Nurture Concern Group Written by Tim Fieldsend and Andy Willis on behalf of the team
Our congregation offered a wide variety of activities for our members of all ages to grow in faith over the past year. These included:
Children’s Church (TF)
1. God at Work in this Ministry: Children’s church continues to grow. Some Sundays we had 30 children upstairs! We thank God for this opportunity to share the Good News with more children and families.
2. We have continued to use the Seasons of the Spirit ecumenical curriculum that ties in with our lectionary to ensure children and adults share a common learning journey in the congregation. We have continued to rely on a small core group of dedicated teaching and assisting volunteers from the congregation. This group has been supplemented by a wider pool of occasional helpers.
3. Outreach to and inductions for new volunteers was conducted several times throughout the year, together with meetings with church leadership to discuss successes, developments and needs within children’s church.
4. A set of new bibles of “The Message” translation have been brought in to use. This is the most commonly used translation in the curriculum and is accessible and helps the older children develop the habit of using bibles for themselves.
5. ELCG Child and Youth Protection Policy and Code of Conduct form sent out to all children’s church volunteers. Requires all adults to sign up to adhering to the Policy and Conduct to continue working with children. This initiative is precautionary and in line with best practice.
6. Many of the children participated in the Christmas Pageant, as well putting on songs in worship prepared by Terry MacArthur, Kiki Lawal and Ben Le Geyt.
7. The size of the groups continued to grow. This has placed demands on teaching volunteers. Meeting the needs of large numbers of children, often of very different developmental stages (3- year olds and 6-year olds together in the younger group) places additional demands on teaching skills, and often doing this without assistants. Furthermore, to meet this need, the core group of teachers have been teaching more and more Sundays, having fewer in the Sanctuary.
8. Several meetings of children’s church volunteer volunteers including with Pastor Andy to explore needs and opportunities were held. These included how to ensure teachers get the right balance between service to children and getting their own spiritual nourishment from being downstairs for the sermon.
9. Hope and excitement for 2018: Decision to move from 2 classes to 3 from 2018: 3-5, 6-8 and 9+ year olds, together with a further call for volunteers. This should help us continue to grow in a manageable way, sharing the Good News of God’s love with more children.
Confirmation class (AW)
This year’s confirmation class has been larger than the past few, with a total of eight students, ranging in age from 12 to 17. From September through May, we have met most Monday afternoons from 17h15 to 18h15 at the church. Students were each paired with a confirmation mentor, a member of the congregation who committed to regular meetings throughout the year to discuss questions of faith.
Highlights of the year were two short retreats, one in September, and one in early May.
Prayer Groups (AW)
Our congregation continues to have two active prayer groups. Kiki Lawal leads a group every other week in praying for needs of the congregation and wider community, and Monica McKinlay leads a weekly Centering Prayer group.
Walking Together (AW)
For the third year in a row, our congregation invited newcomers into an intentional time of fellowship, study, and spiritual growth during the season of Lent. Six newcomer households participated, and each was paired with a current member of the congregation as a sponsor. All were invited to a weekly Sunday evening gathering that included a meal and time of study. This year we used Rowan Williams’s book Being Disciples as a guide for our conversation.
Educational Forums, Bible Studies, and Book Studies (AW)
• This fall, the congregation hosted a series of weekly Sunday forums after worship. Each consisted of a member of the congregation presenting on an issue of faith and life. From 24 September through 3 December, we had a forum nearly every Sunday—9 all together, on a wide and wonderful variety of topics. An additional forum followed in the spring.
• Miriam Deffenbaugh led a study of Luther’s Small Catechism on Tuesday evenings during the fall, using the curriculum By Heart.
• During the season of Epiphany, Pastor Andy led a weekly Sunday morning Bible study on the gospel texts for the season.
• During Lent, Pastor Andy facilitated a Sunday morning study called Making Sense of the Cross, using materials written by David Lose, which examined different theories of atonement.
• During the Easter season, Miriam Deffenbaugh and Pastor Andy co-led a Tuesday evening Bible study on the book of Revelation.