A hymn about light

This one might work at Epiphany, or any time when we get the Light of the World readings.  The tune is Gonfalon Royal (generally used for ‘The Royal banners forward go’)
As always, if you like it, you’re welcome to use it.

O radiant Lord and Light of light,
who turns earth’s shadows dazzling bright,
O flame of love that heav’n  imparts
to warm seven billion human hearts.

The colours of your dayspring’s glow,
a rainbow-gift to earth below,
to spread the spectrum of your grace,
dispersed through this and every place.

O light that shines to guide our way,
Bless’d Son, illuminate our day!
And grant our eyes a friendly spark
to lead us through the hours of dark.

Now bring to light the things we fear,
and make our moral vision clear,
Remove the darkness from the soul
and make us bright and brave and whole.

Still greater is the light unseen
transcending what our sense can glean:
our hearts’ imagination kneels
in awe at what our faith reveals.

O God, Creator, Christ, the Son,
And Holy Spirit, three in one:
To you our gathered voices raise,
Your universe unites in praise. Amen.

Advent Sunday song

This song was intended to make a link between the ‘Jesse Tree’ / Salvation History pathway through advent, and the Advent Sunday theme of keeping alert and being ready.
Tune: Sing hosanna

There’s a story to tell of creation,
And the patriarchs’ faith of old,
There are stories of prophets and sages,
We’ll repeat them ‘til the world’s been told:

Sing together! sing together!
Sing to welcome in the King of Kings.
Sing together! Sing together!
Sing to welcome in the King.

There are stories of sin and forgiveness,
Of a Kingdom of truth and love.
Of a girl who gave birth to a baby,
To fulfil God’s promise from above:

As God’s people prepare for his coming,
And remember those days long gone,
Our own stories are yet to be written,
As we live to make God’s kingdom come:

We will patiently wait for the morning,
Through the night we will watch and pray,
As we look for the light that is dawning,
We’ll be ready at the break of day:

A sparkly christingle talk!

How about this for a sparkly way of looking at the Light and the World:

You will need:
Christingles for everyone, and the means to light them
A small vial of iron powder – you can buy this online.  Use powder rather then iron filings. 

Start with your vial of iron powder – show it, sprinkle some between your fingers, back into the container. Explain what it is – it looks just like dust. In fact, it’s what the earth’s core is made of. It’s the most common element in our planet. It’s earth-dust, nothing more; we might remember that the Bible tells of God making the first human being from dust.  You can’t get anything more earthy than this. It’s grey and dull, really. It doesn’t look like anything special. It doesn’t look like it’s going to do anything cool.  Not on its own, anyway.

But look what happens when we introduce the dust of the earth to the light of the world. (Light your own Christingle at this point, dim the lights, and carefully sprinkle some of the iron powder into the flame – it’s worth practicing before the service so you get the right amount – the iron should turn to bright orange sparks, clearly visible in a dark church.  You may need to get someone to hold your christingle for you so you have your hands free to do the sprinkling).

The dust of the earth comes alive when it touches the light of Christ – Jesus came into the world to bring it to life, to bring energy and joy to places that were grey and lifeless.  When Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world’ he meant that he was bringing the light of heaven right into the midst of earth’s darkness.  When he said ‘you are the light of the world’ he meant that he could transform our dull dustiness into bright shining sparks of God’s love in the world!

At this service, we turn from dust to sparkles! The light of Jesus is with us, and is bringing us to life, so that we can bring his light and life to the dark places of this world – that’s our life’s work, and we do it in the transforming love and power of Jesus.  So shine as lights in the world to the glory of God the Father!

Prayers for a baby at their baptism

Praying at Christenings – two ideas to involve the family and friends.

Christenings – whether they are in the main church services or separately – always involve a time of prayer for the child, and for their parents and godparents. Many people aren’t sure what sort of thing should be included in a prayer, especially if they don’t pray regularly themselves, but one thing that everyone has in common when they come to a christening is that they are part of a gathering in which there is a huge amount of goodwill focused on one person: the child who is being christened. There is often talk of christening being the start of a journey, so people will also be thinking about the future, and the potential of the child in their midst – the kind of person they will grow up to be, the kind of world they will grow up living in, and the life they will lead.

Here are two ways to harness this goodwill and these hopes, fears, and dreams, into prayer that can be part of the christening service itself, and have a lasting and wider impact afterwards.

A Parents’ Prayer

When you visit the family, don’t be afraid to talk about prayer – try and make connections between the promise to pray that they will make in the service and the hopes and dreams and thanksgivings and fears that all new (and not-so-new) parents have when they think about their children.  Invite the parents to work together to come up with either a fully-worked out prayer, or some key words or phrases that you can help them fashion into a prayer.

