The Good Samaritan story is a wonderful example of God’s call to help each other, but who exactly is our neighbor? Vacation Bible School 2016 will help children explore the theme of Helping our Neighbors. Each night, our activities will focus on a service project with and for one of our “neighbors” – both near and far. [Read more…]
Advent was not a word that I heard in my church growing up. There was no distinction between Christmas carols and Advent songs. It did not matter if it was December 4th or 24th, we sang Joy to the World the Lord is Come. There was no Advent theme; no message of waiting in wondrous expectation. There was no Advent wreath in our church – no candle of hope, peace, joy, love.
However, at home was a different story. My family had an Advent wreath that we lit each night before we ate dinner. Each year after Thanksgiving, my mom would go in the basement and dig out the wreath. This was not a fancy wreath. It was made of fake greenery stuck in a Styrofoam floral ring. There were holes cut out of the Styrofoam where the candles went. My mom also had this little booklet that had a reading for each Sunday, and from year to year we would read the same scripture and same inspirational messages. I remember the feeling of pride that I felt when I was finally old enough to take my turn reading from the booklet.
I have to admit though that I was not always so eager to participate in this particular family ritual. I recall feelings of ambivalence and even embarrassment when I was a teenager. In my eyes, this family tradition was just plain weird. I did not know anyone else whose family had an Advent wreath. If it hadn’t been for that little booklet that was obviously printed by some publishing company, I would have thought my mom made up this tradition.
Just a few Sunday ago, fourteen Pullen families gathered in Finlator Hall to make Advent wreaths to use at home during the upcoming Advent season. None of the families had tried this tradition at home before, and only two of the adults in the group (myself being one of them) had a family tradition of lighting candles during Advent. However, everyone was very excited to make their wreaths and try this tradition at home during the holiday season.
Tonight, my family will light the first purple candle on our Advent wreath. As we begin this ritual that will guide us through the season of Advent, I will remember sitting around the dinner table with my parents and sisters lighting candles and waiting in wondrous expectation.
During the season of Advent, daily meditations from members of the Pullen community are being posted online. Subscribe by email at www.pullen.org/category/meditation.
Pullen held Vacation Bible School on June 23-26. Our theme was Hunger Awareness, and we learned about some of the causes of and solutions to hunger in our community and world. Below is a picture tour of some of our activities. The goals of the VBS program at Pullen are twofold. One is to learn more about our faith and how we can make a difference in the world. The other is to strengthen the bonds of friendship and community among the participants. It was an amazing week. We learned a lot, had a lot of fun, and definitely made some memories with our friends.
We invite your child to join us for Vacation Bible School. Our theme this year is “Taking Root: Hunger Causes, Hunger Hopes.” We will explore the fundamental connection between faith and the injustice of hunger and poverty. The goal is to help the children to understand the causes of hunger and to imagine a world without it, as well as to foster a commitment to solutions for hunger. Each evening we will relate these issues to Bible stories and fun activities to help the kids find relevance in their own lives and the lives of children around the world. Some examples of what we will learn include:
Here are some details you need to know:
- VBS is held in the evenings, Monday, June 23 through Thursday, June 26.
- Dinner will be provided each night, beginning at 5:00 pm. You are welcome to join your child for dinner or to drop them off. During this opening time we will review the evening’s lesson and schedule, and volunteers will lead us in singing as we transition into the main program.
- The actual program begins at 5:45. Your child will be ready for pickup at 7:45. Please be on time, as our schedule is tight.
- VBS is open to children three years of age through rising sixth grade. Children will be grouped by age and supervised by adult volunteers at all times.
- We are again able to offer VBS at no charge, however if you would like to make a donation it is always appreciated.
- You will need to make reservations to secure a spot by June 4. Registration forms are available online and in paper form outside of Libby’s office. Please return them electronically using the email, firstname.lastname@example.org or put them in Libby’s box. You may also mail them to the church, but please put “VBS” on the envelope.
The goal of Pullen’s VBS is to build community among our children and to learn more about our relationships with each other and with God. We feel certain that it will be a meaningful time for all.
