We have just had our thursday evening service in the college and this evening we shared the church with a large amount of pottery which is part of an exhibition in the church. There was a bit of trepidation over how the small children would cope with this, as they didn't have their usual space in the church and had to stay within pews in order to keep the pottery safe.
I'm pleased to report all went perfectly. We brought out the 'church in a bag' concept for the first time and this evening it worked really well. LittleLanky did not go near any pots, which is good because we couldn't afford to buy any she broke!
Church in a bag - this is the name that we have given what we're doing but the concept is also known as 'liturgy in a box'. I got much of my inspiration for it from a children's communion service that I go to at the Michaelhouse in Cambridge.
Basically it is a simplified service booklet for young children that has photographs and some simple text to guide them through the service (with help from an adult) with physical resources to help them connect to different parts of the service.
In our bags so far we have:
Gathering - we will have some small wooden dolls once I have found them at the right price!
Confession and absolution - we have some puzzles and lacing cards. The idea is something you can do and then undo or break apart and remake.
Gloria - multi coloured streamers. It's basically a wooden curtain ring with ribbons stitched in place. I have chosen liturgical colours! I got this idea from the michaelhouse. They look fab.
The Word - a book of bible stories and other biblical items. They also have pencils and crayons to colour and draw in their booklet which has lots of spaces for this.
The gospel (subsection of The Word above) - they have battery operated tea lights. These are to connect them to the gospel procession. The ones they have are a little fragile so I may need to find more robust ones.
Intercessions - they have little wooden crosses. Damien crosses to be precise. They are quite ornate.
Eucharist - they will have little wooden egg cups and coasters each to represent the chalice and pattern. They have this at the Michaelhouse and it's remarkably effective. I just need to find them at the right price!
They have all this in a brightly coloured cloth bag. I have six different colours. I actually got them from the university book shop. They have the logo emblazoned across them but they're brightly coloured, cost £2 and we could get student discount. I wasn't going to be sniffy about a logo for that!
So this is where I'm up to with it all. I'll post some pictures of it all when I go into college tomorrow. I will put the service booklet I have created up at some point but currently it wouldn't pass any copyright guidelines so I'll get that sorted and then show it.
It will be interesting to see how this goes. I want to take a bag with me on a Sunday to see how it goes with LittleLanky there. I think she'll appreciate it.
I think this is the idea that we will trial for the long term now. It can be used in lots of different settings and the children can sit together or apart so it has flexibility (as tonight showed!). The service booklet will change for the children week on week to reflect the seasons and to stop them from getting bored and we will add seasonal items to the bags as well. (That's liturgical seasons rather than normal seasons!).
Tonight I had one of the best experiences in church with LittleLanky that I have had in a long time. We were without LankyAnglican as he helps with the older children and hemmed in on all sides by people (the pots spread across the pews meant we had to worship close together, very close together!). This is normally a recipe for disaster but it wasn't. LittleLanky and I worshipped side by side. And it was good.