Thursday, November 15, 2007

Teaching Children about Communion Part I

The Collect for Purity
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer, 1979)

This is the first in a series of paintings to be used with children to teach them about the Holy Eucharist Service in the Episcopal Church. The pictures were created collaboratively with the Sunday School Children at Christ Church in Alexandria. To begin with, I gathered a group of children, grades 1-6, to look at the communion service in the prayer book. We read the service one portion at a time, and invited the children to respond to it in a drawing or painting. It was an eye opening experience to witness what they see in the prayers, and how they engage it at a very theological level. The paintings that result are derived from the children's drawings, bringing together the themes and images that spoke most clearly to the group.

We started with the Collect for Purity (above). Almost all of the drawings the children made pictured the people down at the bottom of the page, on a curved line, the earth as you look down upon it. The people were all lifting their hands up, or holding hands. One child pictured teh hearts on the chest of the people. Many children put some image symbolizing God in the right or left corner- a finger, a cloud, a dove. Some pictured God as a man in the clouds with a circle rainbow about him. The sense that emerged from their view of this prayer is that we begin by gathering as a people before God, lifting up our lives and hearts, inviting God's presence to be with us in worship. When I asked about the rainbow, one child talked about the Noah story, and God's promise to all people. 'It brings hope.'

When using this painting:
I start by inviting the children to tell me what they see in the painting. 'What is happening in the picture? Why do you think there is a rainbow? a dove? the hearts?' I give them time to ask their own questions or offer their comments, and then we read the prayer.

Part 2: The Liturgy of the Word

Reflect on the stories that we tell during worship.
How does preaching help the stories come to life?

Part 3: Communion

Part 4: Post Communion Prayer