My family loves to camp. There is just something about the combination of nature, tent and campfire that we just love. We don’t camp very often because between church, sports, house/yard maintenance and extended family obligations we usually have pretty full weekends. However, there is one weekend you will always find us camping.
For the past 35+ years, Pullenites have been trekking to the mountains of North Carolina on Memorial Day weekend to camp together. You will hear many long-time Pullen people call the trip Canoe the New, because a canoe trip is always one of the optional activities. Now, we call it Pullen Outdoor Weekend (POW). It is Pullen’s longest-running, annual intergenerational event.
My husband Nathan and I have been for the last 12 years, and our son, Henry has been on nine trips (ten, if you count the year I was 7 ½ months pregnant with him). It is one of the highlights of our year, and we love reminiscing throughout the year about the time spent with friends and the adventures we have enjoyed (or not) and making plans for our next trip. We have come up a list of the top 10 reasons we love Pullen Outdoor Weekend (in no particular order because but we couldn’t decide which was most important).
- beautiful weather (rain or shine)
- wonderful scenery
- great food
- the campfire
- buying candy at the Mast General store
- roasting marshmallows
- riding scooter/bikes
- enjoying nature
- time with friends
- time to relax
Over the years, many people have enjoyed the Pullen camping trip. I am not sure if anyone still comes that was on the first trip, but there are folks who have been coming for a lot longer than my family. It is always an interesting combination of young and old, singles and families, veteran campers and novices. In case you are wondering, Pullenites have as many camping philosophies as theological perspectives. Folks bring tents, pop-ups, RVs or even sleep in their cars. Some folks eat at local restaurants; others cook over camp stoves or use the fire pits. It is fascinating to observe all the various ways there are to camp.
This year, Pullen Outdoor Weekend is May 23-25. If you are interested in coming, you can pick up a registration form in the church office starting on May 4. You can also call or email me if you want more information. I will be happy to share more reasons you should come camping your Pullen family.
Worship on Ash Wednesday was never a favorite experience for me. I thought of it as a gloomy and depressing event in the church year. The symbolism of the cross and the language of confession and repentance reminded me too much of a theology which defined us all as worthless wretches who must grovel for God’s love and forgiveness.
Last year, I participated in the imposition of the ashes with several children. As I had my forehead marked with ashes by a child and then in turn applied them to another child, words from the book of Matthew floated through my head. “Jesus said we must become like a child to enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt. 18:3-4) I began to wonder what it meant to become like a child. How could I see Ash Wednesday with the eyes and heart of a child?
I think this reimagining starts with my theology of childhood. I believe that we are all born in relationship with God. We are all beloved children of God, not worthless wretches. I also believe children are often more aware and open to their relationship with God. In the liturgy of the Children’s Worship program, we say, “God is present at all times inside us and in the whole universe.” Suddenly, I begin to see Ash Wednesday, and Lent, in a new light.
We often talk about Lent as a time to deepen our relationship with God, to come closer to God. We give up things to make space for God. We start a new spiritual practice to make space to commune with God. Maybe what allows a child to be more aware and open to God is that they have the “space” for God. Maybe we are all born with lots of space for God, but we begin to fill it up with other stuff (all that stuff we are trying to get rid of or push to the side during Lent). I don’t want to imply that we are missing something when we are born and that is why we have space. I believe we are born whole and the space is an integral part of who we are. I think of it as where the Breath of God moves with us and through us.
Using this idea of that I have squished too much in my space for God, I am able to transform my view of Ash Wednesday and Lent. If I want to become more like a child, Lent becomes an opportunity to reconnect with my space, and Ash Wednesday becomes the ritual where I begin this process. The language of confession and repentance becomes about acknowledging that I have junked up the space that is within me with too much baggage: hurts unforgiven, unkind thoughts, and misplaced priorities.
I will never get rid of all my baggage. At least it is not something that will happen in one Lent, but over a lifetime of Lents. However, I know that I can get rid of some of it. I have pushed out the old theology that was getting in the way of my connection to God. I have cleared a little space. I can feel the Breath of God flow through me with a little more ease.