The local shelter invited churches in the community to partner with them to make their lawn space beautiful for their clients by providing a variety of spring bulbs. Resurrection had a prayer garden that also needed spring bulbs. During the month of October people brought all sorts of bulbs to the church: frilly pink tulips, double daffodils, crocus, and more. At the end of the month the bulbs were blessed and prayers were said for the men who use the shelter. Half the bulbs were delivered to the shelter and the other half were put in the garden --- this event had young and old helping each other plant the bulbs all over the church property. In the spring the church garden reminded us to remember the men who live on the streets, and reminded the men that there is beauty and hope in the world, and people who care.
When Halloween falls on Sunday (or the night before) invite people to come to church in a costume – something “churchy:” a character from the Bible, a theologian, a Saint, et cetera.
One year a church had Martin Luther show up, along with a blessing in disguise, Moses, a shepherd, the Book of Numbers, a couple of shepherds, a prophet, and a sheep. During the announcements, there was a chance for those in costume to parade down the aisle so everyone had a chance to see the creative ideas.
When holding an event like this, remember to take pics and post on the church web-site and social media #myelcic. The event drew a fair bit of Facebook traffic. It allowed for congregation members to share something fun that happened at church, and in the process share their faith.
Fellowship hour, on that day, included posters with insights about All Soul’s Day, All Saint’s Day, and notes about the origins of Halloween. Just for fun cupcakes were provided for decorating with icing and candied goodies.
A congregation in New Denmark, NB has a beautiful tradition. On Thanksgiving Sunday, an offering is not collected by the ushers, rather, individuals come forward walking by the altar to place their offerings before God. It feels different to bring your offering and lay it before God.
In another parish, a pastor on a Sunday morning, set a large woven basket on the altar; the sermon was about thankfulness. The pastor had a stack of $20 bills ($200 worth), and for each bill – held it up and told the congregation a thanksgiving about the church and placed the bill in the basket. “I am thankful for you -a community who is willing to, and does, open their doors to 200 people throughout the week; people who need a safe place to heal and be in fellowship.” The money was a thanksgiving offering in addition to the pastor’s tithe. Congregation members were invited to bring their tithes and thanksgivings forward. (In this instance it was the pastor, but, this thankful giving can be mentored by anyone and everyone).
And lest the children or poor be forgotten, each week congregation members bring items for the food bank. Children, at the time of the offering, take turns choosing from those items to put them in a basket, bringing them up with the offering and communion elements, setting them in front of the altar as part of their thanksgiving practice.
Attitudes of thanksgiving and abundance can be cultivated by these and other activities.
A woman was dying from a second round of breast cancer. She had spent a number of weeks in the hospital, the same four walls were her home. She was going to be in the hospital for quite a few more weeks. The congregation wanted to show their love in some way. After church a table length of banner paper (purchased at Staples) was placed on a table in the fellowship hall, along with a large box of markers. Over coffee and juice, young and old, were invited to draw a scene and include lots of horses --- horses were the woman’s favourite thing in the whole world. The mural was taken to the hospital and taped up on her wall.
Another woman, became bedbound, just as Advent was starting. Her favourite colour was purple. The congregation made a mural with large purple construction paper candles for the blank wall beside her bed. Members of the congregation cut out holly leaves and put their names on them; the leaves made the wreath around the candles. The names were to remind the woman she was in the congregations thoughts and prayers.
The murals were a way for the congregation to share their love and prayers with people who were close to their hearts. The woman received love, a constant reminder of a community who cared, and a sign of hope. The miracle came in the intimate relationship (love) shared.
There is a Re-store in the city where I live. A Re-store is a place where you can buy used and left-over building supplies, with proceeds going to support Habitat for Humanity Homes. On one trip to the store I found a box of pinkish coloured ceramic tiles. For $5 going to a good cause, who could resist.
One Sunday morning, an intergenerational event had parishioners paint on the pink ceramic tiles; multi-coloured ceramic paints and Q-tips were provided. People were asked to paint something that represented a piece of them. As the event happened, a facilitator hoovered to engage participants in conversation. Participants were asked about what they were drawing, why they had chosen that, and to listen to the stories of other peoples’ tiles. Through the event we learned a lot about each other – the fellowship was great.
In the week following the event, Placemaking Halifax – a group that brings people together in neighbourhoods to work on a co-operative project (like a street mural, community garden, carnival…) asked to use the church hall as their planning event place. The neighbours were invited to the planning event. The church laid out their painted ceramic tiles and invited everyone who attended the Placemaking event to paint one too.
All the tiles were grouped and glued (using concrete adhesive) to the foundation of the church. The tiles are seen by the neighbours when they walk by --- their own art work in their neighbourhood. And church people are constantly reminded that they are people in the world – outside the walls of the church.