Category Archives: Congregational Development Archive

Some Thoughts on the Inclusion of Children and Youth in Online Worship

As our churches have made the transition to new ways of doing worship through online platforms, I wondered how our families with children were doing. Knowing that all of our churches are working hard to keep everyone engaged in worship and the life of the congregation, I thought I would ask some parents how it was going and what they would say are the best practices they have experienced that assist their children and teens in feeling connected in worship, and what they might recommend to their worship leaders to consider as they plan for worship services that are more inclusive of all ages.

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Pinwheels for Pentecost

As we move through Eastertide, we begin to anticipate Pentecost as the amazing conclusion to this season. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was breathed into the disciples and they launched themselves out of the room they were closed up in and into the streets of Jerusalem, filled with energy and a story to tell. On fire (not literally), they spoke to those crowded in the marketplaces of Jerusalem in every language of the world, and all the people understood them. And what they heard from the disciples was the story of Jesus; his life, his death and his resurrection. And the Spirit didn’t stop with the disciples, the breath of God blew through all of those who listened and believed that day, just as the Holy Spirit has continued to blow through the church in every age and in every place since then. Pentecost is a great day in the church: it’s our birthday – so let’s celebrate!

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When Someone Dies in a Time of Social Distancing

Friends,

Greetings in the name of our Risen Lord! This week we are hearing news that the COVID-19 virus seems to have peaked in Ontario and other provinces. We fear that we are still far from a return to our usual routines but remain hopeful. We are especially encouraged that so far there are fewer deaths than many models had been predicting.

That said we are profoundly aware that friends and colleagues still have to face the reality of socially distanced deaths and funerals in their congregations. We are also aware of those who have family members, particularly in care facilities, who they are unable to visit or care for in person. For all of us, the big question is this, “What if my loved one dies and I can’t be there?”

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A Communion Service for Home Use

Marjorie Thompson, in Family: The Forming Center, says that “rituals are embodied ways of celebrating God’s presence in the midst of ordinary life.” Life doesn’t feel very ordinary these days, and the idea of celebrating communion in our homes instead in our church home with our church family feels just little bit strange. We wonder if we should hold off celebrating communion until we can gather in our churches once again. I wonder if these unusual days invite us to come to the table now more than ever before. We need to remember that God is with us and will not abandon us. Through the ordinary stuff of bread and wine we need to taste and see that the Lord is good.

And so we offer to you a communion service for celebration in your homes. It comes out of a request that John-Peter and I film a short, intergenerational communion service for Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church for Easter Sunday morning. We filmed it in our home with Alex Fensham and Holly Boyne, also members at MHP, who live in an apartment in our home. So please, feel free to use it at anytime throughout our time away from our church homes.

Easter blessings, John-Peter and Tori

Easter Greetings

Friends and colleagues in the synod,

A week or so ago we had an email from a colleague who jokingly said he never thought he would give up church for Lent. Likewise, yesterday a friend said that after all the years of feeling that going to the Good Friday service was hard, she realized that not going was going to be even harder. It is difficult to know how to respond in these days. 

When everything else has been stripped away, even going to church itself, we are still left with the enormity and wonder of the resurrection. Recall that the resurrection did not happen in a church building and that the first witnesses were three frightened women. In many ways our story this year is their story, or the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus; Jesus revealing himself by walking alongside us and identifying himself in the breaking of bread. 

This Easter season we are grateful for you. We are grateful that in the midst of uncertainty and fear that you continue to lead with courage and faith. We are thankful for church leaders, ordained and lay, who are serving their communities in countless ways. We are praying for you and for your churches, for health and safety, but especially for a profound sense of wonder at the love that enfolds us in the resurrection of Jesus.

May you and yours be touched profoundly this Easter by the simple and wonderful truth of our faith,

Christ has died

Christ is risen

Christ will come again.

May our risen Lord bless and sustain you,

With gratitude,

John-Peter & Tori Smit

A Palm Sunday Chapodcast for Families

Families with children, join Crash and Zucchini for a special Chapodcast celebrating the joyful parade of Palm Sunday. Gather together your coats, a green wavy thing, and some paper and a marker and then open the attached video link to hear the wonder-filled story, sing out your loud Hosannas, and offer your prayers to God with all of your worries and thanksgiving.

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Thoughts, Especially Around Holy Week Worship and Communion

Greetings in the Lord’s name. We trust you are keeping well and safe in these strange, uncharted days. As we think about our Holy Week and Easter services of worship, we wonder, “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4) We hope we can be of help with a few thoughts, especially around communion.

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A Smorgasbord of Unrelated (But Really Great) Resources

person looking through a filing cabinet

I’ve been collecting a number of links to great websites/blogs/articles over the past couple of weeks that I think represent some of the best we can be doing, following or gaining insight from as we practice social distancing and stay home in our efforts to flatten the curve. I had hoped I could weave them into an article along the way, but for one reason or another, they never quite fit the article themes I was working on. I don’t want them to be lost in the shuffle, so I’m posting them all here in the hope that one or two might also resonant with you.

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