In these times of the coronavirus pandemic, when school, as we know it, has been fundamentally changed through a distributive model of online learning, mindful meditative practices are being renewed in creative ways. It can be challenging to do this through digital technology, but it is an opportunity to think of different ways to centre and ground ourselves and our students for the sake of everyone's well-being. Two ways I have used labyrinths creatively to cater for students who are learning at home and school via a screen is through finger labyrinths and a virtual labyrinth walk.
Pictured below is a Finger Labyrinth that I used with staff over Zoom for a devotion at the end of last term. It was the season of Lent, so the apt words of Philippians 2:8 were used; "Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!". Staff were then invited whether in their offices, workstations or at home to either touch their screen and trace the labyrinth to the centre of the cross or to use their mouse and cursor to trace the path. Then when they had reached the centre, they could take three deep breaths before tracing their way back out of the cross. It was great to use the technology in such a tangible way to slow people down, let them breathe, and meditate on the way of the cross of Christ. In my next post, I will share the virtual labyrinth I have created. Thanks to Flame Creative Children's Ministry for permission to share this image: http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2012/05/finger-labyrinths.html
The following Ash Wednesday devotional piece I wrote for our college newsletter .
One of the things I love doing in my garden is composting. After several months with a bit of patience, I can make rich compost from my kitchen scraps, garden trimmings and lawn clippings. Then I have the pleasure of digging the earthy humus back into my vegetable beds or flowerpots. It is extremely satisfying to reuse organic material from my household and with the help of decomposition, re-enter it into the environment through more fertile soil. This enriched soil then helps me to grow more flourishing flowers, plants and vegetables. Soil and compost are so important for our environment, our care of creation, our food supply and it is also important in teaching us how God acts in the world.
This week our community at Pacific celebrated the beginning of Lent with a focus on Ash Wednesday in chapels. Students and staff had the opportunity to have dirt on their heads; ash put on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. This ritual act was accompanied by the words; “remember you are dust and to dust you will return.” Ash, dust, dirt, these elements all remind us of how vitally connected we are with the soil and how all life that has been created by God will eventually decompose and return to the soil. This was God’s message to Adam in Genesis 3:19 that he would return to the ground where God had made him. Composting is part of God’s plan for the world and shows us that new life, new growth, is coming.
The American poet and farmer Wendell Berry says that soil is Christ-like. Christ-like because it constantly welcomes death and turns it into new life. That was God’s point in sending Jesus to us, to show us that his pattern for the world is to work through death to bring us resurrection. New life and hope can sprout and flourish from what was decaying and dying. One soil scientist, after years of research, concluded that our soil is unexplainably mysterious in how it keeps on turning matter into new life and feeds and nourishes the world. Composting and connecting with the ground we live on is good for our gardens, our environment and for us spiritually. Getting our hands and heads dirty is not such a bad thing. In fact, it can be a God thing when it connects us with Christ who grows new life in us.
Have a blessed Lent and enjoy a garden and composting if you can.
Do you uses Ashes in your school worship during Lent? If you do, why? And if you don't, what's stopping you?
Over the last three years I have included what's called the "Imposition of Ashes" into our normal chapel cycle during the first week of Lent. Our Secondary Chapel conveniently falls on a Wednesday and our Primary and Kindy chapel on a Friday. In our Y6-12 Chapel, I ash about 5 staff who then go to various stations around our worship space with myself where students can voluntarily go to receive the ashes and traditional words; "Remember you are dust and to dust you will return". What's been pleasing is the increasing number of teenage students who feel comfortable to stand up in front of their peers to receive this visible mark of Lent on their foreheads. In our Primary Chapel I invite all classroom teachers who want to, to come forward and be ashed. These teachers then go back to their classes and walk along the lines to ash their students who are standing to signify their willingness to participate in this ritual. Most of these younger students eagerly do this.
This year in our Junior Chapel I ashed a three year old from our Kindy and even a baby that a mother was holding. Why would we want to remind a baby and mother that they are going to die and return to dust and ash one day? Sweet innocent babies dying, is that what Lent and Ash Wednesday is about?
Lent and Ash Wednesday are certainly about dying and rising. The way of the cross is the pattern Jesus established for his disciples. Dying to sin and death. Rising to forgiveness and new life. Giving students the opportunity to participate in those black smudged marks in the shape of a cross on their foreheads is a worthwhile activity. A ritual activity worth doing in an invitational way.
God bless your Lenten journey in your school as you highlight this special time.
The above video of 40 images of Jesus in the desert by Simon Smith put to an Explosions in the Sky song by Adam Young. Suitable for Secondary students (4.05)
Recharge your heart and soul this Lent on a MacBook by Xt3.com. Suitable for Secondary students (2.02) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PMB2c7pLY0
What is Lent all about? Song by Fr Rob Galea and finishing quote by Pope Francis by xt3.com. Suitable for Secondary students (3.12)
The story of 40 in the bible and its culmination in Jesus rising by Foothills Christians Church. Suitable for Primary students (2.05)
Children from Catholic schools reflect on what Lent means to them and what they will sacrifice during the season by Catholic Courier. Suitable for Primary students (2.56)
Ash Wednesday and Lenten practices in 3 minutes by Busted halo (some Catholic Themes but useful for all Christians). Suitable for Secondary students
“I killed Jesus” why the passion and death of Jesus matters told through the characters of the passion by xt3.com. Suitable for Secondary students (3.51) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCknqGtjsQwQGU8VigXD7w4Q
What is Easter? By Emily Kim with Beautiful Things song by Michael Gungor (4.34)
What is the meaning of Easter? What significance does the resurrection of Christ have for us today? Suitable for Secondary students (2.10)
Easter according to kids by Southland Christian Church. Suitable for Primary and Secondary (2.57) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdn1R90kX9A
The Rabbit and the Resurrection by the Skit Guys. Suitable for Primary and Secondary students (2.00) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5O2Us6f05CQ
Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday by Holy Moly Sparkhouse. Suitable for Primary students (5.00) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipAcuR-NiYc
Good Friday by Holy Moly Sparkhouse. Suitable for Primary students (4.51)
Easter by Holy Moly Sparkhouse. Suitable for Primary students (3.18)
Proofs of the Resurrection by One Minute Apologist. Suitable for Secondary students (3.30) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzNREgNC11k
About this site
"Meditations & Musings" is my humble attempt to share what I have found useful in ministry in an Australian Lutheran School setting. It contains chapels, devotions and other resources I have written, used and adapted in my K-12 school context. If you would like to also share your ideas, resources or start a conversation about mission and ministry in your church- school location, feel free to contact me.
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