In a few weeks, we will be launching our second series of Lenten devotions for families called An Illustrated Lent for Families. It will include devotions, coloring activities and more, for the weeks during Lent, leading up to Easter. We are really excited about this project but unfortunately can’t share much more than that for now. However, it will be very similar in form to our last Illustrated Lent for Families project.
A few months ago, I met The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows at an Episcopal event in Chicago. Baskerville-Burrows told me about how she had been worshipping at a church that handed out our Illustrated Lent for Families last year, and she was able to have a copy and use it with her son. It was so encouraging and energizing to hear just how excited she was about our Lenten devotions for families, we thought it was worth having her share a bit more here on our blog.
The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows is the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis. Good paper, pens, pencils and living the way of Jesus are among her obsessions which she is diligently passing on to her 5-year-old son. It’s an honor to have her guest blogging for us today, and I think you’ll be blessed by her comments and wisdom.
ICM: How important do you think faith formation at home is for children today?
JBB: I believe faith formation in the home has always been vitally important. Parents/families are the first teachers—not just for grade school academics but for all aspects of life, especially faith. The formation that takes place in the home is the foundation upon which faith formation in the church can be built.
ICM: Why do you think it’s difficult for parents to know where to start?
JBB: Though there are books out there—ones by the Rev. Anne Kitch come to mind, there aren’t many resources to help parents feel confident about igniting conversations about faith and religion in the home. Most of us were not raised with home spiritual practices beyond night prayers and table graces. Having age and faith appropriate entry points for engaging conversations about faith, teaching the stories of our scriptures, and making time to introduce new practices into jam-packed lives can be really daunting.
ICM: What resources from Illustrated Children’s Ministry have you found helpful at home?
JBB: I was overjoyed when St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Wilmette sent each child home from its Ash Wednesday service with “An Illustrated Lent”. I love colored pencils, fountain pens, and good paper and my kindergartner loves crayons so it was a match made in heaven. Once a week we would read the featured scripture verses, talk about the theme of the week, “serve, give” etc., and post it on the fridge. Then after dinner each night, or whenever the desire struck, we would spend time coloring the page of the week (we each had our own book). Now to be clear, my five-year-old and I were not having deep spiritual conversations but, as importantly, we were making time in the day to slow down, spend time together—sometimes talking, sometimes not—and every time we opened the fridge we’d ask how we were doing with our commitment to “serve, give, listen” that week.
St. Augustine’s also used the huge coloring posters that multiple people can color on the floor. We’ve used those on play dates as one of the house activities to settle the boys down from running around. I believe the spiritual practices of slowing down, resting the mind and creating something of beauty is important faith formation work.
ICM: What made An Illustrated Lent for Families particularly helpful or accessible for you?
JBB: The illustrations are beautifully drawn and invite—almost compel—one to get out the markers and spend time with it. The devotions that are assigned to each week are easily adapted for whatever age person is in the conversation. They don’t presume that you’ve been to seminary to engage the questions and they serve as prompts for how we are called to live as Jesus would have us live.
ICM: What do you think Illustrated Children’s Ministry is doing well?
JBB: Illustrated Children’s Ministry is making faith formation fun, beautiful and creative. I’m mindful that kids don’t spend a lot of time coloring in kindergarten anymore. It is wonderful to reclaim time for being artistic which frees the mind to be open to the Creator. Coloring and pondering are natural tendencies, I believe, and ICM uses those opportunities to enter what could be an intimidating conversation and reflection spaces. But those spaces become accessible because our hands are busy creating (co-creating) something beautiful.