Category Archives: Christian Education Archive

A Process for Considering the Reopening of In-Person Sunday School

If you missed this week’s Zoom meetings introducing a process for considering the reopening of in-person Sunday school for your church, here is an opportunity to view the presentation portion of our get-together. This 30 minute video will walk you through the many factors your church will want to consider as you move toward a safe reopening.

Just click on the slide below and you will be taken to the youtube video.

In the video I will refer to a link to a Government of Canada file outlining areas of concern regarding physical spaces that are to be used for gatherings. This document will help you assess areas of risk and offer suggestions for ways to comply with these guidelines. Click here to be taken to this document.

I hope this presentation will assist you in your conversations and decision making.

Grace and peace, Tori

Reopening Onsite Children’s Programmes

unsplash.com

It’s the first day of September and many of our churches are scheduled to reopen for in-person worship services this month. This is raising a number of questions about in-person Sunday school and other children’s ministry programmes. There is so much to consider, especially as our children 12 years and under are not yet able to receive a vaccine against Covid-19, and as infections are once again on the rise.

Should we have in-person Sunday school? Should we stick with Zoom? Are there other options? What do we need to consider? And, how do we know what’s best?

Do you have questions like these?

Are you looking for a place to find some answers?

You are invited to join one of two Zoom gatherings next week to hear some helpful factors to consider as you make these important decisions.

(more…)

I Will Give You Rest

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NRSV)

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” (Mark 1:36, 37 NRSV)

Traditionally summer has been the minister’s ‘down time’. Meetings stop, people are away, and things are quieter all around. For many years, ministers typically took all of their holidays in one large chunk. This meant that real rest could happen.

Then things changed:

  • Cell phones meant ministers (and almost everyone else) could be accessed 24/7
  • Email meant that you were never truly away
  • People came to expect that their concerns would be addressed immediately
  • Even if we could get away from work physically, emotional distance was much harder to achieve

And then came Covid.

Over the past month or so I have had repeated conversations with church leaders who have not had time off since the pandemic began. They are literally at the end of their ropes.

Tori and I are similarly exhausted. While we have tried to be good stewards of our time and energy, we are aware of just how tired we really are. In June we took a week’s holidays and it actually took us two weeks to fit it in around emergent phone calls and meetings. 

For many, physical tiredness is just the tip of the iceberg. Many are feeling burnt out with no place to turn to deal with it. This has affected relationships, ministry effectiveness and satisfaction, as well as general health and wellbeing.

I cannot say when this will all end, nor can I resolve all of the issues this article raises. However, I would like to address just one, the need for physical rest.

As I read the above passages of scripture, three things pop out at me:

  1. Jesus needed to get away. He needed to get away to pray and he needed to get away to rest. The words of Peter, ‘everyone is looking for you’ speaks to our condition as well as his.
  2. Jesus promises rest. We are weary and heavy laden. Jesus promises rest.
  3. You can’t have spiritual rest without physical rest.

I remember talking with a friend who was connected to a retreat centre. For years this establishment had offered week long retreats for clergy. More recently they have discovered that these same clergy needed to sleep for the first five days in order to even be able to consider any spiritual work.

This is all a way of recognizing that we are tired – very tired – and that the summer should hopefully be a chance to recharge our batteries. 

I am aware that the summer is half way over but, I pray that you might recognize your own need for physical rest and might assert yourself to take it. No one knows what the fall will bring but, if there is a time to re-charge your batteries, now is it.

Tori and I will be taking the next three weeks off. During that time, we will only be available for emergencies. We will be doing our very best to also take an email sabbatical for this time.

Your ministry is a blessing. Please make sure that you are well rested and able to lead your flock. Please remember the adage; “put on your oxygen mask first.”

May God bless you in this season of rest.

John-Peter & Tori.

PS – Elders, please consider giving your minister some additional time off this year. They need it!

What Parents, Grandparents, and Church Workers Have to Tell the Church About Their Pandemic Experiences – Part 2

unsplash.com

How are things going at your church with your children and their families?

What did you do over the last year and a half to stay connected and provide teaching and faith formation for your youngest members? What worked well? What fell flat? What slipped through the cracks? What are you most concerned about going forward? What can you let go of that no one will miss? And, how will your approach to ministry with children and their families be transformed in light of any new learnings and discoveries that you’ve made while responding to changed circumstances?

Taking time to reflect now with your children, parents, and leaders is a crucial first step if your church wants to move forward in new ways in the months ahead; ways that will serve your entire church community well while providing the best opportunities for children and their families to grow in faith together.

While it is important that we all take time to ask the people of our own congregations, ‘how has it been going?’ we can also benefit from the research of others who have begun this process of interviewing children, parents, and congregational leaders and denominational influencers. 

(more…)

What Children and Their Families Have to Tell the Church About Their Pandemic Experiences and Church Reopening – Part 1

Markus Spiske, unsplash.com

What do the children have to say about their away-from-the-church-building experiences of Zoom Sunday school, online worship, and mid-week programming over the course of this past year and a half? 

What has been concerning them the most throughout the pandemic? 

And, what are they looking forward to when we return to our church buildings? 

We only have to ask!

And guess what? Some wonderful and caring people have already started the conversation for us. And, they have some very interesting things to share. 

(more…)

Children’s Bible Story Videos: Comparing Two Options

pixaby.com

I am often asked to recommend bible story videos for children to watch at home or for Sunday school teachers to use with their classes. Unfortunately this can be more challenging question than it first appears. While there is certainly a lot of bible story videos out there for parents to choose from, there are very few that I can happily recommend that present the bible from a Reformed theological perspective, and even fewer that take into consideration how children of a young age hear these stories and understand them given their stage of development.

