Wednesday ‘magic’ at Rainbow Town
Every Wednesday at 10.30am could well be the highlight of my week. It’s Rainbow Town time!
Accompanied by my trusty (Ikea soft toy) Labrador, Rowdy, I head off to spend time with our young friends who are 3 and 4 years old. I have renamed ‘religious education’ (does that sound fun to you?) and call it ‘worship time’.
Worship time is about meaning-making. It’s about helping children make connections between who they are, their world and who God might be. It’s about facilitating their awareness that there is someone who loves them who is greater than themselves, and who is with them always, no matter what.
As they put down their crayons or paint brushes or puzzle pieces, or come in from playing outside, and gather on the carpet, I play Jesus Strong and Kind, performed by Colin Buchanan. The children happily find a place on the carpet and start singing.
When I say hello to the children, I call them by name. We give thanks that as we gather for this special time in this special place, Jesus, who is strong and kind, is with us.
We have a simple Acknowledgment of Country and then I say something like …
Just as people have gathered on this land and told stories for thousands of years, we gather around our special book of stories about who God is and who we can be when we live the way that Jesus shows us.
We gather around the cross (and children make a cross with their arms), the symbol of God’s strong love (arm muscles flexed then hands held over heart) – love that is stronger than everything!
And we light this candle to remind us that although God is everywhere, God is here.
We come as we are, and God meets us here.
Sometimes at this point I’ll ask the children to look at the faces of their friends around them, and their teachers, and remind them that one of the ways God comes to us is in the people who care for us.
Then the children help me say:
God, creator of all things,
God is with us here.
Jesus, friend of everyone,
God is with us here.
Holy Spirit in our hearts,
God is with us here.
And then, with nothing in our hands, and lots in our hearts, we pray something like this:
This new day is for living
This new day is for caring
This new day is for giving
This new day is for sharing
May the words I say be kind
May the words I say be true
May the words I say be good
May my words show love for you. Amen
Then it’s song time! We love jumping and dancing and singing. Maybe If I were a butterfly, or I’ve got peace like a river, or Let your light shine … or one of lots of other songs.
Story time might be a Lost Sheep story. Favourites include Cecil the Lost Sheep and The Man with Leprosy. Or it might be a Hey-o Jesus video from Saddleback Kids. Or it might be something topical. This week I decided to link last Sunday’s reading about discovering life in God through water and Spirit … children have wonderful imaginations and can often grasp ideas that we find tricky … with walking through the rainforest.
I went ready with the videos I used during my sermon – bushwalking to a waterfall in Lamington National Park. The beautiful thing was that right beside where the children were sitting was a fantastic painting the children had helped create after their excursion last week – walking along the path at Riverwalk. I asked them to tell me about it, and they told me about leaves and ducks and swans and the sky and water and the sun. About water and Spirit. About life. About how we might see and hear and feel and experience God in the world around us. It was a wonderful magical conversation that unfolded.
Then we watched the rainforest videos – several times over. They loved them!
Sometimes time with children is like that. While we think we need to guide their conversation, sometimes, as Jesus said, we need to become like little children and allow what’s already around us to speak truth and mystery to us. To meaningfully connect us with what’s happening inside us.
We finish our time together with prayer – perhaps asking the children what they would like to thank God for today – and then another song. Never Give Up (Hillsong Kids) and We’re Going on a Journey (Vineyard Kids) work well here.
Our final song together is based on the Aaronic blessing – the ancient Hebrew blessing in some of the earliest writings of the Old Testament:
May the Lord bless you
May the Lord keep you
Make his face to shine
Shine upon you.
And may he be gracious to you, and lift up his countenance on you.
And give you peace.
And so, as you share this glimpse of Rainbow Town ‘magic’ may the Lord bless and keep you as you live with child-like awe in the mystery of God’s love.
PS As I write it is with enormous gratitude to Cathy Harrison who inspired me with her way of leading children at Coomera Anglican College. Every week she and I led worship for hundreds of Pre-prep to Year 6 children (not all at the one time!). Cathy’s amazing way of connecting with children and connecting children with God has been a gift to many. And most of the above song suggestions are her discoveries. Thanks Cathy!