Church Christmas Market this morning,- an event that I struggle with, as rather than pulling together for a single cause, we invite the various parish groups to each take a stall and compete with each other for the limited purses of the charity shopper in Charlton Kings. However, it was a predictably excellent opportunity to connect with lots of people, and I did win a bottle on the ChurchWardens' stall (proceeds to "Outward Giving") so mustn't grumble (anyway, last week used up my grumble quotient for several months, I'm sure).
Afternoon of feverish preparation, as the junior youth group sleep over, which had been threatened with cancellation due to lack of interest, was miraculously revived at the 11th hour, and I'd agreed to try out some of the stations from my imminent Advent labyrinth here. It was the first time I'd tried any sort of alt. worship with this group, whose ages range from 9 to 13, and my heart sank when they arrived, hyped up beyond belief...HOW would it be possible to help them derive anything of real value from the labyrinth? They were intent on wild games, and wilder back-chat.
I'd forgotten God, of course...
Here are some of their comments from the visitors' book
"to try and behave for tonight made us think about who we are and why we are here"
"I prayed for the first time in a while. Thank you"
"I found that praying is quite relaxing"
"It makes you let your feelings out. It opens your mind and makes you think and wonder. It's very peaceful and quiet. As soon as I walked into the room, I felt as if someone cleared my mind out and calmed me down alot. Thank you."
"The labyrinth told me alot about God, the atmosphere was calm and peaceful and relaxing. I felt as though God had taken me to a world of peace, and no one was suffering"
"I have been thinking about how bad the world actually is, and how we ourselves and God can and will someday make it alot better"
Apart from the stunning comments, the other big success of the evening for me was adapting an idea from Jonny's book, as I invited the kids to take a glowstar from the sacred space at the centre of the labyrinth, and place it in a tray of compost, as they made a personal undertaking to do one thing to make a difference, to "let their lights shine...". In the candlelit dimness of the labyrinth, the stars looked pretty pathetic...reminiscent of the way our best efforts seem to have very little impact in our messy, hurting world,- but before I came home, I gave the stars a good dose of light, and then took the earth tray downstairs, turned off the lights once more, and enjoyed their pleasure in the light that shone in the darkness.
"You see" I told them "You may be making far more difference than you think"