the crib scene, or at Candlemas with lights – or lots more! When all else fails, give them musical instruments. (Just have a basket on hand to collect the instruments as soon as you’re done.)
The adults often comment after the service how much their experience of worship is enhanced by this visual element – an example of how something can be BOTH “for the children” and truly “All-Age.”
Two more examples of ways to enhance processions. On the left is All Saints’ Sunday – we made a banner of our patron saint at a family event the day before, and carried it in procession. Later, we made more banners of saints and added them. We’ve also made pew ends – paper figures of saints that I’ve stuck onto the ends of pews with Blu-Tak, so each pew has its “patron saint.”
On the right is Palm Sunday – we’ve started having a real donkey now, but we also have banners that children can carry, and I have a couple donkey puppets I hand out as well. The Palm Sunday banner reads “Come, Follow Me,” and the children made felt versions of themselves and their families to stick onto it.
After some trial and error, we found it helpful to have most of the children at the front of the church for the Liturgy of the Word, and return to their parents at the Peace. Having the children involved in the procession helps with this, as they can then naturally sit down at the front at the end of the first hymn – we don’t have to awkwardly “invite them forward” and wait until someone’s brave enough to get it started. We have blankets, and a volunteer to sit with them and help guide them through the service via liturgical whispering (“this is the sorry prayer, and next we’ll hear how God forgives us!”) and help them learn to navigate their service sheets.
Also, we often include wondering questions in our talks at All-Age Services and children tend to be less shy about speaking up when they’re in a group of friends.
Of course, some children still prefer to sit with their parents and we’d never dream of stopping them! Parents are also welcome to come forward and join us with their children on the blankets if they like.
This was for the Confession at our Harvest Festival. We were doing a unit on Creation and the Fall in Sunday School, and the children made two murals. The green one was all the hard and sad and scary things in the world, all the ways in which it’s not how God wants it to be – you can see “bullying” and “war” written on the banner, as well as pictures of graves and pollution and so on. As we confessed the ways in which we have not cared for God’s earth, and for each other, we held up this banner. Behind it is one we’d made that shows the world how God wants it to be – beautiful nature, joyful cities, people taking care of each other – and at the Absolution, the banner of our “sins” was released, crumpled up, and “buried” under the altar, and the second one was revealed.
If you don’t have time for the children to make murals, you can print out and enlarge photos of sins – I generally use: 1) a gun, 2) a polluting factory, 3) a clip art image of one child bullying another, and 4) a picture of people walking past a beggar on the street. These can then be crumpled up and buried under the altar, and a lit candle brought out at the Absolution.
This illustrates two things – one, the complexity of Mothering Sunday, and two, how to get reluctant Traditional Anglicans to do prayer stations.
Traditional Anglicans are a shy people. They are reluctant to leave the pews. They will hesitate if called upon to do Liquid Worship or move freely about the space, and may write a Strongly Worded Email to the vicar later on.
However, there’s one point at which they unknowingly participate in this form of worship, and that’s at Communion. They leave the pews, get up, walk to the front, and may even stop at the candle stand on the way back.
So for Mothering Sunday, we set this prayer station next to the candle stand – and it actually got used (as you can see in the right-hand photo), without causing much of a change in routine.
One woman and her two surviving children gathered around it and together wrote the names of the two other children from the family who had died at birth eleven years ago.
Another family wrote the name of a beloved grandmother who had recently died.
The atmosphere around the station was informal but reverent – people were choosing colours, drawing baby feet or flowers, drawing hearts around names, talking in low voices. The organ was playing softly, which added to the atmosphere.
You may also notice the pink hearts on the tree. This is the other way to get Traditional Anglicans to try a new form of prayer – hand something out to them as they come in. They won’t leave their seats during the service to get a pink heart, but if they have one in their pews, and there’s a specific time to use it, they will. We started the prayers that day with a minute or two of silence (with music) for the congregation to think of, and pray for, everyone who had played a mother’s role in their lives, and write their names/draw them on the pink heart. They held on to it during the prayers, and, at the start of the Offertory, put it in the basket along with their Gift Aid envelopes. During the Eucharistic Prayer, I took the hearts and hung them on the tree. The tree was then brought out and blessed, along with the banner of names of those children/mothers we love who have gone before us, at the end of the service.
Recently, we pushed the boat out even further, and did Lego Prayers (minus the “get out of your seat” bit at the end) with the whole congregation, which ACTUALLY WORKED. It would NOT have worked 6 years ago when I started – I’ve built trust over the years, in doing All-Age Worship that feels familiar and reassuring enough to them that I now have a bit more leeway to push them out of their comfort zone. And the new things that I do are still well in keeping with the Traditional Anglican style that I love too – they’re just a bit fresh and new as well!
We also make sure, at Mothering Sunday, to pray for: adoptive and foster mums, stepmothers, those struggling with infertility, mothers in poverty, mothers separated from their children, those trying to discern whether to become mothers, bereaved mothers, those who have suffered from abusive mothers, those whose mothers have died, and, in thanksgiving, for all those men and women who have played a mother’s role in a child’s life. We remember that we are all called, as part of Mother Church, to play a mother’s role to one another.
Think about children as worship leaders as well. Children and young people participating in liturgy should have jobs that genuinely need doing. Children and young people can:
- Act out the story (either with rehearsal or ad hoc with help from a leader)
- Play music (not shown in this image: the 75-year-old on the flute – this was an orchestra of three generations!)
- Write the intercessions
- Read the lessons and/or the intercessions (this has the added benefit, pointed out to me by a parent, of increasing their confidence in public speaking, by giving them practice in a place where they’re safe and loved)
- Sing (either solos or groups)
- Contribute to, or even, with adult help, lead the talk after the Gospel (we had our Youth Group write and deliver a sermon, with my assistance and the vicar approving it before it was given)
- Serve at the altar (with training)
For those who may be less inclined towards being looked at in public:
- Hand out service sheets as people arrive and greet them with a smile.
- Bring up the bread and wine (this is also good for very young children to do, with help)
- Help take up the collection
- Bake something to be shared at coffee time after the service
- Create art to be included in the service sheet
Next time, I’ll be looking specifically at STORYTELLING in All-Age Worship – there are fewer photos of this, unfortunately, since I’m usually involved in some way and therefore don’t have my camera!