Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review:

This was published by the great and mighty Intercom and is republished here with kind permission. Subscription to Intercom is as always heartily encouraged by this blog! I really like this book and intend to use it frequently this year.

All Together: Creative Prayer with Children makes it clear from the outset that it is not a “last minute” resource that should be dipped into to help facilitate last minute prayer groups or assemblies, rather it seeks to nurture and deepen the prayer life of the adults involved with children and facilitating their prayer. While it is primarily aimed at those working in an educational environment, it is extremely useful for anyone involved in a parish situation and appeals to a wide variety of age groups and abilities that may participate in the increasingly popular children’s Liturgy of the Word.

If we as adults consider how we worship, it is often a linear practice-we do the same things at the same time, following instructions such as “Let us pray together” or “now we shall stand and sing”. This is the outer symbolism of how we as a community come together to worship God. Anyone who has worked with children of a primary school age knows that children seldom operate in this way. They are used to fulfilling individual tasks, often several at a time, or working in small groups. It is always recognised that children present with different abilities and levels of participation and the often packed schedule of a children’s Liturgy of the Word can often struggle to accommodate their individual needs. This book, written by experienced catechists encourages you in a friendly and supportive way to engage with the children in your group so that the prayer is their prayer and in turn, it is their hearts and mind that are raised to God. The group exercises and methods of prayer detailed under various themes lend themselves well to the interactive classroom and curriculum or to the group format most commonly adopted during a children’s Liturgy of the Word. The authors strive to highlight that “prayer can never fully be taught” (93). Those who engage with younger children need to understand that it is much more than a technique, or a time when we ask God for favours but rather a conversation we have with God, not just using words, but engaging our hearts and minds. Children embrace change and can easily bore of the same format and this book promotes the need to make prayer accessible for all children. Formats of prayer discussed include dialogue, litany and eye-witness accounts, examples of which are all provided.

The book is clearly divided into sections and it is fruitful to read them in sequence, as the initial section on the Foundations of Creative Prayer with Children underlines the basis for the entire book, including an explanation of the keeping prayer with children “real”, namely that prayer must emanate from their concerns and express these concerns so that it truly is their prayer to God. The text allows for excellent guidelines and principles for the adult to begin the positive, creative and engaging liturgy, encouraging a rooting of the prayer in scripture and to provide a respect for Tradition.

Section two contains insights, explanations and creative resources for various liturgical seasons and occasions such as Advent and Lent as well as foundations, ideas and resources for celebrating Mary and the Saints. These three chapters focus on praying together in a group situation such as class or an assembly time. The fifth and final chapter focuses on creative ideas for individual prayer and is appropriate for group and individual use. All of the exercises are adaptable to a variety of situations, as well as ages and abilities. Each exercise is clearly laid out with foundations for the prayer subject, for example the exercise on Sorrow and renewal of life (105) explains how prayer is a movement from us to God and from God to us and how this explanation can be illustrated with the image of a bridge. The children write on one half of a piece of paper how things are now and on the other half how they would wish god to make things. They can then make a simple (depending on skill levels) Lego bridge and imagine in prayer the crossing from one side to another. Due to time constraints, a children’s Liturgy of the Word cannot always be completed in the church and therefore some of the prayer activities described can be adapted for home use, possibly involving parents and other family members.

Main points for the religious educator to communicate with the children are clearly laid out at the beginning of each prayer theme. It is imperative that the educator fully comprehends the liturgical basis for the activities also allowing for their prayer. Children can adopt what they have heard in the children’s Liturgy and apply it to their own life, facilitating Christian practice into their everyday being. Activities such as Sin Bin and Sorry beads are eminently suitable for this purpose.

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