The Great Vigil of Easter at home

Photo by Anuja Mary Tilj on Unsplash

The Great Vigil of Easter was made for pillow forts. No, really. I am utterly convinced that this, the holiest night of the year, the jewel of our liturgical celebrations, is perfect for home, in pajamas, under two chairs covered by a blanket. We begin in darkness.

It would be wonderful if someone kindled an impressive new fire outside. If you are participating as a church, show this on camera and please light the Paschal Candle from it. If you are doing this as a household and have a fire pit or fireplace, by all means, make a blaze safely. A fat candle in a glass jar will also be lovely. This is the prayer:

Dear friends in Christ: On this most holy night, in which our
Lord Jesus passed over from death to life, the Church invites
her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in
vigil and prayer. For this is the Passover of the Lord, in which,
by hearing his Word and celebrating his Sacraments, we share
in his victory over death.

Let us pray.

O God, through your Son you have bestowed upon your
people the brightness of your light: Sanctify this new fire, and
grant that in this Paschal feast we may so burn with heavenly
desires, that with pure minds we may attain to the festival of
everlasting light; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Next comes the Exsultet, the ancient Easter proclamation dating from the 4th century. It is usually chanted. You could listen to this beautiful rendition, which includes praise to the bees from whose wax the Paschal candle was made, or read the first three verses aloud:

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,
and let your trumpets shout Salvation
for the victory of our mighty King.

Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,
bright with a glorious splendor,
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.

Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church,
and let your holy courts, in radiant light,
resound with the praises of your people.

Now it’s time for the stories, the record of God’s saving deeds through history. Tell them as if you are around a campfire in the desert. Hold a flashlight under your chin.

You don’t need to use all the stories. Actually, please don’t use them all. I recommend Creation, Exodus, Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones, and Zephaniah 3:14-20. If you are doing this over Zoom, let households choose the story the want to tell. Perhaps they’ll use poetry, music, drama, a picture book, various translations, a children’s Bible. Invite people illustrate the stories in advance (or maybe create a scene using LEGO bricks and snap a photo?) so you can share them with everyone.

If you are doing this with just your own family, I suggest James Weldon Johnson’s poem Creation, found here, or Phyllis Root’s charming picture book, Big Momma Makes the World. Exodus 14:10-31 is always read; I like Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message. At the line, “The Egyptians came after them in full pursuit” invite the listeners to slap their thighs, making a thundering sound of the Egyptians in pursuit, which should end abruptly at the line, “the sea returned to its place as before.”

Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones is next. I have found children love to be the bones. Remind them that bones lie very still! At the rattling (a maraca?), they roll on the floor. At the sound of God’s breath, they stand, and maybe dance? I suggest that the final reading before the Gospel be this, from the prophet Zephaniah, describing what it will be like when the Messiah comes.

It’s almost time. Have bells for ringing and pots and pans for banging at the ready, and someone will want to fling on all the lights. You’re all going to shout the Easter acclamation, three times:

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

The Easter Gospel is read. Even though Matthew is traditional, I am partial to John.

End with a rousing song of joy. We love Now the Green Blade Riseth, and you can sing along. Dessert, too, would be great. If you made a fire, how about s’mores? If not, these delicious s’mores bars have just 4 ingredients.

Alleluia! Alleluia! We sing this night,
joining heaven and earth that rejoice with delight.
Jesus, our Lord, is risen today.
God’s love and light is here to stay.
Joining heaven and earth that rejoice with delight,
Alleluia! Alleluia! We sing this night. Amen.

From Common Prayer for Children and Families by Jenifer Gamber and Timothy J. S. Seamans

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

*All the Holy Week and Easter at Home posts are gathered here*

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents

It’s been a year

Photo by Valentin Salja on Unsplash

And what a year it’s been. I am grateful to be sharing with you the words and wisdom of others.

This brief essay, Hello, Gorgeous gave me a big boost today. Read the whole lovely thing, but this is the most important part:

For the past year productivity has not been the thing. Efficiency has not been the thing. Endurance, stamina, and resilience have been the things. Hope has been a thing. Doing the right thing has been a thing. Ultimately, though, this isn’t about what you did. It’s about who you are. You are still here and that is worth celebrating. You, Gorgeous, are beloved of God. You are worth celebrating.