These prompts may be helpful:

When I think about…. [name of child]
I am thankful for……..
I hope for………..
I worry about………
I desire more than anything…………

Baptism personal prayer for websiteAlso ask the parents to send you a photo of their child.  Once the prayer is finalised, use it, together with the photograph, the name of the child, and the date and place of the baptism, make it look attractive, and put it in a frame (about A6 size works well) so that you can present it to them on the day. Many families will keep this as a treasured possession, display it in their home, and even ask for more copies to send to godparents and grandparents.

  • If you save it as a jpeg and email it to the parents they can share it on social media.
  • You could also use it on a baptism anniversary card
  • How about printing out enough copies on paper (without the frame!) for the family and friends who have come to the christening?
  • If you get a chance to meet the godparents in advance of the service, you could invite them to write a prayer too.
  • You can use prayers written by parents or godparents in the christening itself – they may wish to read them out, or they may prefer the vicar to do it!

A Friends’ Prayer

At a christening there may be dozens of others, not just godparents, but wider family, friends and neighbours, who all have one thing in common: they have come to church to celebrate the life of a child, to be part of something, and to wish that child well.  This goodwill and presence is an immense gift.  How can it be ‘harnessed’ and enfolded prayerfully both in the service and beyond?

Here are a couple of ways you could enable all those who come to a christening to be involved, to contribute their own prayers and hopes:

  • stick a post-it note onto each order of service, and leave pencils in the pews, and invite people (at some point in the service) to write just one word on their post it note, expressing their prayer or hope for the child being baptised. You can ask them to leave their post-it note on the service sheet, and peel them off after the service, or you could gather them in at some point during the liturgy. If your church is well resourced you might even be able to afford ‘posh’ post-it notes (a nice colour, an interesting and appropriate shape etc).
  • Have a graffiti board as people come in (or as they go out, or both) inviting one-word hopes and prayers.

You may get multiple copies of ‘peace’ ‘love’ ‘friends’ ‘happiness’ ‘laughter’ etc, and that’s ok.  People don’t have to write something different from everyone else, they should be encouraged to write whatever feels most important. They can write several contributions if they like – but each should be one word long.

Baptism tag cloud - doveHowever you collect the words, it’s what you do with them after the service that makes this into something beautiful.  Go to www.tagxedo.com or a similar site and type in the words (include each word as many times as it was contributed – if 25 people all wrote ‘love’ then type it in 25 times!), then simply click to create a beautiful piece of word-art that is a prayer for the child written collectively by the whole gathering on the day.  On most tag-cloud creation sites you can configure colours, shapes, fonts etc.

  • If you save it as a jpeg, you can email it to the family and invite them to share it on social media or email it round to their friends who came on the day.
  • The illustration above is just a sample – when creating this for a real child, you could also type in their name (multiple times) so that it is featured in the finished piece of word art, to make it even more personal.
  • Again, you could keep the jpeg and send it to the family for the anniversary of the baptism, and encourage them to share it on social media.
  • The tag clouds don’t include photos, so an album of them could be kept in church without anyone having to worry about the child protection issues around keeping or displaying photographs of children.

Because these ideas involve computers and websites, it may be that you know a teenager who would like to make them for you, as their ministry….  They may have more ideas about how to create something beautiful as a lasting and net-share-able gift for those who come to church for baptism.

The solution to the votive candle problem you’ve all been worrying about

Actually, this solves two problems:
1. After All Souls you have a whole pile of half-used tea lights – you don’t feel right keeping them for next year because you want to give people a ‘fresh’ one, so what do you do with them all?
2. You want to give out those 10cm by 1cm votive candles at a service (let’s not go into why – maybe it’s Easter, or a baptism) but they just don’t stand up on their own, and you have to provide everyone with those little card circles to catch the drips, and it’s a bit of a faff.
So, what do you do?
Simple!
1. Re-light your tea-light, and wait for a small puddle of wax to form, approximately 1cm in diameter.
2. Stick the bottom of your 10cm votive candle into the puddle of hot wax (this will extinguish the flame as it squashes it) and hold it steady for a few seconds as the wax begins to harden.
3. Leave for 10 minutes to harden completely, and hey presto, you have a 10cm candle that stands up on its own, catches its own drips, and makes those old tea-lights feel as if they still have something to offer.
You don’t have to do one at a time, you can do large batches at once, and you can do it while you’re doing something else, such as talking on the phone.