Lent: Jesus in the Wilderness
Two classes visited the event and we kept the displays up for our after school Footsteps event and also for anyone who wanted to drop in during the week.
We looked at the stories of Jesus' experience of temptation in the wilderness. The event also focused on Lent as a time for spiritual reflection.
Lent is a time for choices: in this case to be empty or full (bread or stones), famous or trusting (the pinnacle of the temple), powerful or serving (all the kingdoms of the world).
As many of the children had already been to the event with school, we wanted to make the after school experience different.
However, as the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness is complete in itself, there was no obvious extra story that would fit with the theme. Instead we opted for a brief retelling of the story while the children had drinks and snacks.
We offered additional different crafts plus an opportunity to respond or play with the materials. I provided a board for each station with pictures, a brief outline of the story and a couple of wondering questions.
1 Stones and bread:We draped the pews with hessian and stood bunches of reeds along them. The sheet acted as a backcloth for the children to paint. A friend lent us some cacti in bowls and we used a long tray of sand with a pile of stones and a pile of bread rolls. We had six large circular stones for the children to do rubbings.
2 The pinnacle of the temple:The pinnacle had been created out of cardboard for the Church Schools of Cambridge exhibition. Wooden struts were placed around it and a mat sized photograph taken from the top of Great St Mary's tower in Cambridge was placed underneath it. Balancing on the struts and looking down gave the impression of standing somewhere really high up - the pinnacle of the temple. Nearby were sand trays with pictures of famous faces - would Jesus choose fame as a way to bring God's message to people?
3 All the countries of the world:We laid out a large world map with small golden crowns placed on different countries. We also draped a throne with richly coloured cloths and used symbols of kingship - gems, golden chains and jewellery and crowns - to show riches and power.
4 Poustinia:Picking up on the theme of Christians having a time of solitude during Lent, we created a Poustinia (a Russian retreat hut) in the small area behind the organ. This was furnished with a cross and a simple focus table with a Bible and an icon of the Trinity. The children and their families were free to visit this space thoughout the event.
5 Angels and animals:The temptations end with Jesus in the desert alone with the angels and wild animals. To symbolise this we invited everyone to weave fake animal fur, gold or white ribbons, feathers and natural materials into a willow arch.
Creating "sheds" from lolly sticks, sticky maize, card, straws and other materials...
Painting a desert landscape (using a blue sheet picked up from a charity shop)
Playing with the desert box - wild animals, people, angels, river...
How well did it work?We found the after school session worked much better with a simpler version of the narrative told at the beginning and more time to respond, rather than trying to re-run the schools event.
However, we did not allow any time for wondering questions or a verbal response, which might have taken the children deeper.
Although the after school children included younger children, several of them worked together on creating "sheds" which meant less frustration for them.
The pinnacle and weaving the strands into the willow arch were especially popular.