Trying to describe how I feel about the weekend just passed, the word “gladness” came to mind; it seems to connote contentment, gratitude and joy all in one. On Saturday, I had the pleasure of helping serve lunch to our parish’s Habitat for Humanity team. Actually, we’re part of a coalition of churches of varying denominations who build a house a year in an urban-core neighborhood. Though the morning had been a bit pressed, getting things together, I knew that would change as soon as I pulled onto the gravel of the construction site. A crew of smiling (and hot and sweaty) people cheerfully unloaded my car and helped set up the buffet in the slight shade of a large truck, right beside where the row houses are taking shape. Once food was arranged, the volunteers gathered for brief remarks from the leader, followed by spontaneous prayer from one of the members. His words were full of praise to God and included thanks to the preparers of the food. Construction will never be a likely calling for me, but it’s uplifting to play a support role in a project that provides a tangible, lasting benefit to a particular family. The sense of mission emanating from this community of builders is evangelization in the best sense – inviting, inspiring and Spirit-filled.
Then, at mass yesterday morning, it was my turn to lead Children’s Liturgy of the Word (CLW), and we brought a most satisfying conclusion to a project that began a year ago when our friend and co-founding team member, Teresa, died in May 2011 after many years of chronic illness. She had bounced back so many times, it seemed like she always would. Despite her personal challenges, she was unfailingly cheerful in her ministry of the Word and brought a down-to-earth spirituality to scriptural reflections. Our CLW team commissioned a banner to honor her memory and enhance the prayerful atmosphere of the children’s worship space. The photo doesn’t really do it justice, but artist Elizabeth Schickel Robinson did beautiful work, intuitively grasping who Teresa was and what we wanted to convey. The completed banner was introduced a few weeks ago, and yesterday Elizabeth joined us for Children’s Liturgy to share her creative process and use of symbols. I love this banner, its vivid colors and images from nature. It speaks to me of death and resurrection, the paschal mystery at the heart of Christian faith. Beyond that richness, scriptural reflection with children can be surprisingly profound. Responding to the Ezekiel reading, we discussed trees, especially the importance of the majestic cedar to the original hearers of those words. The banner, of course, fit nicely with that theme. The children, ranging in age from 3 or 4 to about 12, listened attentively, participated thoughtfully, and it was evident when they “got it” – that like the small branch planted on the mountain that grows to a tall tree, providing sustenance and shelter for many creatures, we can become God’s people.
Top photo by SurvivalWoman via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.