Recently, a minister sent me an email asking about a video series called the Bible App for Kids. It had been found by a member of her congregation, and rather than immediately beginning to use it with the kids of the church, she asked her minister to have a look at it and let her know if it was a good fit for their kids. While having a look for myself I thought that it might be helpful to share with you what I discovered as well as what I look for when I’m reviewing children’s videos, bible storybooks, and other resources.

Hopefully this might help give you an eye for viewing materials you come across along the way and wonder if you should use.

(more…)

Away At the Lake

Join Cairn Camps in Baysville for a summer retreat experience!

Cairn is excited to be offering Away at the Lake this season, an all-inclusive retreat on the shores of Echo Lake!

This summer, leave the busyness at home and immerse yourself in the beauty of Creation, enjoying a Muskoka getaway of reading on the beach, walking through the forest, engaging in camp activities at your leisure, and enjoying meals where you don’t need to cook OR do the dishes! This is an opportunity for rest, for Sabbath, and for retreat. 

Looking for more information? You can view the Away at the Lake Information Package here.

Please also know that the Cairn Campership Fund and other bursary programs are available to help cover Away at the Lake registration costs. Community Funders are eager to see their dollars be used this summer, and so we encourage anyone to apply who may find this helpful. You can view the Campership Form here.

We can’t wait to welcome you to Away at the Lake this summer!

For more information, please visit ilovecamp.org/away-at-the-lake.cfm or contact the Cairn office at admin@ilovecamp.org or by phone at 705-767-3300.

A Statement Regarding Residential Schools

Dear friends,

In response to the devastating confirmation of unmarked graves on the grounds of former Residential Schools in Canada, a statement was published on June 15, 2021, written in consultation with the National Indigenous Ministry Council, a Committee of the General Assembly, and signed by both the Rev. Dr. Dan Scott, Moderator of the 2021 General Assembly, and by the Rev. Amanda Currie, Moderator for 2019–2020. It speaks, through repentance and lament and in humility, for the lives of all the children who were lost, those we know who died at the schools and those still to be found in unmarked graves. The statement makes many commitments for the church to act upon.

In various ways, the church has begun responding to the commitments outlined in the statement. However, any work regarding former Residential Schools and the land they are or were on must be done in conversation with and after listening carefully to the affected communities and in line with their wishes. Additionally, we work in consultation with the National Indigenous Ministry Council.

This work takes time and must be respectful of the impacted communities’ wishes. We know there are cemeteries associated with some of the schools that The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran but we do not know for sure whether there are unmarked graves on the grounds of these schools, though it is likely. We are working on opening conversations around searching the grounds of both Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School and Birtle Residential School. The church has also begun looking into how to approach those affected by the schools that The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran but that closed before 1925. We have also contacted the United Church of Canada about how we will work together with regard to the schools The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran before 1925 but then became associated with the United Church of Canada.

As a colleague in ministry, I am writing to ensure that you and those associated with the ministry you serve have seen, read and considered the statement, available here.

You can learn more about the ongoing work for reconciliation and Indigenous justice as well as any news regarding this issue at the Indigenous Justice page of our Social Action Hub. It is a living resource that we keep updated.

Get Involved

We all have a responsibility to deepen our understanding of the ongoing impacts of anti-Indigenous systemic racism, of which residential schools were part, and to act. Here are only some of the ways to respond after reading the statement issued on June 15, 2021

Read the Statement publicly. Additionally, read Calls to Action 71-76 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 

Learn about the Ministries with Indigenous Peoples of The Presbyterian Church. Watch a worship service by Indigenous ministry leaders to mark National Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Seek to understand the harms of intergenerational trauma on Indigenous peoples and communities. 

Read the Final Report and Calls to Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and use the PCC study guide on the final report: Why work to decolonize?

Read the resources and support the work of Indigenous organizations such as the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

Learn about the impacts of colonialism, why it was necessary for the church to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, and PCC-run residential schools. Resources are online here

Learn about any schools operated near your community. As much as possible, seek information from Residential School Survivors, Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.

Read about the work that has been done regarding the cemetery for the Regina Industrial School in “The Regina Indian Industrial School (1891-1910): Historical Overview and Chronological” by Douglas Stewart (available through Amazon).

Sincerely,  
The Rev. Ian Ross-McDonald, 
General Secretary, The Life and Mission Agency  

Some One-Liners to Ponder

InterGenerate/Children’s Spirituality Summit CNOB Team

“As Christians, how we relate to each other should set us apart” (Douglas Powe)

Earlier this week a team of six people from our synod attended a virtual conference by InterGenerate and the Children’s Spirituality Summit. We spent Monday through Wednesday listening to thought provoking keynote presentations by world leaders of children’s and intergenerational ministries, attended a broad variety of workshops and/or research paper presentations led by leading practitioners and academics, and joined affinity breakout groups that applied to our areas of interest in faith formational ministry.

It was a great week!

(more…)

What Will ‘Our New Normal’ Look Like?

What does the future hold for the church as we contemplate moving out of pandemic lockdowns and shuttered church buildings?

What is God saying to us, and how are we called to act as participants in this ‘New Normal’?

God declares, “LOOK! I am making a new thing, now it springs up, do you not realize it?”

This past Saturday the Synodical of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda hosted a Bible Study led by Rev. Dr. Pat Dutcher-Walls, Professor of Hebrew Scripture at the Vancouver School of Theology. If you missed it, there is still an opportunity to hear and reflect on the prophetic word Pat offered to us all.

(more…)