Anne Warner

Illustrated Ministry, which has created so much good stuff especially this year, has free prayers and coloring sheets of them here.

My friend Jane Gober, an Episcopal priest, inspired by Padraig O’Tuama‘s Morning Prayer in Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community, crowdsourced this Litany for One Year of Pandemic:

We begin this day
Looking back over one year
Of the deafening flood of this pandemic.
Silence
We begin this day
With trust.
Feeling that we are beloved and held by your Presence.
We begin this day
With hope.
Knowing that each day can share
Love, courage, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Silence
We recall the last year heavy with loss.
For the confidence that has been stripped away.
For the shock of emptiness and anxiety and unimagined fears.
For the flickers of guilt and kindled regret of all that was left undone.
For the strangeness of struggling to understand and struggling to breathe.
For the overwhelmed-ness of households that are not okay.
For the tolling bells and enumerated candles that barely define the countless heartbreak.
One year of together apart.
May we learn, may we love, may we carry on.
God is with us.
Silence
We recall the last year offering thanks and praise
For the chance to focus on what matters to God.
For creativity to meet the challenges,
For the technology that keeps us connected,
and the science that is leading us forward.
For the companion animals who have brought us newness.
For the strength to hold onto blessings and the wisdom
to let go of what no longer gives life.
For the reminder that to be the church is not to be a club or a building,
Instead, a commitment of practice to embody Christ wherever we are.
One year of together apart.
May we learn, may we love, may we carry on.
God is with us.
Silence
May we find the wisdom we need in the days of the pandemic that are in front of us.
God is with us.
May we hear the needs of those around us.
Christ is with us.
May we love the life that we are given.
The Spirit is with us. Amen.

Traci Smith wrote a simple prayer that’s great for all ages:

God you are with us all the time. All the time you are with us.

Today we remember. We remember how things used to be. We remember how many things we have gone through. We remember things we missed and people we lost.

Today we hope. We hope for healing. We hope for vaccines. We hope for wisdom.

Today we share. We share smiles with one another. We share our joys and our sorrows. We share our dreams for the future.

God you are with us, all the time. All the time, you are with us. Be with us as we remember, hope, and share. Amen.

Traci Smith

That’s what I have for you, dear ones–prayers and a reminder that you are beloved and not alone. May that be enough right now.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.

Palm Sunday at Home

Photo by Mary Delnore Dye

Palm Sunday is one of my favorite days of the year. It marks the beginning of Holy Week, when we tell in story and song and pageantry of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem the week before he died and rose again. All four gospels recount that he came into the city not astride a great white stallion as would befit a king, but on a humble donkey, and thousands hailed him, laying down their cloaks and palm branches on the path before him, singing “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

For the second year in a row, we’ll not be at church on Palm Sunday, and I won’t be in charge of the donkey. One Lent my friend Hershey and I thought it would be fun if we could find a donkey to lead the Palm Sunday procession for five blocks along Broadway in lower Manhattan, from St. Paul’s Chapel to Trinity Church. Can’t you just see the stunned tourists and charmed children? We never actually thought our boss would agree, but he did, and each year thereafter, it was my job to wrangle the donkey. Just finding one was a challenge, for as Rob in Yonkers once pointed out to me, “Palm Sunday is like New Year’s Eve for donkeys.” So that’s something you don’t need to worry about at home.

You also don’t need to worry about palms. As my friend Bruce Jenneker explains in this short video, “All over the world people have chosen to use the branches that are common to them.” Since we aren’t parading in the streets these days, you could decorate your door with palms or any leafy branch, because one of the most touching things about Palm Sunday is the element of public witness, of welcoming the King of Kings. Last year my friend Roger Hutchison asked folks at church to decorate their doors with palms and send him photographs, which he then made into a lovely video montage that began the prerecorded Palm Sunday worship service at the aptly named Palmer Memorial Church in Houston, Texas. Illustrated Ministry even has a free downloadable palm branch to print and color, as in the photo above from a family participating in online worship at my church last year. It says so much about what’s possible even now. We enter into the story, we find ourselves connected to it, to Jesus, to our communities of faith, to one another.

