Piggyback Psalms for Fun and Easy Singing

Piggyback PsalmsThere’s something about setting words to music which impresses them into our memories. I remember once my husband and I went to visit our two children who were attending the same college. We decided to go out to lunch and, with the parents in the front and the kids in the back, it was a familiar setting for numerous trips we’d taken over the years. The kids started singing, something we frequently did during family trips, and the selections turned to Sunday school songs. They sang everything from “Rise and Shine” to “Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego” without missing a beat or word.

Whether you are a musically talented Sunday school teacher or not, Piggyback songs are something you can add to your lessons. Piggyback songs are familiar tunes with different lyrics. Emily LaBranche Delikat has written a book called Piggyback Psalms: 100+ Bible Songs to Tunes You Know. Some of the songs include just a sentence or two from a psalm, whereas others contain the entire psalm, such as the song for the 23rd Psalm, which is set to the tune of “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Each psalm is written in child-friendly language and also includes chords plus a simple melody to play.

There are suggestions for using these Piggyback Psalms beyond the walls of Sunday school. Because each psalm in the Revised Common Lectionary is included, the songs are ideal for use in worship. It is also suggested that the songs could be used in children’s choirs, in intergenerational and children’s worship, or at home. There is information at the beginning of the book on the benefits of singing the psalms intergenerationally, along with creative ways to use them with all ages. Delikat also includes “A Letter About Lament and Anger” which explains how she dealt with the difficult themes in some of the psalms. The book also includes a Tune Index, as well as a Revised Common Lectionary Index.

I received a review copy of Piggyback Psalms from the publisher, Abingdon Press. The book, which was published in June 2018, is available from Cokesbury, Amazon, and other bookstores.


Books to Share to Show You Care

It’s hard to watch someone we love going through a tough time. We can offer to listen, pray, and try to help in other ways. Sometimes we might want to share a book which we think would be helpful.

Both All Shall Be Well: A Spiritual Journal for Hope & Encouragement and Love Never Fails: A Journal to Be Inspired by the Power of Love by Hilda St. Clair would make great gifts for those going through a difficult time in their lives (or for someone just looking for inspiration in their spiritual life.) They are much more interactive than most journals and can ignite creativity in those who may find it difficult to center their thoughts. Each journal has 60 inspiring quotes beautifully illustrated along with a simple writing prompt. The owner of one of these journals might choose to focus on one quote daily. I can imagine them copying the quote and carrying it with them to look at throughout the day. I could also see using the quotes and writing prompts in a study or women’s group as a beginning devotional, or as a spiritual exercise during a retreat.   

In times of stress, it can be difficult to think clearly, but Words of Healing: A Coloring Book to Comfort and Inspire invites the reader to focus on one word as they color an abstract picture with the first letter of the word in the center. There is also a scripture verse for each word. As the brief introduction to the book puts it, people can “speak in color” which is sometimes a relief for those who struggle to put their present situation into sentences.

All three books are available from Paraclete Press, which provided copies for this review.


A Devotional for Hesitant Pray-ers – Holy Ground: An Alphabet of Prayer

Holy GroundThere’s no shortage of devotionals available. Search for them on Amazon and you’ll find ones for women, men, girls, boys, teens, and even animal lovers. Some of these encourage us to “claim” the promises in the Bible and realize the power of prayer to get us what we’re entitled to. Julie K. Aageson’s book, Holy Ground: An Alphabet of Prayer, is nothing like those devotionals.

Holy Ground is for those of us who are still trying to figure out prayer but are pray-ers none the less. Aageson is someone who has spent her life in ministry but says this about how she felt when invited to write a monthly column for a denominational magazine:

I was at once both honored and terrified. The column’s title, Let Us Pray, conveyed certain assumptions I was not at all sure about – did they think I had prayer all figured out? Did they assume I was a disciplined prayer-er, perhaps one of those “prayer warriors” I’d heard about? Did they have any idea how much I struggle with praying, with knowing how to talk to God, listen to God? Did they know of my doubts and skepticism about much of Christian life?

Reading those words in the introduction to the book, I felt as though I’d found a kindred spirit. That realization was reinforced when the author mentioned Richard Rohr and his admonition that “prayer is not primarily words but a place, an attitude, a stance – and that for Jesus, prayer seems to be a matter of waiting in love, returning to love, and trusting that love is the unceasing stream of reality.” Yes.

