Friendship Through the Wilderness

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BY THE REV. CORY L. KEMP |

Photo of a palm cross

Photo by Andrew David Cox / Moravian BCM

We are coming toward the end of our wilderness journey, this Lenten season filled with opportunity to explore our faith, to learn new ways to be present as Jesus taught us in the example of his own life. 

Forty days feels like a long time to do this incredible work of honoring God’s wisdom in us, to be humbled by its transformative strength and power, often in ways we can barely begin to unravel in this Great Mystery that God truly is.

And then suddenly, there is Palm Sunday. We sing our Hosannas, echoing those surrounding Jesus as he returned to Jerusalem. 

And, we know what comes next. 

By Biblical accounts, so did Jesus. His time in the wilderness appears to have given him affirmation, personal resolve, and the renewed foundation of faith to walk back out of the wilderness and into the fire. And, as he faced this stretch of his life, he also had his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. 

It is a Biblical concept, this sense of connection to each other that can be described as deep affection, respect, admiration and love. In describing Jesus, each gospel writer allows a great teacher, prophet and savior to emerge. But John’s one sentence speaks of Jesus the friend: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (John 11:5).” Jesus spent time with them in their home, including the Passover, a true family celebration. One can only surmise that in the remembrance of the Passover ritual and tradition, there were also stories told of past gatherings, and some laughter. 

From Jesus and his friends we can learn some wonderful lessons about friendship.

Image of friends hanging out on a mountain

Photo by Arthur Poulin, via Unsplash.com

Friends become a safe haven when hospitality is shared, hearts are opened, and love is freely given. The sisters clearly were hurt and angry, confused and deeply saddened when Jesus took so long getting back to them as Lazarus was dying. They were equally elated and grateful at the results when Jesus finally did show up.  Raising Lazarus from the dead must have been a recurring story around their table whenever Jesus came to visit. How could it not be?

Friends make us better. Augustine believed it was important to surround ourselves with people who are better than us because they make us better. A friend and I laughed over the fact that we had both chosen each other for this reason. While Jesus was known to many as teacher, healer, prophet and miracle worker, he was also known to this family as friend. Spending time with other people’s families gives us insight into ourselves in unique ways. These siblings gave Jesus something he would not have had if he hadn’t chosen to spend time with them.

Friends remind us who we are, even when we forget. When we falter, face huge obstacles, back away from what we don’t want to deal with, and when we are smack in the middle of something we don’t know our way out of, our friends are with us to say out loud, or in our hearts, “Yes, you can. I know you, and I know you can.” In our slim book of Holy Week readings, there is a small notation indicating that we don’t know what Jesus did on Wednesday night, the night before his arrest and imprisonment, but it is assumed he spent the night in Bethany in seclusion with friends. A last night of peace among those he loved and who loved him. 

Image of friends hanging out together

Photo by Sammie Vasquez, via Unsplash.com

So as we come to the conclusion of our wilderness journey, as we enter Jerusalem with Jesus, spend some time in the home of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, I invite you also to look around your own life, take note of those you have welcomed as friends over the years and who are a part of your life today.   

And from author, Will Cather, I offer one final lesson in friendship with which I think Jesus would agree: “Ain’t it wonderful how much people can mean to each other?”


Cory Kimp

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp is founder and faith mentor with Broad Plains Faith Coaching. Cory, employing her signature Handcrafted Faith program, supports ordained and lay women leaders in visualizing, understanding and strengthening their beliefs, so that they may know, love and serve God and their communities with generosity, wisdom and joy.


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Milestones as Stepping Stones in Your Faith Journey

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BY BETH HAYES | 

Milestones as Stepping Stones in Your Faith Journey

I just returned from a symposium in Connecticut done by Lifelong Faith Associates on families at the center of faith formation. It was quite the experience to be in a beautiful fall setting where leaders in churches from different denominations gathered to brainstorm. In our brainstorming, we planed ways for our congregations to celebrate family and help families to be more intentional about faith formation in their homes. More and more I realize that faith formation is not solely a congregational responsibility nor totally a home responsibility, but the two places working together.