This year I encourage us to let Palm Sunday be just that, without the Passion. The point of fitting all of Holy Week into one Sunday service was for those who couldn’t get to church daily. Since we aren’t gathering physically this year, we could take time, and not even a long time, with the scriptures each day, using a technique from Ignatian spirituality called Imaginative Prayer. What I love about this is that it works well with people of all ages, and could be done at home or with others on Zoom. It’s best when one person reads the Gospel aloud. I suggest using the Common English Bible. The readings for all of Holy Week can be found here. As you listen, put yourself in the story, or imagine that you are one of the people in the story. Think about where you are, how you feel. Read the story again. Name, or draw, or write down what you smell, taste, touch, see, and hear, giving at least one detail in each category. Remember that in scripture, we find ourselves–at the gates of Jerusalem, in the Temple courts, having supper in the Upper Room, falling asleep in the garden, hearing the cock crow three times, trembling at the foot of the cross, wondering at the empty tomb.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.

*All the Holy Week and Easter at Home posts are gathered here*

Black History Month is for everyone

Hey, friends! February is Black History Month, and it’s for all of us to celebrate! Yes, it would be great if if such a thing weren’t necessary because Black history is American history, but it is necessary now and so I particularly want to encourage white families to learn and do more. There are lots of great resources at history.com, and I found this article helpful as an overview with some great suggestions and links to confront racism and support Black communities.

If you have little ones, please read Miriam Willard McKenney’s excellent post at Building Faith, Picture Books for Anti-Racists, which includes a link to the “comprehensive, living list of picture books on a variety of themes related to African-Americans, diversity, and Becoming Beloved community” that she created–a treasure that will enrich your family for years to come.

The National Museum of African-American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, is closed to the public at the moment but you can explore their amazing collection virtually, visit the Talking About Race Web Portal, or take in this cool exhibit on sports.

How can you engage locally? Order in from Black-owned restaurants, shop at Black-owned businesses, which have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. I’m doing my shopping online these days, and Etsy has me covered with a list of Black-owned shops. You can also make a donation to a Black-led organization–you’ll find many here. I’m going to make a donation to Children’s Defense Fund in honor of Marian Wright Edelman, Mrs. Edelman to me, because it was “founded, powered, and inspired by the legacy of Black heroes” and Mrs. Edelman is one of mine.

You can celebrate with entertainment: Parade Magazine has a list of “35 Inspiring, Joyful and Moving Movies” from various streaming services to watch, and Black History Month has also inspired February’s Tiny Desk Concert series at NPR with “different genres and generations” each week. If you’re at a loss, I’m betting your tweens and teens can tell you which Black artists to highlight for a family dance party.

A couple of years ago, my son Peter gave me this fantastic book of short stories by N.K. Jemisin, How Long ’til Black Future Month? I commend to you both the book and the question. Let’s join the essential work to ensure the answer is now.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.

Christmas very much at home

Perhaps you had other plans for the holidays this year. I certainly did–for the first time since my son’s first Christmas, I had hoped we’d spend Christmas in California visiting my mother, since I am no longer in parish ministry, with all the attendant seasonal responsibilities. However, my husband, our 17-year-old and I are in Brooklyn, in our tiny apartment (“It’s so cozy!” my Texas nephew, then 9, exclaimed on his first visit). It’s possible that we are getting on each other’s nerves a bit after 9 months at home.

How will we get in the spirit?

Some days I make a simmer pot to make the whole house smell Christmassy, with whatever I’ve got on hand: cranberries, orange halves or even orange peels, apple cores, fresh rosemary sprigs or pine trimmings, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and star anise, or a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice. Toss these things into a large pot, fill with water, and simmer all day long.

