Wednesday, May 27, 2009

reflections on teaching, and "Can you spell VOCATION?"

We are rejoicing -- or maybe just exhibiting reprehensible smugness -- at MH & U these days over our NINE, count'em, confirmands. Each provided with a mentor, too; and none of the mentors likely to cause harm of any sort to their charges.

This is all good! The young people are mostly boys, just a couple of girls, ranging in age from a very mature 9 to 16.

This means lots of adult males involved in the mentoring, also good.

I also have a handful of wee ones interested in first-communion instruction and/or baptismal instruction.

The issue here is that we welcome whole families with a range of ages and a range of theological backgrounds including the Anabaptist, so there are anomalies in the ages at which our children do things for the first time.

I thought I might economize on effort and energy by teaching the whole mob (the little ones are 6 or 7 years old) through the most basic "Life in the Eucharist" work and then get stuck into William Willimon's material on "Making Disciples" for the balance of the confirmation instruction.

And so on Sunday I found myself in the nave of the church with about 8 of the confirmands, and mentors according, and two bright-eyed church-oriented little girls, and a small crowd of parents, various.

We had spent some time last Sunday on the ante-communion part of the liturgy.

So I moved a small table to the head of the aisle, set it with my travelling communion kit, including wafers, wine, and water, and called the little girls to me, because I thought that doing the teaching "fishbowl" style might be best -- two participants and the rest observers... this seemed to be OK for the group.

I borrowed the two long white brocade bookmarks from the altar-book and put them on the little girls like stoles...and then encouraged them to see what happens at communion time from where the priest sees it...we counted out wafers, poured water, poured wine, washed little hands with the lavabo bowl...we recalled the story of the Last Supper which we tell every Good Friday as part of the children's Way of the Cross.

and I asked them to wonder how many of the roughly-a-dozen of young people there might find themselves doing this work as their life's work. (Actually, I said, "I'll just bet that at least one of you, someday...")

I had NO IDEA how that thought would go over, at all. But it did seem to me that a way to pull them through their confirmation instruction might be by applying the superior magnetic effect of ordination...I still don't know with any confidence whether that's legitimate, or inspired, or unscrupulously manipulative, or what.

But they were MIGHTY thoughtful. The little girls meanwhile were INTO IT...surreptitiously stroking their stoles, and -- one of them -- extending a very small forefinger to touch the wafers in the paten.

So we wrapped up the lesson with some discussion of ways that communion is shared in different churches and in different situations, and they all went home.

But I had feedback...indirectly, from the parents of the little girl who isn't yet baptized. At home with her parents, she told them, "THAT WAS THE MOST MOST SPECIAL THING THAT I HAVE EVER DONE."

And I think that is, after all, what I wanted them to feel about the Eucharist.


Song in my Heart said...

I wish that someone had taught me about the Eucharist that way. The different perspective and the mentoring are both things I missed.

I don't think it's unscrupulously manipulative to use ordination as a "hey, this is shiny" tool. Most of my students aren't going to be performing musicians or music teachers for a living, but what kind of teacher would I be if I didn't let them know that those are viable options, possible pathways? Part of my work as a teacher is to help them to figure out where music fits in their lives, and support them in developing that. I'm no authority but I imagine the role of clergy does involve at least a little of that same process with faith.

I can certainly identify with the joy of teaching something special and then finding out that on some level it did get through.

Auntie Knickers said...

I've heard so many stories of women clergy who were brought up in churches where their being ordainable was not even thought of as a possibility -- and the pain that caused them for so many years -- bravo to you for involving the little girls -- sounds like a very effective lesson!

Towanda said...


Terri said...

You know those little girls will never be the same...and someday, maybe 20 or 30 years from now they will retell the story of this day and the wonder and the awe will be the same.

In fact, I may just retell this story as my illustration for Sunday, if you don't mind....(still noddling that sermon, I am, but this might fit)...

Julie said...

I love working with children and finding out, either directly or indirectly, that it made an impact. Makes all the crap that sometimes comes along with church work worth it!

Sarah S-D said...

oh marvelous. well done, c.r. thanks be to God.