The conference gave me many things to ponder, but most helpful was a reintroduction to “milestones ministry.” It is an essential tool for faith formation in the twenty-first century. Simply put, this ministry nurtures Christian faith, strength, and relationships. In churches and homes, it provides a way to reach out to others with the love of God in very simple and practical ways for all generations. Visit the website milestoneministry.org to read and learn more about church and home being vital places in the world. It is based on five important principles:

  • Faith is formed through relationships. Milestones Ministry brings a cross generational community together to nurture the Christian faith.
  • It is a primary partnership between the ministry of the home and the ministry of the congregation. Each module helps people practice faith with the support of a congregation and in and through ones homes.
  • It honors home as church too. It lifts up daily life relationships, especially parents and other adult mentors.
  • Faith is caught more than it is taught. It models the faith through cross generational experiences and faith practices.
  • If we want Christian children and youth, we need Christian adults around them.

There are five steps to generate a specific milestone memory. You need to first name it – identify meaningful, memorable moments. Then you need to equip it – provide faith practices. A blessing comes next as you offer a prayer. It needs a visual reminder… so gift it. The last step is to reinforce it, by following up to firmly root it in faith.

Children's Festival

Children’s Festival and Lovefeast. August 2016. Photo by Suzy Tucker.

About two years ago, the Children and Family task force produced a piece called Moravian Milestones and Stars. We visited every Regional Conference of Churches and gave a notebook to each church to have. Included are age level breakdowns of what Moravians could be expected to know at each age level. The second half of the piece is a resource from Milestones Ministries where specific milestones such as baptism, mission trips, going off to college, empty nesting and many more are described and ways to celebrate these times both in church and in homes. If you have misplaced the notebook or need another copy, all you need to do is ask me for a replacement.

I have heard some beautiful stories about how milestone ministries are carried out in specific churches. One congregation adorns their hallways leading to the various classrooms with ribbons for each individual. When a milestone is reached and celebrated, a star is placed on the ribbon. Some churches give a bowl or basket at baptism. For each celebration of a specific milestone, a particular stone with the image of that milestone on one side and scripture on the other is given to put in the bowls. An illustration of the rocks is shown. A friend of many of our educators has covenanted to spend her retirement painting these milestone rocks. If you are interested in the rocks, you may contact me and I will put you in touch with Libby Welter or you may email her at libbywelter[AT]gmail.com and tell her what you are wanting.

My next move to encourage our congregations and families is to create some Moravian specific milestones like a first lovefeast, first Easter sunrise service, first Laurel Ridge experience, or first Children’s Festival. You will hear more to come in the next few months as we continue to brainstorm together and create new milestones. Until then, consider beginning this all important ministry in your congregation. You can contact me (Beth Hayes) for help in getting it started. As you continue to see the importance of church and families at home working together, check out the website and Facebook page for Roots and Wings where we will continue to link you to important articles and websites that could be helpful.

And remember this passage from Deuteronomy 6:6-7 as the basis for the importance of this ministry.

 

                                    “Memorize his laws and tell them to your children

                                    Over and over again. Talk about them all the time,

                                    Whether you’re at home or walking along the road

                                    Or going to bed at night or getting up in the morning.”

(Common English Version)


If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Below, Beth appears with her sister, aunt, and cousin along with the family Bible.  

Looking at a Bible

Beth’s Picks: New Resources for the Advent Season

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BY BETH HAYES | 

New Resources for the Advent Season

Pexels photo - Christiams candle

When I worked in a church as an educator, it was hard to think ahead for Advent planning. I would go in stores and hate to see things decorated for the Advent and Christmas season in September. But the truth is… I’ve had to get rid of this thought as a resource person. It is important to think far enough ahead and get the resources out so that people can plan and utilize the resources for the best planning efforts in their congregations.

Advent Resources

Thus, the countdown to Advent and Christmas begins in the Board of Cooperative Ministries Resource Center. In the image above we have our Advent books on display and are taking reservations from people wanting to use a particular resource during Advent. The Resource Center not only loans the books out to congregations to use but will purchase them for churches at the best price possible. Be sure to come in and see our countdown to the Advent season with some pretty awesome new resources.

God With Us cover

God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas. Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe. Paraclete Press. 2015

This provides a perfect way to slow down and reconnect with the traditions that illuminate the meaning of Christmas and the Incarnation. It offers a tapestry of reflection, Scripture, prayer, and history. We all need to pause and understand the spiritual richness of the season.