My husband gave me an early gift of comfortable ear buds so that I can listen to my favorite carols whenever I like without annoying him or distracting our high school senior. On December 24th, we will listen, with millions of others around the globe, to the annual radio broadcast of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Cambridge. This beloved tradition dates to 1918, and what a winter that must have been. The bidding prayer is always poignant, and the words “Let us remember before God all those who rejoice
with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light” will hold a deeper resonance this year.

I will also at some point watch my favorite Christmas Eve service ever, the 2016 Family Eucharist and Giant Puppet Nativity Parade at Trinity Church Wall Street, and you can, too. Being able to commission these puppets, designed and built by the very talented Lavinia Roberts and Cecilia Roberts, was such a privilege for me, and the entire service is a delight, with beautiful music from the Trinity Youth Chorus and a sweet homily by Hershey Mallette Stephens. If you just want to see the giant puppets and hear me narrate the Christmas story as told by Jerome Berryman in A Children’s Liturgy for Christmas Eve, that happens around the 10 minute 40 second mark. Trinity is a progressive, inclusive Episcopal church in the heart of lower Manhattan with a diverse congregation, a strong commitment to social justice, and a rich history. It’s also famous for being the hiding place of National Treasure as well as the burial places of Alexander Hamilton and Peter Parker in Into the Spider-Verse. When all this is over, come visit and I will happily give you a tour.

Cooking and eating seem to be what we mostly do for fun right now, and to show our love and care for one another. I’m baking and filling treat bags to share with friends and neighbors: snowflake-stamped cookies, honeycomb, chocolate cookies dipped in crunchy pearl sugar. While my husband will make a delicious dinner for Christmas Eve, I am responsible for and excited about brunch and a late afternoon tea on Christmas Day. Clearly, we are going to need to take plenty of walks. Walks are another way to feel connected–to each other, to our fellow humans, to nature, to God. We are lucky to live close to Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and one day between Christmas and New Year’s we’ve lined up a Zipcar so we can go further afield, to see the city “dressed in holiday style”, or take a drive to the countryside to walk in the snow. For our family, neighborhood evening walks also work well. Tonight we are excited to see the “great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn that will be visible shortly after sunset, which may be the “star of wonder” that inspired the journey of the magi so long ago.

Right now I am profoundly grateful for the technology that will allow us to visit our loved ones and interact with our church community from a safe distance. I’m looking forward to a scavenger hunt over Zoom with my niece and nephew, video chats with my parents, Zoom Lessons and Carols (yes! another one!) and a Christmas movie watch party, assuming we can reach consensus on a Christmas movie. I’m thinking the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas might be just the ticket. Still, I am hoping Ella Fitzgerald had it right:

Next year all our troubles will be

Miles away

Once again as in olden days

Happy golden days of yore

Faithful friends who are dear to us

Will be near to us once more

Someday soon, we all will be together

If the Fates allow

Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow

So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, by Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane

Whatever happens, Christmas will come just the same, needing no ribbons or wrappings, nothing shiny or bright, just our hearts preparing room for God-with-us. Wishing you peace and a measure of joy, lovies…

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents, which makes a swell Christmas giftperhaps this year in particular.

Advent at home

Photo by Gabby K from Pexels

Here’s what I want for us, lovies: let’s be gentle with ourselves and others. Let’s take joy where we find it. It’s okay to feel sad and out-of-sorts. This is hard, really hard. Do what you need to do. Listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. Have some cookies with that coffee. Put up the tree early, or on December 24th. Please remember: Jesus is coming, is with us now, and will be with us again. We can’t screw that up, no matter what.

If you are looking for some inspiration for the holidays, I am glad to share what I’ve found. Traci Smith’s new book, Faithful Families for Advent and Christmas: 100 Ways to Make the Season Sacred is brimming over with wonderful, simple ideas, and here’s the best part: you are not supposed to try them all. I promise. Traci suggests choosing three. I’m definitely trying the Hot Chocolate Gratitude Party next weekend, which if my family gets through the college application process intact, we’ll certainly need. We are also looking forward to the Silent Night Star Walk, which might be Christmas Eve or Christmas Night. I am especially thankful for the chapter on Difficult Moments, because even without a worldwide pandemic, these are an inevitable part of our holiday experience, and being able to acknowledge them helps us accept them and honor what they teach us.

