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.

Giveaway for “That Baby in the Manger” Children’s Book

That Baby in the MangerThat Baby in the Manger was recently published by Paraclete Press, which is providing two copies of it for this giveaway. The book’s illustrations are fun and child-friendly, while the content encourages families and Sunday school classes to discuss what Christmas means for each of us. The first twelve pages of the book can be viewed on Paraclete’s website.

The book begins with a group of first grade students entering a church to look at the crèche set up for Christmas, as elderly Mr. Gonzales is praying in one of the pews. One little boy asks where the baby Jesus is and is told that he’ll be placed in the manger on Christmas morning. The children remember that the statue of baby Jesus has blonde hair, although the parish priest tells them that Jesus probably had very dark hair. As the story progresses, Mr. Gonzales helps the children learn that “no matter what color Jesus’s hair was, he came for all of them, no matter what they looked like themselves. Jesus loves them all.”

A free downloadable Discussion and Activity Guide is available with questions about Advent, the history of the Christmas crèche, and the themes of the book. The activities include directions for making a Unity Poster, a word matching game, and suggestions for retelling the Nativity story.

To enter the giveaway, send an email to debbie@prcli.org with your full name and “The Baby in the Manger giveaway” in the subject line. Please note, we can only mail the books to addresses in the US. The giveaway ends on Friday, November 17!

Giveaway for “Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent & Christmas”

Look A Child's Guide to Advent and ChristmasLook! A Child’s Guide to Advent & Christmas is a new book from Paraclete Press and is beautiful both in spirit and appearance. The poetic narration makes difficult concepts, such as “waiting for someone born so long ago,” easier for both children and adults to understand. The illustrations are subtle, as though viewed through a gauzy light. The story takes us from the people of the Bible who waited for redemption to the people of the church today who are still waiting. The book not only introduces children to the powerful symbolism of Advent, especially that of light and darkness, but also talks about Advent as a time for spiritual practices such as journaling, painting, using prayer beads, and serving others. The book ends with the image of a congregation on Christmas Eve in a darkened church which becomes filled with the light of candles: “The Christ light grows and grows, until all our faces are glowing. I can feel the mystery.” Reading this book, I can feel the mystery too.

Paraclete Press and PRC – Practical Resources for Churches are offering a giveaway of two copies of this lovely book. The last day to enter the giveaway is October 31, 2017. For a chance to win a copy, send an email to debbie@prcli.org with “Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent & Christmas” in the subject line.