Sunday, July 28, 2013

Let’s start at the very beginning

St Ninian’s share Passover-Communion with their children

By Rev Monika Redman

We recently had a baptism – not a very common event nowadays. It reminded us that we make commitments to raise our children in a loving, nurturing environment – a no-brainer, really. But we also make a commitment to raise them in the knowledge and love of God.  This reminder tied in well with a request from our Kidz Church leaders to not just incorporate the children into communion, but to actually teach them what the mysterious set of rituals is all about – so that’s what we’re beginning to do. And we thought we’d start at the very beginning as, according to the sainted Sister Maria, ‘it’s a very good place to start’!

It also picked up on what the children had been doing in Kidz Church the week before.  Using the Storybook Bible, they had got as far as the plagues of Egypt, and the scene was set for us to have our very own Passover Communion – St Ninian’s style. I should also mention that we’re developing services around the idea of ‘Family of God’ worship – trying to emphasise all our generations as being part of the family of God rather than any sense of ‘exclusively for families’ services. Like a big family gathering, these can be a bit messy, a bit noisy – but it’s about worship together rather than ‘performance’ worship, so everyone can get involved.

So what happened? Well, after considerable reassurance of those who had already offered to be involved – as well as more general reassurance to those who might want to volunteer as we went along – that this was the kind of communion service where nothing could go wrong because there was no wrong way of doing something we were making up, we got started with a candle coming forward to light the Christ candle on the table during the first hymn. This was a bit of a compromise, as we’d hoped to do something a bit like the Olympic torch, lighting one light from another all the way forwards to symbolise how the light of our memory of God’s grace had come to us from the earliest times – oh well!

A volunteer was called for, and he read the Prayer of Light, adapted from an order for Jewish Passover, and then we pieced together the story of the Escape from Egypt. We used the recent memories of the kids, as well as the older memories with which we are blessed. The children then took one of the candles (we called it the Light of Knowledge as opposed to the Christ Light, which was left on the table) and headed off for a bit of intense coaching on the different elements needed for our Passover Communion (set up and labelled in the children’s ministry room). We gave them about 10 minutes out of the sanctuary, in a room where we had laid out parsley, salt water, bitter herbs, traditional Presbyterian communion trays of wine and salvers of hors d’oeuvres (broken pieces of matzos topped with a piece of roast lamb), each with an explanatory label. Meanwhile, we continued with the prayers and the offering.

As we sang ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, my heart, my heart adores you!’, the children re-joined us, bringing with them not just the elements, but also the understanding of their symbolic purpose – which they explained to us. The rostered reader made the link for us between the events of Passover and Christ’s institution of the Last Supper and then another member volunteered to lead us in the Kiddush, or the first blessing. Everyone received a wee glass of wine and we ‘toasted’ God’s goodness to us.

After a Prayerful Reflection (ie not a sermon, but not a children’s talk either), the kids distributed the bread and lamb, and then we drank a second glass of wine in thanksgiving. So yes, we did use all our communion trays! We finished with I will sing the wondrous story – because it is! And then the Aaronic blessing because it’s another link with our earliest faith. We have so much to learn from the Jewish Scriptures of how corporate memory keeps and nurtures faith, and this was our attempt to position ourselves on the Way of our faith, to stand in our inheritance and to share that consciously with one another.

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