You may know from my earlier Advent post that reading one seasonal picture book each night leading up to Christmas Eve is a tradition beloved from Peter’s childhood. Matthew Paul Turner has a new picture book with illustrations by Gillian Gamble, All the Colors of Christmas, with not only the bright familiar red and green, but gold and blue and white and brown–yes, brown: “It’s God within a baby’s skin.” The final color is “…You! It’s your own unique hue.” I love this part best, when Matthew reminds us that through our being and doing, we are “part of the story, the joy and the glory.”

Another sweet picture book is Little Mole’s Christmas Gift, by Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Sally Garland, a charming companion to the spring-themed Little Mole Finds Hope. This book, without any religious language at all, carries a message of kindness and generosity that speaks to the heart.

My devotional recommendation for adults and youth is Keep Watch with Me: An Advent Reader for Peacemakers by Claire Brown and Michael McRay with daily reflections from a wonderfully diverse (in every sense of the word) group of contributors. Each reflection is accompanied by a scripture verse, a prayer and a practice. One of the prayers seems just right for me, and perhaps for you, in this time.

God of the unfolding story, draw us into friendship with our Divine Discontent as a gift of your Spirit. Give us the strength to keep longing for your Kingdom Come, to keep returning to our communities and our peacemaking in gratitude for your guidance toward the world you imagine for your creation. Amen.

Claire Brown, Keep Watch with Me, p. 95

In the practice that follows this prayer, Claire speaks of “the gap between the present moment and the holy imagination” and invites us to “sit with whatever comes.” That I can do. That I will do. With some carols on in the background and my messy life and apartment in the foreground, holding on to the promise and the reality of God-with-us.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents, which makes a swell Christmas gift, perhaps this year in particular.

Martin of Tours, Veterans Day and Advent now

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pexels-ahmed-aqtai-2233416.jpg
Photo by Ahmed Aqtai on Pexels


Martin of Tours, one of my most favorite saints, was the son of a soldier in the Roman Army of the fourth century. He first attended church at the age of ten, against his parents’ wishes. When Martin was fifteen, he was required to join the army himself and served in Amiens, France. One winter night, he saw a beggar at the city gates, shivering with cold. Martin had no money to give him, but he took off his heavy cloak and sliced it in half with his sword, giving half to the beggar. That night, Jesus came to Martin in a dream, wrapped in half of Martin’s cloak. Martin’s biographer, who knew him personally, wrote that the next day, Martin “flew to be baptized.” Martin decided that he could not be both a soldier and a follower of Jesus. Eventually, he reluctantly became Bishop of Tours.

The piece of cloak that Martin kept was saved and much later, French kings swore oaths on it and carried it into battle. The words chapel and chaplain both come from the from the French word that means “little cloak,” for the little temporary churches that were used to hold the cloak and for the priest who took care of it. Eventually, all priests who served in the military caring for soldiers were called chaplains, and small churches everywhere became known as chapels.

Today he is remembered as the patron of all those who serve in the military, and the day of his death, November 11, is also Veterans Day, when we honor those who have fought for the protection of others.

 In the Middle Ages, Advent began with the Feast of St. Martin and lasted for forty days until Christmas, just like Lent, the season that prepares us for Easter. In Europe, children still make lanterns on St. Martin’s Day as the night comes early to carry his light and the light of Christ into the world.

This year especially, I want to give us permission to begin Advent NOW. My lovely dinner church, St. Lydia’s, observes a seven-week Advent. This doesn’t change the readings we hear on Sundays, or interfere with Thanksgiving or the celebration of the harvest. It simply means that we can begin preparing, in our hearts and in our homes, for the coming of the Christ Child, in any way that makes sense for us. It’s time to live into the richness and mystery of the dark while waiting for the light to grow and spread.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,

    we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

    and our tongue with shouts of joy;

then it was said among the nations,

    “The Lord has done great things for them.”

 The Lord has done great things for us,

    and we rejoiced.

