Many people have used churchyards more during the pandemic, as a way of getting outside, getting exercise, or finding a place of peace.
These prayer stations are designed to encourage people who may not attend church, or pray much, to use your churchyard for spiritual reflection, and become familiar with the season of All Saints, All Souls, and Remembrance. They can be used be people of all ages.
There is a sign for the entrance to your churchyard and then there are four stations:
- All Hallows Eve – confronting our fears
- All Saints – remembering those whose lives inspire us in faith
- All Souls – remembering our own beloved dead
- Remembrance – honouring the sacrifice of those in war, and praying for peace
These can be put anywhere around your churchyard that is appropriate. However, one suggested way is:
- All Hallows Eve – by graves that have imagery (angels, skulls, cherubs, etc) to explore
- All Saints – by something with a saint’s name on it (your church’s sign, or a statue, if you have one)
- All Souls – a memorial bench
- Remembrance – a commonwealth war grave, or your war memorial (if outdoors)
What do I need?
The stations can primarily stand on their own without resources. However, you will need to laminate the pages so they’re waterproof, and, if possible, provide the following and ensure they’re checked and topped up regularly as needed:
- A basket of stones, to go by the sign at the entrance
- Rosemary and myrrh for the fourth station (these can be in waterproof plastic containers – you may want to provide hand sanitizer here as well)
- There is a space on the third prayer station for you to add a sticker with contact details for someone to talk to about bereavement
Download the stations here:
With Remembrance Day coming up, one activity children can do at home is to design a war memorial. They can use whatever materials they have at home – items from the recycling bin, play-doh, Lego – whatever you have. These can then be photographed and sent into church and collected in a Facebook album.
Encourage them to think about the following questions:
- How would you want people to feel as they look at your memorial?
- What shape do you want your memorial to be? Do you want there to be words? Pictures?
- Who do you think might visit this memorial? Soldiers who have been in wars? Families of people who have died? People who are praying for peace?
- Could there be an interactive element to your memorial? A place for people to leave names, or prayers, or draw or write something? Will your memorial have moving parts to it?
- Where is God in all this?
A few memorials for inspiration:
Does your church have a war memorial? Can you visit it?
The “Animals in War” memorial in Hyde Park, London
The Vietnam War memorial in Washington DC (includes a video about the design)
7 Unusual War Memorials (includes the street plaques in St Albans)
Another list from the same blog, of 9 more unusual memorials.
If you’re leading a group on Remembrance Sunday, it can be difficult.
You may have pastoral care responsibility for children whose family members are deployed, or have combat injuries, or who have died in war.
You may find yourself having to explain to young children what war is and address questions like “why are there wars?”
Your own faith may have been formed through Jesus’s call to non-violence, and you may be uncomfortable with some of the military connections of the day.
Here are some ways in which adult leaders and groups of children can explore what it means to honour the service and sacrifice of those who have served, and pray for a world of peace and justice. Hopefully they’re flexible enough to be used in a variety of settings.
- “We Will Remember Them” The children may have already experienced a wreath-laying at a war memorial, or be about to participate in one at the end of this session. Look together at photos of a variety of war memorials, including the one in your own town or village. Wonder together: why do people make these? Why do they put the names on? What are some other ways we remember people who have died? Which one do you like best? Why? How do they make you feel? Then the children, individually or in groups, can design their own war memorial – either on paper or, if you’re feeling ambitious, in 3-d. Here are some pictures to use for inspiration (click the links)
- Memorial for animals killed in war.
- War memorials around the world (very US-centric but a good variety of styles)
- Cwmcarn war memorial
- Poppy Prayers. Make “Paper Plate Poppies” (instructions here) and invite children to write prayers for today on them. If you like, you could give them the option of keeping their poppies white (or combining white and red), and explain that red poppies are to remember the dead and white are to pray that wars will end. These would make a wonderful display, or something to be shared with the main congregation – however, if children’s prayers are going to be made public in this way, do make sure you let them know before they write them. You never know when a prayer may be too private for them to want to share.
- Light in the darkness. This interactive map shows all the current wars going on in the world (zoom out to see the whole world, bit by bit). You could print a map of the world, give children LED tea lights and invite them to place their candle somewhere on the map that matches a place on the map of wars. When all children have placed their tea lights, turn off the lights in the room and pray for God’s peace to come to those places, and for all whose lives are affected by those wars.
- Blessed are the peacemakers. Read the Beatitudes with the children, and think together about what it means to be a peacemaker. What does peace mean? What does peace feel like? How can we make peace in our families, schools, and communities, and here in our church group? Make and decorate paper doves (tutorial here – video) and write on them a promise for one thing they’ll try to do to help make peace where they are. (NB: have your Safeguarding hat on especially for discussions of “making peace at home” and be aware of anything that might suggest a child has witnessed domestic violence or been subject to violence themselves.) You can close by singing “Peace is Flowing Like a River” or “Peace, Perfect Peace.”
Do add your own ideas in the comments – and don’t forget to check out the KS1 and KS2 lesson plans, and other resources, at Remembrance 100. There are also resources from Churches Together, which you can find here.