Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pentecost (Whitsun)/Pfingsten

Today we celebrated Pentecost (also called "Whitsun") at Family Brunch. On this special day, the church celebrates two things:  1) God's gift of the Holy Spirit to all believers and 2) the birthday of the worldwide church.  Our children at Haus Berlin e.V. heard two stories from Young Children and Worship that I combined for this special occasion.

The first story, entitled "Pentecost" Sonja Stewart's book, follows the account in Acts 2 of the first followers of Jesus who gathered in the upper room waiting for God's gift of the Holy Spirit just as Jesus had asked of them.  This YWC story does a great job of explaining what happened, but also leaving things to the children's imagination.  After all, how exactly does one explain a rushing wind filling the room and tongues of fire appearing over people's heads?  Rather than using visual objects to tell those parts of the story, the storyteller uses specific hand motions that are faithful to the text, but also leave the children to visualize with their own imaginations.  (I feel this is very important, because the Biblical text was written by a first century author and it is difficult for us as 21st century readers to know exactly what St. Luke was describing.) And rather than emphasizing the supernatural events, the story places emphasis on the effects that this filling of the Spirit had on the followers of Jesus:  joyous love for God and other people.

As you can see here, I had a hard time getting the figures to stand up on the uneven ground.
Perhaps I need to use the art boards underneath the felt next time.: )
The second story that I told was from Stewart's second volume of stories, Following Jesus, and is called "God's Gift of the Holy Spirit". In Stewart's original story, she lists seven gifts that followers of Jesus receive and bases them on texts from Isaiah 11 and Acts 1. Because I come from a slightly different theological background than she does, I found it a bit of a stretch to say that these seven gifts were what the original believers received.  I was much more comfortable with using St. Paul's list of nine spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12.  Although I would not say that Dr. Stewart is wrong in her understanding of the seven gifts in her original story, the original text about Pentecost only infers, but does not directly state what those gifts were. Therefore, it makes more sense to me to base the story on a text that is clearer on the subject. 

"God's Gift of the Holy Spirit" materials
We had a free response time for the creative phase today. Below you can see my set-up of materials laid out in a row on trays for the children to choose from.  They had two different types of paper, paint, crayons, and oil pastels, paintbrushes, bowls for rinsing, and sponges.  I think it is important to vary the paper that the children use.  Otherwise, they get too used to one size and one way of positioning it. Varying the paper reinforces good problem-solving skills and going into new situations with confidence.

Just in case you're wondering, the Sprite bottle
 is filled with water for rinsing brushes. : )

Hard at work.
The girls loved the colored paper.
 One little girl was discussing her painting below with me.  She said that the black represented the "storm" (The YCW story describes the rushing wind in the upper room as being like wind in a storm.) and the red and yellow below were the fire. As we talked further, I realized that she had viewed the strong wind as being something negative and scary.  Hmmm . . . I might have to rethink how I describe the wind next time.

A normal part of a Godly Play worship service is the feast time, which is a snack that also prepares children for the idea of taking communion.  We usually don't do this at Family Brunch, because we eat together beforehand, but I decided to try it today.  I set the timer for 15 minutes of creative work and told the children that we would then take a break to pray and eat together, and that they could return to their work afterwards.  The prayer time actually went much better than usual this way.  In the past, I have tried the prayer time right after the story, but it has proved difficult for the children to concentrate that long.

At the very end, we put a birthday candle on our special cupcakes and the girls served them to the adults. They also picked flowers from the park to decorate the plate.

Happy Pentecost to everyone!   Happy Birthday, Church! 
And thank you, Father, for the gift of the Holy Spirit!


  1. I like the idea of explaining it that way.

  2. Thanks, Ticia! By the way, your Science Sunday meme is a really original idea.

  3. How nice! We, too, had the YCW (more or less) Pentecost lesson and birthday cake.

    I am struck by your child's perception of the wind as scary. It's a bit like Lewis saying that Aslan is not a tame lion, perhaps.