 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,

    like the watercourses in the Negeb.

 May those who sow in tears

    reap with shouts of joy.

Those who go out weeping,

    bearing the seed for sowing,

shall come home with shouts of joy,

    carrying their sheaves.

Psalm 126

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents, from which this post is adapted. You may enjoy the Advent ideas found here and here.

Some treats for yet another week in quarantine

Strawberry Spoon Cake from Jerrelle Guy’s easy recipe below

Is this Week 19?? It might be Week 19. My kid is at theological debate camp (yes! It’s a thing!), which means he’s in his room more often than he’s been since school ended last month at this time. We’re grateful that the weeklong camp he’s attended each summer of high school found a way to go virtual this year, giving him the opportunity to connect with friends and exercise his mind. Not only did they send a tee shirt and other merch including a mask printed with a galaxy design, he received a care package that was full of (mostly unhealthy) snacks! That’s really bringing the camp experience home.

I have some treats to share with you. This thoughtful article by New Testament professor and parent Esau McCaulley in the New York Times reframed for me the tension I’ve been feeling about this summer and the choices we’re faced with now. “This mixture of safety and peril and difficult decisions about a child’s freedom to play: It is familiar to me. Covid-19 has given all parents a small taste of what it is like to be a Black parent, ” McCaulley tells us. He and his wife have “drifted to a bias toward joy.”

In that spirit, here’s a lively and fun video of the finale from Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” by the San Francisco Symphony:

Today, at long last, is Opening Day for Major League Baseball. I find comfort in that, as does my dad. Baseball is the language of my childhood, and when I first moved from California to New York City in 1991, I was suddenly less homesick when I found a game to watch, even though it wasn’t “my team” playing. I’m not sure I can talk my family into watching a game with me tonight, but I am happy to know that all over the country, people will be celebrating this rite of summer through the magic of television.

We are in the middle of a heat wave here in Brooklyn, and if this were another time, I’d be eager to spend a couple of hours in a chilly movie theater. Instead, The National Film Board of Canada has made 65 Academy Award winning or nominated animated shorts available for our viewing pleasure.

I might make popcorn, but I’m definitely making Jerrelle Guy’s delicious strawberry spoon cake. She’s the author of Black Girl Baking: Wholesome Recipes Inspired by a Soulful Upbringing, and I love every recipe of her’s I’ve tried.

If you, like I, are getting tired of the view from your own window, try looking through these windows. Perspective is everything, lovies. There is so much beauty, even now.

Special thanks to my mother Deborah Baum for introducing me to the William Tell Overture video, the animated shorts link, and the Window Swap project! She has always made life more fun.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.

A short family guide to supporting racial justice now

Photograph by Janet Yieh New York, NY

As I write this, tens of thousands of people have gathered for a tenth straight day from New York City to San Francisco, in every state and at least 11 nations, to protest racism and police brutality. We live in Brooklyn, and daily, protesters of all ages and colors stream down the sidewalk past our apartment with their handmade signs to join in gatherings just a mile from us. At night, we go to sleep to the sounds of police helicopters, because the protests do not end when the citywide curfew begins.

I’ve been taking my son to protests since he was 8. He’s been on a street corner with a handful of people and in a crowd of 500,000 in the nation’s capital. He’s walked out of class for a student-led protest in the middle of the day not sanctioned by the school. (Parents of teens joining protests now will find sound advice here.) I believe protests are a necessary and effective means of enacting social change. For our family, participating in protests and other actions are a natural extension of our Christian faith. From the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures to the life and teachings of Jesus, the religious mandate to stand with and work alongside those seeking justice is clear, and as the Bible and American history both show us, justice and freedom are not always achieved peacefully.

Protests themselves are not civil disobedience; our freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Civil disobedience is often called for at protests, especially to protect the most vulnerable, and right now that means our siblings of color. If you are new to protesting or new to protesting against racial violence, you will need to do some homework before joining in. Educating ourselves is the first step, and that includes identifying local Black-led organizations that are already engaged in racial justice work in our own communities. Google is your friend. One good place to start is with the website WhiteAccomplices.org, which will help you find local organizations, decide whether you are an Actor, an Ally, or an Accomplice, and commit to at least three actions in the next month. This article on what to consider before bringing children to a protest is both practical and reassuring.

