Last week, in between the preparations for my mother in law's funeral & the ceaseless stream of parish funerals too, I was mostly in the churchyard!
Seems eminently reasonable in this month of funerals - but actually I was there to celebrate resurrection with children from 2 of our 3 local schools. In previous years, I've loved using the "Experience Easter" indoor stations, which take children on an interactive journey into the Passion narrative, helping them to build bridges from 1st century Jerusalem to 21st century Gloucestershire...but valley church school has now made that journey twice, so a change was called for, and the diocese had helpfully provided
"Experience Easter Outdoors".
With only 4 stations, and children coming round a whole class at a time, it was simpler to manage - and the stunning summer weather last week made it a delight to spend time exploring the events of the Triduum in a sunny churchyard. There were fewer deep conversations with the children, as we were in much larger groups - but the activities invited reflection and I'm confident seeds were sown.
The stations worked like this
1) Gethsemane...The story of Jesus praying alone, linked with all those who suffer pain and persecution as they stand up for what is right. Children are invited to take a stone, ask God to help them to stand up for what they know to be right, & then place stones in a circle around the tree at the centre of the garden
2) The Courtyard...VERY exciting. A fire blazing in the dustbin we use for the Easter fire (nothing if not basic in Cainscross!)...Story told, children invited to reflect on Peter's feelings after he had denied Jesus & his motivation for doing this then to take a twig, remember a time when they let somebody down, & drop twigs into the fire as they listen to readings reminding us of God's forgiveness.
3) Golgotha...Three crosses and the story of the penitent thief. A reminder that the cross is a symbol of forgiveness and love (I always talk about Jesus on the cross offering a hug to embrace all who have ever lived or ever will live)...then children are invited to make their own crosses and leave them as a reminder to all who pass by of just how much God loves them. This was quite wonderful. We had stick crosses, flat and upright, grass crosses, teeny tiny crosses of pine needles...all worked on with such attention...Visiting that corner of the churchyard now there is a veritable forest of reminders of God's love. Brilliant!
4) Finally, of course, we remembered why Good Friday is not, after all, the saddest day ever, as we visited the Garden Tomb and saw how it was empty, with Christ risen and death defeated for all time. We talked about the power of hope and planted wild flower seeds, tiny, fragile, looking so dead but full of potential for life. If even a few of those placed secretly by the children actually germinate and grow, our churchyard will be a beautiful place this summer - but, having travelled around it in their company, I think it will always be a beautiful place for me.