MOST RECENT POSTS

In this column you will find the most recent posts unless you have selected a specific poem, meditation or collection/index in which case that single item will appear here.

INTERACTIVE ALL-AGE STORIES TO ENGAGE A WHOLE CONGREGATION/ FELLOWSHIP



I offer these as a tried and tested all-age activity suitable for any family/all-age service or event over the Christmas season. It has been used in small parish churches, town churches and in a cathedral. On every occasion it has been thoroughly enjoyed  and I especially like its capacity to get the adults to join in with the children.

It works this way. Get the children to join you and split them into the number of groups that are evident in the story-lines below. Get the children to sit on the ground in their groups (they won’t be sitting still for long so don’t worry if the floor is a bit cold). If you have a centre aisle of reasonable length, spread the groups down the aisle so all the congregation are as near a group as possible.
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Taking the Shepherds' tale as an example, one group has to remember ‘Caleb’, a shepherds name; the second remember ‘Amos’ another shepherd; the third group ‘Eleazar’, the  fourth ‘Reuben’ and the fifth group ‘Sheep’.  ALL THE CHILDREN have to listen out for their group’s name AND FOR ‘Shepherds’ and ‘Bethlehem’. Exactly similar 'rules' apply to the Wise Men's story

As you tell the story which can be accessed from the same title shown to the top right of this text (but don't go to it until you've finished reading this column as it will then replace these instructions: so you might best be served by copying these instructions to a separate document first), each group has to stand up, turn round and sit down again whenever ‘their’ name is called and to do the same when the 'big groups' such as ‘Shepherds’ or ‘Bethlehem’ are read out.

Start to read the story slowly so the children get the idea and so the smaller ones have a chance to follow the lead of the older children in their group. Then gradually speed up so the children soon have hardly time to sit down before they have to get up again. The children will enjoy the muddle and so will the rest of the congregation (unless they are very, very staid!).

THEN: stop the story where indicated in the script and invite everyone who can to join in each time ‘Shepherds’ or ‘Bethlehem’ feature. Every time I’ve used it about 80-90% of the congregation have joined in. On an occasion we used it in a cathedral I was delighted to see the Mayor and her party enjoying the silliness!

Once the script ends, go straight into whatever message fits your situation and purpose best. 

I only hope that if you chose to use this story (or your own similar story-line developed on this idea) you have as much fun as we have on every ‘outing’ of it.

A Shepherds’ Tale: An inter-active Christmas story for all-age services

Caleb, Amos, Eleazer and Reuben were shepherds who looked after  sheep on the hills above Bethlehem. Night after night, Caleb, then Amosthen  Eleazer, then Reuben would take it in turn to sleep whilst the other three would watch the sheep, tell each other stories and exchange the latest news from Bethlehem.

Bethlehem at the moment was full of people, they had come from all over Judea to register because Augustus the Emperor said they had to.

The shepherds had lots of stories to tell about Bethlehem in the long nights of watching the sheep.

Caleb always knew what was going on. “Bethlehem’s packed out” he told Amos and Eleazer whilst Reuben slept. “Why, Old Shem the shekel-grabber, that innkeeper down in Bethlehem Passage has even got people sleeping in his stable! Imagine that.

Suddenly all the sheep went completely quiet. “What’s up with the sheep?” called Reuben coming out of his sleep. “Look” shouted Amos, “Look up there”. “What is it?” cried Eleazer “It’s an angel” whispered Caleb and the shepherds all fell on the floor covering their faces and just peeping to see what was happening.

The angel told the shepherds not to be afraid, to leave the sheep and to go into Bethlehem where they would find a very special child, the Messiah, God’s chosen one, who had been born and was sleeping in a manger.

***Everyone joins in from here whenever Shepherds or Bethlehem is mentioned

Then the shepherds saw the whole of the skies over Bethlehem lit with light and angels singing and praising God.

And because of Caleb’s story, the shepherds knew where they had to go in Bethlehem– to a stable at the back of an inn. Caleb, Reuben, Amos and Eleazeralmost fell over each other in their haste to get there.

They left the sheep and rushed off. Once in Bethlehem, they found the stable – and a tiny boy baby lying in a manger –Jesus. Something about the baby made theshepherds want to kneel.

The Wise Men’s Tale (Matthew  2, 1 – 11): an interactive all-age story

Individuals or groups: Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar,
Camels, Servants
Everyone together: Caravan

Once upon a time, there were three Wise men who lived in the land we now call Iran. They were called Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar and they watched the stars every night to try and understand the meaning of their patterns in the sky.

One night Caspar called to Melchior “Quick! Go and fetch Balthazar then come and look at the sky with me. The three of them, BalthazarCaspar and Melchior gazed into the Eastern sky where there was a star where they had never seen one before. Almost as they watched, it seemed to grow brighter.

Balthazar said “It’s a sign we’ve been waiting for”.

“Yes”, said Melchior, it’s the sign of a King important enough for the heavens to take notice.

