My congregation has been incredibly fortunate to have our new Bright Lights programme work the first time right out of the box! Yesterday, we held the second in this monthly series of these gatherings for families and children. We started last month and had seven kids (plus their parents). Today, it was thirteen kids and lots of parents. It felt great!
Somehow, we've managed to hit on a formula that works. We begin with a quick craft project that the kids can start as soon as they arrive. Then, we all say together:
...and there are movements that go with each line that the kids just love to do!This is the home of the open mind,
The loving heart,
And the helping hands.
Together we care for our earth
And work for friendship and peace in our world
Then there's a chalice lighting where one child each month gets to light the chalice - a truly awesome experience for the lighter and everyone else as they become silent seeing one of their own number allowed to do the hitherto forbidden magic of fire!
For the chalice lighting, we all say together:
We light this chalice for the light of truth.
We light this chalice for the warmth of love.
We light this chalice for the energy of action.
At about this time, they're ready to make some noise and the basket full of maracas and tambourines goes out in preparation for a rousing three verses of This Little Light of Mine accompanied by sometimes exuberant and often slightly confused child-hood maraca and tambourine artistry.
The centre-point of the event is a story with lots of participation, and an important message. Last month was 'we're happier when we help other people to be happy.' This month, we hit 'everyone is special' with a story about a very nice fellow whose appearance scared everyone until they finally got to know him.
Another song - from the canon of children's favourites - yesterday's was When You're Happy and You Know it.
And finally, we end with these shared closing words:
Walk softly.And then the crucial time I like to think of as snacks and chaos - well, barely controlled chaos, as the parents chat, the kids scarf down food and run around together having a great time in our large space...
Go in peace.
Finally, I think it's crucial that we're clear about what we're trying to achieve. Bright Lights is about a fun, engaging experience, but it's also about helping families to raise kids who are kind, compassionate, justice-seeking people - ready to play their part in a pluralistic world moving toward more peace, equality, and harmony. The values we aim to share in every session:
Each person is important
Be kind in all you do
We're free to learn together
We search for what is true
All people need a voice
Build a fair and peaceful world
We care for our Earth