The Redemption of Scrooge. Matt Rawle. Abingdon Press. 2016

This study is based on the book by Charles Dickens. It explores the world of Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim , and the Cratchits with an eye to Christian faith. Along the way you will meet the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come and learn about living with and for others in a world blessed by Jesus. There is a four week DVD study with leader guide and a youth study. This particular author has taken several novels and worked with them from a faith perspective in a very creative way. It is sure to intrigue you.

Underdogs and Outsiders cover

Underdogs and Outsiders: A Bible Study on the Untold Stories of Advent. Tom Fuerst. Abingdon Press. 2016

The Gospel of Matthew names five women in the family tree of Jesus: Tamar, a forgotten daughter-in-law and widow; Rahab, a prostitute, Ruth, a foreigner: the wife of Uriah, an adulteress; and of course Mary, a young virgin. This study explores the stories of each of these five women, showing how they all played a pivotal role in God’s purposes. You will uncover new dimensions of the story of God’s people and how that story comes into focus in the hope for the Messiah. Each chapter offers questions for reflection and discussion, a brief prayer, and a focus for the week. We hear so many familiar Advent passages, so it is refreshing to look at some of the untold stories.

Why This Jubilee? Advent Reflections on Songs of the Season. James Howell. Upper Room. 2015

In this book of 24 reflections, Howell invites us to revisit familiar songs of the season, even some secular ones, and contemplate certain phrases and their meaning for us. It includes a leaders guide. What a wonderful resource in many settings but I can really see it as a short Bible Study for choir members who sometimes miss out on Sunday School and spiritual enrichment times.

 


If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Below, Beth appears with her sister, aunt, and cousin along with the family Bible.  

Looking at a Bible

“For the Bible Tells Me So”- Selecting Children’s Bibles

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BY BETH HAYES | 

At a recent gathering of the East region the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, Elizabeth “Lib” Caldwell, retired professor of Christian Education at McCormick Seminary, led a discussion of things to consider when choosing a children’s Bibles. She offered a variety of criteria, or lenses, through which to examine children’s Bibles.

First, consider the content and the length of the stories.

  • What translation is it based on?
  • Is it faithful to the text or does it add material?
  • Does it cite the text?
  • How much of the story is told?
  • In its simplification or rephrasing is the main point of the story preserved?
  • Will it hold the reader’s (listener’s) attention till the end?
  • Are there too many or too few details?

Children's Bibles

Then, look at the illustrations.

  • What kind of illustrations are used?
  • Are they characters? Are they drawings? Are they artistic?
  • Are they multicultural?
  • Do they invite children into the story?
  • Do they make the story come alive?

Next consider the interpretation that is happening.

  • How do they title the story?
  • Does it really tell what the story is about or does it point to a particular ‘message’ to be conveyed?
  • Is it inclusive?
  • How is God presented?
  • Does it attempt to find Jesus in every story, from both testaments?
  • And finally, does it offer helps for parents? Does it give resources for parents to help engage the child? Does it invite both parent and child into the story? Does it offer ways to continue the conversation about the story, applying it life?

Caldwell’s two favorite children’s Bibles are The Deep Blue Kids Bible and Shine On: A Children’s Story Bible. Both offer simple, faithful texts, engaging illustrations and offer ways to engage the story beyond the printed page.

Any material marked with an asterisk is Beth’s choice.

Recommended Bibles for Young Children below Kindergarten age

These are generally selected stories from the Bible told in appropriate age level characteristics.

  • The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Childrens Stories Gold N Honey Questar Publisher
  • The Children of God Storybook Bible. Desmond Tutu. Zondervan*
  • Frolic First Bible. Sparkhouse Augsburg Fortress*
  • My First Bible: Wonderful Stories for Young Children Good Books
  • Pray and Play Bible For Young Children Group*
  • The Toddlers Bible Victor Books Scripture Press
  • Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories New International Version. G.F. Putnam Publishers*

Recommended Bibles for Children from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 3

These are generally more than picture books and give some discovery questions to ponder. They are written in simpler language for this age level covering a variety of stories from the Bible. Several are associated with particular Sunday School curriculum so if you are using Deep Blue, Spark, Shine On, or Whirl, it would be best to choose one of those options.