Caspar said quickly “Let’s get our servants and camels and gifts and go and find him. The star is moving: it will lead us to him”

BalthazarCaspar and Melchior called their servants. “We are going on a journey – we don’t know where and we’ll go in a great caravan to take gifts for the king which a new star will lead us to. BalthazarMelchior and Caspar set out with their caravan.

After several days and nights, Caspar called to Balthazar and Melchior, “ I can see signs of a sandstorm, draw the caravan together so the camels form a shield for the servants and all of us. The storm came, swept over the caravan, leaving sand everywhere and passed on.

PAUSE HERE and invite EVERYONE who can to follow the  children’s lead every time ‘Caravan’ is read out.

The journey then led them through rocky mountains and deep streams. “Caspar,” Melchior said, “Balthazar, make the caravan travel as fast as it can. There are robbers in these hills but they won’t be able to catch fast moving camels. The caravan did spot some wild looking men at one stage but the camels were moving so fast the caravan soon left them behind.

The star led CasparMelchior and Balthazar and the whole caravan to Jerusalem. BalthazarCaspar and Melchior decided to call on Herod – but the star was beckoning the caravan onward – on another five miles to Bethlehem. And there, MelchiorCaspar and Balthazar left the camels and took the whole caravan with them to worship the new king JESUS.


All Saints All Age Activity

The SAINTS time machine



Start at the font with a child or small group of children; a reminder of the Baptism of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit - his calling of disciples  - those we know - those we don't know - men and women including that band of dedicated women who stayed with Jesus through the agonising hours of the Crucifixion.

Then take one step with the children ‘into’ the 1st Century: Tell the congregation this is the time of  St Paul and the journeyings of the first apostles


One more step into Second Century Britain Hidden saints often worshipping in small groups - one sect among many probably under persecution

Beginning of 3rd Century is the martyrdom of Alban - a Roman Soldier who sheltered a Christian priest from Gaul and was baptized. Martyred in 208/9

4th century British Bishops at Council of Arles in 314 but looking a little further afield St Martin of Tours - Soldier who cut his cloak in two and gave half to a beggar - wide influence - drawing on the Desert Fathers who had set up hermitages from the beginning of the century

5th Century Augustine of Hippo stormy youth then remarkable theologian. Romans probably left Britain. But many places of worship (Bishops Germanus and Lupus preached "not only in Churches but also at cross-roads and in fields and lanes")

In the West, Patrick was evengelising Ireland having been taken there as a slave, escaping & returning later

6th Century the rise of Celtic Christianity - Columba

7th Century - Lindisfarne - Aidan (d 651): St Cuthbert (d 687)

8th century - Bede Ecclesiastical history of the English Speaking peoples (d 735). At the end of the century Vikings made martyrs of many in Lindisfarne.

9th Century Alfred - A Christian King battled against the Danes and persuaded Guthrun to be baptized

10th Century - St Dunstan, Archbishop builds up the Church and revitalises the monasteries: In Bohemia – Good King Wenceslas

11th Century Norman invasion dislodging the Anglo Saxons – the wealthy escaped abroad but probably many unseen saints

12th Century Thomas a Becket v Henry II

But also straddling 12th & 13th centuries St Francis & St Clare

14th Century – back home and Mother Julian of Norwich

15th Century Thomas a Kempis “Imitation of Christ” & the Spanish Inquisition: Death of Katherine of Sienna – mystic & “politician” – Many conversions

16th Century: Reformation – many martyrdoms among Catholics and Protestants – Ridley & Latimer on October 16th 1555. |

17th Century  Opens with a wave of Catholic persecutions following the |Gunpowder plot: Sailing of the Mayflower to America in which stories can be found of saintliness

18th Century  William Wilberforce –anti-slavery, the Church Missionary Society and the Bible Society

19th Century Saints of those Missionary Societies

20th Century – Dietrich Bonhoffer or the huge number of unknown martyrdoms across the former Soviet Union: Oscar Romero & the Saints of South America

21st Century       People who have been killed in their places of worship and who are being tortured and killed in unsympathetic regimes. If you know any particular stories they can be a challenge to those of us who have much less risky opportunities to worship Christ. 




Nativity Star (CGI)

Nativity Star (CGI)
Nativity Star: This image will link you to the collection of new Carols on this site. Also, the image can easily be copied onto an overhead acetate and used as a window decoration. Easy for children to achieve. Note the cross at the centre of the star.

Ten thousand billion suns - A scintilla of God’s Universe

Ten thousand billion suns - A scintilla of God’s Universe
It is currently thought that the Universe has at least 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars! Hence the use of the word ‘scintilla’ for a mere ten thousand billion.

Cross and Particle Accelerator (CGI)

Cross and Particle Accelerator (CGI)
Cross and Particle Accelerator. The words of 'A Prayer for Understanding' can be viewed by clicking on this image

Nebula (Embroidery)

Nebula (Embroidery)
Nebula (Embroidery) to accompany the poem 'Invitation' which can be found by clicking on the image.