The reflections in Holy Ground are based on words from A to Z and include topics such as beauty, enthusiasm, imagination, mindfulness, stillness, and wonder. As Aageson notes, the reflections are “not meant to be a theological or biblical description of prayer” but rather her “wrestling with a God who makes the ordinary holy.”

In writing about mindfulness, the author contrasts her Muslim friends’ practice of set times of daily prayer with her own multi-tasking lifestyle. Yet, she is aware that “to be present simply with silence is a sacred act of prayer.”

There are questions after each reflection; these could be used by individuals during their devotional time, by a group studying the book, as a program opening activity, or for a retreat. If Holy Ground speaks to you, be sure to check out Aageson’s earlier book titled Benedictions: 26 Reflections.

Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives

EverbloomWriting can be a solitary business, but the women whose poems, essays, and stories are included in Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives have found a way to combat the loneliness of writing while proving that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Everbloom was written by 42 of the approximately 150 women of the Red Bud Writers Guild, whose mission is to nurture “a community of Christian women who create rather than merely consume.” They maintain community through meetings, social media, and networking. Besides the support of like-minded souls, the guild provides tools for writers such as “manuscript and media mentoring and review, networking, writing conferences, blogging opportunities, resources, camaraderie and community.”

Margaret Philbrick, one of the editors of Everbloom, along with three of its contributors, recently led a webinar for PRC. Philbrick’s poem “We Write” is the Introduction to the book. Nilwona Nowlin read her contribution, the poem entitled “Where I’m From,” during the webinar and explained how it was born while she was doing a writing exercise during a retreat. Terri Kraus is a writer of fiction and the author of “My Nonna,” which tells the story of her grandmother who was born in Italy and immigrated to America. Terri also writes of her experience visiting the village where her grandmother grew up. Terri is the Red Bud Writers Guild President and spent some time during the webinar talking about the workings of the guild. Lara Krupicka described how she found her own voice in the essay “This Is What It Costs.” If you’d like to watch the recording of the webinar, you can click here to register.

There is a great variety in the various offerings in Everbloom from a woman contemplating how rearranging her kitchen is part of making her own choices to women dealing with rape, the suicide of a sibling, or the death of a baby in the womb. Yet, through all the experiences and difficulties that are faced, we see that God is there and that transformation is possible.

Each entry in the book is followed by a prayer and a writing prompt, so it can be used by individuals for devotional time or by groups who may choose to use the writing prompts as discussion questions. Everbloom is available from its publisher, Paraclete Press; it is also available from Amazon and other sellers.

Lent Is Almost Here – And PRC Can Help!

Lent Is Almost Here stones with tomb and crossesWhen Easter comes early, as it does this year, churches may have to scramble to make preparations for Lent. It was just a few short weeks ago that we were taking down Christmas decorations and putting away pageant costumes, and now Ash Wednesday is almost here.

Don’t panic! PRC – Practical Resources for Church is here to help. Even if you aren’t located near our Long Island offices, online resources are available on PRC’s website. On the Lent and Easter page of our Links & Online Resources section, you’ll find downloadable booklets for those in children’s ministry, recorded webinars about children’s ministry and intergenerational worship for Lent and Easter, as well as links to other websites which offer free resources. These include Good Friday worship, children’s ministry, and an extensive list of Stations of the Cross for children, youth, and adults.

If you’re located on Long Island, then you might want to plan a trip to one of our centers in order to work with a consultant who will help you put together plans for Lenten worship, study, and other programs for children, youth, adults, or an intergenerational group. If you can’t visit us in person, give us a call at 631-821-2255 or 631-486-4350 or email us at info@prcli.org. We even have GoToMeeting software which we can use for an online meeting with you, and churches and individuals with an at-a-distance subscription to PRC can request that resources be mailed to them.

We have a large selection of Lenten adult studies, including many DVD studies. You can check out the list on our website. Available studies include ones by Adam Hamilton, Mike Slaughter, and Marcus Borg. What Wondrous Love: Holy Week in Word and Art is a DVD study which features six commentaries by scholars plus six works of art by John August Swanson, each focused on a familiar Scripture passage. It can be used for a multi-session study or a one session program. We even have Lenten studies based on the movies Casablanca and The King’s Speech.