  • The Bible for Children. Good Books
  • The Book of God for Children Walt Wangerin
  • Deep Blue Bible Storybook. Abingdon Press*
  • The Family Story Bible. Westminister John Knox Press
  • The Jesus Story Bible. Zonderkids
  • Lectionary Story Bible Year A, B, and C. Woodlake Books*
  • My First Message: A Devotional Bible for Kids. NavPress
  • The Pilgrim Book of Bible Stories. Pilgrim Press
  • Shine On: A Story Bible. Mennomedia
  • Spark Story Bible. Sparkhouse. Augsburg Fortress
  • Whirl Story Bible. Sparkhouse. Augsburg Fortress*

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Recommended Bibles for Grades 3 and Up

These options are laid out in the traditional Bible format and have sidebars with good reflection questions to consider. Again, some are associated with a particular curriculum so you should choose those if you are using that curriculum option.

  •  The CEB Student Bible. Common English Bible Abingdon Press*
  • Connect Bible NRSV Sparkhouse Augsburg Fortress*
  • Deep Blue Kid’s Bible. Common English Bible Abingdon Press*
  • The Guidebook: Study it Connect It Pray it Live It, NRSV Student Bible.Harper Bibles*
  • Serendipity Student Bible New International Version Serendipity House
  • Spark Study Bible NRSV Sparkhouse Augsburg Fortress
  • Whirl NRSV Study Bible Sparkhouse Augsburg Fortress

Recommended Bibles for High School Students

  • The CEB Student Bible Common English Bible Abingdon Press*
  • The Guidebook Harper Bibles*
  • Serendipity Student Bible Serendipity House

*indicates Beth Hayes’s choices

With these recommendations and if you have been at one of my presentations on my faith formation recently, you can see that Bibles have played an important part in my faith journey. My first Bible was given to me by my sister and is still used today. Reading the family Bible with my namesake grandmother who taught me the value of reading stories from the Bible at a young age. And my newest Bible acquisition: a journaling Bible where I can find my favorite verses and illustrate why they have so much meaning to me.

The different Bibles I have come across are important parts of my life and story and always will be. I hope that congregations will keep up the tradition of giving the right Bibles to children at the appropriate age and recognize the importance of these Bibles. Looking for the right Bible or for ideas on presenting Bibles as gifts? Come by the Resource Center and we will be happy to assist you!


If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Below, Beth appears with her sister, aunt, and cousin along with the family Bible.  

Looking at a Bible

2016 VBS Preview

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APRIL 4, 2016 

“The most important part of a quality VBS program is not the T-shirts or the crafts or catchy skits that open the day. It is the relationships that are formed with the leaders, peers, and with God. Putting our time in the training and nurture of the staff of VBS is more critical than finding inflatable palm trees or the right banner to hang out front.” -Kathy Dawson, Hope4CE

 As we approach the summer and see all the publicity about Vacation Bible School programs, we are reminded how important this experience can be for children. It is one of the few concentrated blocks of time that the church has to do faith formation with a child. Many of you remember the experiences and people who were part of your VBS events long ago. Relationships are the key to a successful Vacation Bible School as youth and adults lend a hand in leading children closer to Christ.

At the end of this post you’ll find the VBS program options set up in our Resource Center earlier this year. We do this each year and then lend kits to committees as they make their choice. My recommendations for the top VBS programs this year are:

  • Water All Around The World published by Living Waters PCUSA Synod,
  • Cokesbury’s Surf Shack, and
  • Group’s Egypt: Joseph’s Journey from Prison to Palace.

I am not a fan of expensive glitz and glamor, or making VBS themes biblical but with gimmicky, cutesy things, which is why I chose the three listed as recommendations. The Water All Around The World program provides an economical VBS all in one notebook. The crafts are simple and do not require lots of time gathering things. There are Moravians in all of the highlighted countries, so it is an excellent opportunity to use our supplemental Moravian Mission VBS. Everyone is familiar with the Cokesbury model, a traditional, very teacher friendly program which has been out for several years. They do one a nice job using themes and tying them into biblical stories. Group’s Egypt is a marketplace model that takes you back to marketplaces and journeys of biblical times. This program allows you to easily mix ages or can be done with specific ages.