Orange Galaxy

Orange Galaxy
'Orange Galaxy' posted to accompany 'Bounded and Boundless'. Go to the poem by clicking on the image.

Cosmic Icon 7 Summerflower

Cosmic Icon 7 Summerflower
Cosmic Icon 7 - Summerflower Nebula (Acrylic)

Cosmic Ikon 8 Moth

Cosmic Ikon 8 Moth
Cosmic Ikon 8: Moth Nebula(imagined-acrylic) The Gold field of deep space is intended to convey the Lordship of Christ over the whole of the Cosmos

Surprise garden rose (Photo)

Surprise garden rose (Photo)
This beautiful head of roses in our garden, which are giving off a delightful perfume in the morning sun, seems a fitting picture to link to the sonnet 'Evolution and Beauty'. Let the picture take you there. It is a surprise because it is growing high on a bush of otherwise pure yellow roses: amazing!

Cross and Vortex

Cross and Vortex
'Cross and Vortex' to accompany 'Stars and Planets Sing Your Glory'. Click on the image to go to the poem/hymn.

Gaseous Cosmic Threads (Mixed media)

Gaseous Cosmic Threads (Mixed media)
Gaseous Cosmic Threads: Mixed media - acrylics and painted threads

St Francis’ Sky (Photo)

St Francis’ Sky (Photo)
Warm Umbrian Hills: Click image to take you to the poem St Francis' Sky

Cosmic Labyrinth (CGI)

Cosmic Labyrinth (CGI)
'Cosmic Labyrinth' - This icon is a symbol of the path through the near reaches of the Cosmos with its 'Havens' where current advances in science (2012/13) are celebrated. By clicking on the picture you will be taken to the latest version of the poem of the same name.

Cross of Autumn Leaves (cropped Photo)

Cross of Autumn Leaves (cropped Photo)
Time, perhaps to consider a restorative break before the approach of Advent/ Christmas. Let this image take you to 'On Drawing Apart'.

IONA: The Marble Quarry (Photo)

IONA: The Marble Quarry (Photo)
On the South shore of Iona is a bay which shows the industrial scarring of a beautiful place. Read of it by clicking on the picture

Butterfly Nebula (CGI)

Butterfly Nebula (CGI)
The Imaginary Butterfly Nebula . Anything like this would be a real Curiosity! The image will link you to the reflection titled 'Curiosity' which is actually a celebration of the achievement of landing the Mars Rover of that name

Light of the World amidst stars (CGI)

Light of the World amidst stars (CGI)
'Light of the world' posted to accompany 'To Light'. Find the poem by clicking on the image.

Iona from Fionnphort (Watercolour)

Iona from Fionnphort (Watercolour)
Iona from Fionnphort. At this point of the Isle of Mull, the end of a pilgrimage or trip to Iona is in sight. Click on this picture to take you to the poem 'IONA - The Pilgrim Way'

My Mesh Mask for Radiotherapy

My Mesh Mask for Radiotherapy
This is the mask which was moulded to my face to ensure the radiotherapy I had in April 2017 was precisely targeted. You can read more by clicking on the image

Double Celebration

Double Celebration
Pam, who has been magnificent in caring for me since my Cancer diagnosis in October and I celebrate the end of Radiotherapy and our 36th Wedding Anniversary (Note the return of some hair!). Click on the image to read about the treatment - and waiting.

St Neots Sunset (Photo)

St Neots Sunset (Photo)
Surrounded by beauty: Whie 'Evolution and Beauty' became one of the most viewed poems on this blog, Pam, my wife took this gorgeous picture of a sunset over the flatlands of Cambridgeshire UK. Click on it to go to the poem

Gabriel - written/painted by Pam, my wife in 2015

Gabriel - written/painted by Pam, my wife in 2015
Gabriel began the Christmas story with his visit to Mary. The story is told in our Christmas collection in the Carol, Go to Nazareth My Great Messenger. Click on this image to take you there.

Maple Leaf Nebula (CGI)

Maple Leaf Nebula (CGI)
IMAGINARY IMAGE TO CELEBRATE CANADA DAY: Click on this his imaginary 'Maple Leaf Nebula' to take you to a poem entitled 'Nebula' (image not to be confused with NGC 2024, the Flame Nebula which is also known as the Maple Leaf)

Beauty in the Garden - June 2016

Beauty in the Garden - June 2016
Beauty in the Garden - June 2016

Aurora Imagined over Iona (Watercolour & pastel)

Aurora Imagined over Iona (Watercolour & pastel)
First posted here on Adomnan’s day (23rd September) 2015. An imagined natural phenomenom that could be seen to resonate mystically with the idea of Iona being a ‘thin place’ where heaven brushes earth.

Assisi Sunset

Assisi Sunset
Assisi Sunset

Cross and simple Prayer rope (Photo)

Cross and simple Prayer rope (Photo)
Cross and simple prayer rope: make one like this to use as an aid to using ‘The Jesus Prayer'