Beginning in September, the members of the Children and Families Christian Formation committee are sharing the real stories of what ministry in and with families is like in this strange season. We know it’s not all roses but it’s not all thorns either. The small steps we are taking to connect with each other, the experiments in online worship and formation, the space we make to feel all the feelings – that’s what we want to share. We’ve all been on a steep learning curve – at times exhilarating and at times exhausting. Where have we met God in the midst of it? When have we witnessed children, youth, and families reach an impasse or have breakthroughs?
Each member of the committee is going to share a story from their own experience or interview someone willing to share their story. Big or small stories – they all matter. What we hope they do is remind us we’re not alone, we don’t have to make it all up ourselves, and that the Holy Spirit is persistent yet gentle in helping us understand how the souls of families around us can grow.
To get the ball rolling, here’s a very brief story from my family during the early weeks of the pandemic.
Most nights, my ten-year old daughter and I say bedtime prayers together. We started it a couple of years ago using coloured popsicle sticks with different kinds of prayers written on them. Green popsicle sticks were for thanksgiving, red for adoration, purple for our own needs, yellow for the needs of others and so on. We pick the sticks out randomly from a jar and move through the forms of prayer, some nights more perfunctorily than others.
Then the pandemic lockdown began in earnest near the beginning of Lent. One night when we got to the orange stick which is for confession, the idea popped into my head to chant the Kyrie eleison – a very simple yet doleful version of the ancient prayer. Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us. I’ve had mixed feelings about the Kyrie for a while, but something about it seemed right to do now. Still, I did not think my daughter would take to it. She found the confession stick one of the trickier ones. And, I’ll be honest, she’s not alone. But after she heard it this night, she said, “Mom, I really like that prayer, let’s do it some more.” We started to chant it together. The simple notes we could hold and somehow the sadness and the fear of this time could freely come out in our singing. Confession and lament.
Although I’ve chanted this prayer probably at hundreds of Eucharists, it was one of the first times I’d chanted it with real earnestness. We and all whom we knew needed mercy. We always did, but the pandemic exposed the rawness of our need, all of us, children and parents and grandparents. It was so simple and we were alone by her bunkbed. But it seemed we could pray the Kyrie not only for us but with the whole church for the whole world. A ten year old could intercede; a middle-aged mom could intercede. And night after night, as the case counts grew we did. No one else was going to witness it but the prayer could roll on like a rivulet to a stream. I believe and hope while we struggled as churches to maintain our communion and worship and prayer together, thousands of rivulets like this one were pouring out from households all over.