Wednesday, 20 July 2011

What makes God laugh ...

July 20, 2011
There’s a saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that this week as I have been tackling a particular project that Aileen, the volunteer coordinator, has asked me to take on – that of compiling a resource for worship planners and leaders with specific ideas about including children in the worship life of Corrymeela.
Silly me, I thought I was taking a sabbatical from children’s ministry. I thought I needed a break from it in order to come back refreshed, and with new ideas.
Yup, I can hear God laughing across the universe.
I think there is a spiritual teaching that says that we keep getting presented with the same lesson until we learn it. No matter how hard I have tried to walk away from children’s ministry in the past 25 plus years, I keep being called back.
If I were to write a Psalm, perhaps I would say something like “How long, oh God, how long shall I be a children’s minister ... no one else wants to do it, and it’s just too damn hard ..., but then you help me to see the joy in their eyes, to experience their curiosity and wonder, to hear their laughter, and yes, even then God, I get a glimpse of your kingdom ...”
or something like that, anyway.
It didn’t dawn on me that I might have some wisdom to share with this community. I just came to Corrymeela to soak up the experience ... this actually feels like ... like ... work. It’s taken me the better part of a week to actually wrap my head around how to begin the project.
The first thing I did was do some extensive research in the various resource centres here at Corrymeela, including the library in the Croi. Certainly there have been compilations of childrens’ liturgies done here in the past, and the resource shelves are full of ideas for creative ways of bringing “the message” to children. After all, this community has been welcoming families and children for over forty years. And, I have already met adults and young adults who are involved in the community now who remember coming to Corrymeela regularly as a kid, so they must have been doing something right these past many years. I seriously began to wonder what I could possibly offer that might be different.
When I was first involved in childrens’ ministry in the 1980s, we called them “intergenerational” services, and they took weeks to plan, involved many people, and everyone was totally exhausted (including, much of the time, the congregation), and they often went on too long. I learned a lot from those days, but my theology of worship has evolved since then.
These days, I am much more interested in finding ways that the whole community can worship together. And no, I don’t believe that means “dumbing down” worship. At St. Andrew’s and St. John’s in the past few years, we have had many meaningful worship services which have been inclusive of all ages.
I’ve also made a point of talking to a number of folks here, staff, volunteers and community members. This week at Corrymeela, out of about 80 participants, there are 46 children, 14 of them under 4. Last week, there were 20 children and youth under 15 in one program, and 50 youth in another. At morning and evening worship times, the attendance of children has ranged from one or two, to six or eight, to 20 or 30. Or none. So I don’t think it’s good use of time to plan a worship service here that is geared entirely towards children. Instead, I think that the liturgies need to be accessible to all, regardless of age.
Since I’ve been here, we have had a wonderful diversity of worship times that have embodied what I would consider to be worship that is inclusive of all ages. We’ve had conversations, flip chart prayers, stories, worship outside with the four directions prayer, a play ... and I’m sure there’s lots more to be experienced.
So, my plan thus far is that I will compile a list of short services, many that I have experienced in the past few weeks, and include ideas and resources from the past that folks can substitute, add their own ideas, etc. Perhaps an appendix with stories, movie references (of course!!) and songs.
And, I guess I’ll take to heart the sign that is above the receptionist’s desk here at Corrymeela, and in other places as well ...
“Please be patient ... God isn’t finished with me yet.”

p.s thanks to Tytti, one of our summer volunteers from Finland, for sharing her picture of me and one of our youngest participants from last week, and for agreeing to me putting it on my blog.


  1. Hi, Martha,

    So enjoying your posts. Do remember that sabbaticals are also about resting a bit... Pat

  2. Hi Marth. A beautiful photo and a beautiful blog. Thank you for your insights. I remember years ago in the 80's when Jody Clarke had a parish in Dartmouth, he used puppets (muppet-style) in his family services to help him get his message across to children as well as their parents. I believe that as children, we are closest to seeing the real wonders of our universe and understanding who we truely are. But as we develop the capacity to express ourselves, we lose the ability to see and spend the rest of our lives trying to figure it all out. Maybe your call to the children's ministry is an opportunity to rediscover the child's spirit in you. I don't know. I do know I miss you. Love, Sandy