If you’re planning Lenten and Easter worship, we have a number of worship resources including complete liturgies for Ash Wednesday, all the Sundays in Lent, and the various services of Holy Week. Worship in a Flash for Lent and Easter includes prayers, music, sermon ideas, projection images, and more — all on a flash drive. If you’re looking for a different take on Lenten worship, check out the book, Bread for the Journey: A High-Carb Multisensory Lenten Worship Series, which includes sermons for Ash Wednesday, each week in Lent, and services for Holy Week and Easter. The book also includes recipes for breads that can be baked and distributed during the services. We also have numerous devotionals which can be used throughout Lent by individuals or groups.

PRC has many resources which can be used in programs for all ages. We have three floor labyrinths and several smaller labyrinths which can be used to enhance the spiritual journey of your congregation; we also can help you prepare prayer stations, which can be used as part of a worship service or a special program. Sunday school teachers and parents may want to take a look at the book, Sharing the Easter Faith with Children, which offers age-appropriate advice on what to tell children about the events of Holy Week. PRC also has a collection of Lent and Easter children’s storybooks and videos. There are ideas for youth programs and studies as well.

Partnering with Families for Children’s Faith Formation

The Importance of ParentsFamily on Beach
Those of us in Christian Education work hard to provide our children and youth with information and experiences which we hope will lead them to have a lifelong faith. Yet, we are also recognizing that another important aspect of our ministry is partnering with families in their children’s faith formation. Studies, such as the National Study on Youth and Religion, have found that the single most important social influence on the religious and spiritual lives of adolescents is their parents. However, many parents feel inadequate to take on the role of their children’s primary teacher of the faith.

Convincing Parents of the Importance of Their Role
How can we help parents to take on the responsibility for their children’s faith formation? First of all, we may need to share information, such as the results of the National Study on Youth and Religion, so that parents are aware of the important influence they have on their children’s faith.

Offering Resources for Parents
For parents who feel they are ill-equipped for this role, the church can offer resources so that they can learn more about their faith and grow more confident in sharing their knowledge with their children. These resources can include studies, parenting classes, books, DVDs, and websites. It’s important for parents to know, however, that they don’t need to be religious scholars or Bible experts to talk with their children about these subjects. Encourage them to just be honest with their children and not to be afraid to say “I don’t know” or “There’s no easy answer to that question.” PRC – Practical Resources for Churches offers a free booklet on their website titled “Equipping Families to Teach the Faith to Their Children.”

Intergenerational Worship and Learning
Children learn from their parents’ example, so it’s important for children to see their parents worshipping and learning about their faith. If your church doesn’t have intergenerational worship services and programs, perhaps it’s time to introduce them to your congregation. PRC’s website has a page with resources for Intergenerational Ministry such as recorded webinars and links to a number of useful websites.

Upcoming Webinars Which May Be Helpful
PRC offers free webinars and there are some coming up soon which should be useful for those exploring how to help families in their faith formation. Attending a live broadcast offers the opportunity to ask questions of the presenter, who is knowledgeable in the subject of the webinar, but if you can’t attend a webinar in person, you can register for it and then you’ll receive an email with a link to view the recording of the webinar. On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, Debbie Gline Allen, the Christian Education and Youth Ministry Consultant for the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, will be presenting a webinar called Passing on the Faith in Today’s Congregations. On Tuesday, March 6, 2018, Rich Melheim, founder of Faith Inkubators, will be leading a webinar about Creating Cross+Gen Community and Worship.

Have a question about partnering with parents or intergenerational ministry? You can email PRC with your question at info@prcli.org.


“This Child of Faith” – Book Giveaway and Webinar

This Child of FaithParaclete Press is publishing This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World on December 14, 2017. The book was written by Sophfronia Scott and her son, Tain Gregory. It tells the story of their faith journey, which began when Tain asked to enroll in Sunday school. It’s beautiful to watch Tain grow in his faith as he and his mom have deep discussions and pray together; they also become increasingly involved in the life of their local church. Tain was a third-grade student at Sandy Hook Elementary School when the tragic shooting there took the life of his close friend. When asked shortly afterward what the most important thing in the world was to him, Tain replied “God.”

PRC – Practical Resources for Churches and Paraclete Press are offering two free copies of the book. To enter, send an email to debbie@prcli.org with your full name and “This Child of Faith Giveaway” in the subject line. Please note that books can only be mailed out to addresses in the United States. The last day to enter the giveaway is December 14, 2017.

Author Sophfronia Scott will be presenting a PRC Meet the Author webinar on Wednesday, April 25, 2018, from 7:00 to 7:30 PM Eastern time. This is a free webinar and you may register to attend the live broadcast or to receive a link to view the recorded webinar by clicking here.