Here at the Resource Center, we keep a list of which churches are doing what school and when. Churches are often able to share VBS resources and decorations with each other. Come check Vacation Bible School out in the BCM soon! In the meantime, enjoy the photos and overviews of various programs below.

FYI, here are some of the programs being used in 2016:

  • Surf Shack: Highland Presbyterian, Central Moravian, Olivet
  • Cave Quest: Fulp, First Presbyterian Winston Salem, Fairview, Guilford Park Presbyterian, First Presbyterian Greensboro, Great Kills Moravian, and New Dorp Moravian.
  • Water Around the World: Salem Creek RCC
  • Standard Deep Sea Discovery: Grace Moravian
  • Egypt: New Philadelphia, Jamestown Presbyterian, and Unity/Shallowford Presbyterian.
  • Surprised by Love from Mennomedia: Hope Moravian

Cave Quest VBS

VBS Name: CAVE QUEST

Publisher: Group

Theme: Following Jesus The Light of the World

Bible Stories: Prophets fortell light of the world (John 1:1-34), Jesus and Peter walk on water (Matthew 14:22-36), Jesus sheds light on how to live (Matthew 5-7), Jesus dies and comes back to life (Luke 23:1-24:12), Jesus ascends and empowers his followers (Acts 1:1-11)

Music: Music non-reproducible, Sing and Play Music CD

Egypt VBS

VBS Name: EGYPT

Publisher: Group

Theme: Joseph’s Journey from prison to palace

Bible Stories: Joseph interprets dreams (Genesis 40:1-23), Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge (Genesis 41:1-40), Joseph leads Egypt through famine (Genesis 41:41-42), Joseph forgives his brothers (Genesis 42:6-45:15), Joseph settles his family in Egypt (Genesis 45:16-47:27)

Music: Music non-reproducible, Celebration Music CD

Barnyard Roundup

VBS Name: BARNYARD ROUNDUP

Publisher: Concordia Publishing

Theme: Jesus gathers us together

Bible Stories: Jesus the good shepherd (John 10:1-18), Jesus feeds 5000 (Mark 6:30-44), Jesus tells about a sower (Matt 13:1-23), Jesus and the lost son (Luke 15:11-32), Jesus appears to Mary in the garden (John 20:1-10)

Music: Music non-reproducible, Moovin and Groovin Passalong CD

Deep Sea VBS

VBS Name: DEEP SEA DISCOVERY

Publisher: Standard Publishing

Theme: Not only is God with me everywhere I go, but he wants me to go out and share his love with others.

Bible Stories: Noah survives the flood (Genesis 6-9), Jonah prays inside the fish (Jonah 1-3), Peter walks on water (Matthew 14), Jesus appears by the sea (John 21), Paul sets sail to tell God’s story (Acts 13-14)

Music: Music non reproducible, Passalong Music CD

Surf Shack VBS

VBS Name: SURF SHACK

Publisher: Cokesbury

Theme: Catch the wave of God’s amazing love

Bible Stories: Creation (Genesis 1), Miriam cares for Moses (Exodus 2:1-10), baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17), Jesus calms the storm (Luke 8:22-25), breakfast on the beach (John 21:1-17)

Music: Music non-reproducible, Student Take-home CD

Water All Over The World VBS

VBS Name: WATER ALL AROUND THE WORLD

Publisher: Living waters for the world

Theme: Learn how Jesus is Living Water for our bodies and souls

Bible Stories: God sends water to Hagar and Ishmael (Genesis 21), water from the rock (Exodus 17), Noah and the flood (Genesis 8), baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3), woman at the well (John 4)

Music: Music reproducible

Joy In Jesus VBS

VBS Name: JOY IN JESUS 

Publisher: Abingdon 

Theme: Everywhere All the time

Bible Stories: A room for praise (Psalm 100), a room on a roof (II Kings 4:8-17), a room without a roof (Mark 2:1-12), an upstairs room (Acts 20:7-12) under a roof (Matthew 8:5-11,1)

Music: Music non-reproducible, Student Take-home CD

If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes portrait

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)