Of course, not all kids are new to protests and acts of civil disobedience. Often, they have led them. A 15-year-old girl in Portland Oregon, started a petition called Justice for George Floyd which now has more than 16 million signatures, the most in the history of Change.org. Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison is an excellent picture book about the 1963 Children’s March for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama, appropriate for ages 6 and up. Kids ages 9 and older can watch the riveting Academy Award-winning 2004 short documentary Mighty Times: The Children’s March on Vimeo. Ron’s Big Mission is a picture book (by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden, illustrated by Don Tate) about the courage of astronaut Ron McNair, who at age 9 used civil disobedience to get a library card.

If for any reason you don’t feel safe going out right now, there are many ways you and your family can join in the work of racial justice from home, which is where we always begin. The Brown Bookshelf sponsored an online KitLit4BlackLives Rally with authors Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, and Jason Reynolds, which you can watch here, and respond to their calls for action. If you missed the CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall on racism, it’s also available to watch online.

Parents, our children learn most from what we do, so let’s do this together:

Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:2

Loving God,

In Jesus you were bullied, beaten and killed.

You are always on the side of those

whose souls or bodies are mistreated;

help us to embrace those who are hurting;

fill us with your Spirit of healing,

and give us the courage to stand beside them,

and the wisdom to prevent violence and abuse from happening again. Amen.

From Common Prayer for Children and Families by Jenifer Gamber and Timothy S.J. Seamans, p. 112

If you are just beginning to talk with young children about race and racism, you may want to start with my earlier post on this subject.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.

Grief in a time of injustice and COVID-19

Trinity Churchyard, Lower Manhattan

We are all learning to live with grief. Some of us are grieving the death of a loved one, some of us are grieving the loss of a job or the death of a dream or simply grieving the way things used to be. My Black siblings aren’t just grieving, they are traumatized, and the losses they bear are incalculable. How do we mourn, and how do we help those around us who are mourning?

Here’s what I know from my own experience:

  • The best thing you can do for someone who is grieving is to show up and keep showing up. In these days of physical distancing, that’s hard but not impossible. Call, text, write an old-fashioned letter. Send food. Check in, just as a reminder: I’m here for you. De-center yourself. Do not require a response of any kind.
  • Showing up for our Black siblings means educating ourselves about racism, both structural and casual, and then actually doing something about it. Call it out when you see it. Understand what is meant by white privilege and white fragility. Follow and support Black leadership. Vote, and make sure everyone else can, too.

Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, has joined with other faith leaders to ask us to observe a National Day of Mourning and Lament on Monday, June 1, as we pass the terrible milestone of more than 100,000 lives lost in the Coronavirus pandemic.  

Here are three recent articles about grief. The first, from Vox, is about the profound grief of Black mothers. This article, from The Atlantic, explores grief in the time of Coronavirus. And this article in the New York Times is aimed at helping children who are grieving.

This downloadable toolkit from the National Alliance for Grieving Children is designed to help families navigate change and loss as a result of the pandemic. As is so often the case, the tools here designed for young people will help adults, too.

Lutherans and Episcopalians around the country have committed to praying this prayer for the next three months:

A Prayer for the Power of the Spirit Among the People of God

God of all power and love,
we give thanks for your unfailing presence
and the hope you provide in times of uncertainty and loss.
Send your Holy Spirit to enkindle in us your holy fire.
Revive us to live as Christ’s body in the world:
a people who pray, worship, learn,
break bread, share life, heal neighbors,
bear good news, seek justice, rest and grow in the Spirit.
Wherever and however we gather,
unite us in common prayer and send us in common mission,
that we and the whole creation might be restored and renewed,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May it be as we have spoken and acted.

If you are ready to do something, Justice for George Floyd has identified some ways you can help right now.

If you are wanting to talk with your children about race and racism, I have just updated this post, which I originally wrote right after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.