on Sunday night we explored the theme of Hospitality, which we explained as "Welcoming and Sharing". we changed the format a bit to fit the theme, but also tried something from Messy Church, namely having an arrival activity. we also moved the main gathering to our front 'coffee' space so that people were'nt walking into an empty room wondering. i think it worked better as the space also has more windows and light.
in planning the session I had looked at the new UCC Faith Practices curriculum on Hospitality. watch for my review of this.
the arrival activity involved making placemats ( Download Our Home 66kb PDF). this worked well for younger children and their parents but not so well for the older children, so we need to think more about activities that might suit different ages, or suit multi-ages better. the placemats were intended for later use.
our planning meeting had agreed that we didnt need to try to tick all the boxes for "worship" in our gathering. we started with welcome, theme intro, song, video clip of the animated short film "bert", followed by a participatory re-enactment of the story of Abram and Sarai and the three guests (would the tribe share their plate of Tim Tams...?).
rather than then go to the usual 'activities', we broke into two groups. each group was told that it would be undertaking a secret activity.the groups then went to adjoining rooms. each group was told the same thing - that we would be preparing a special surprise dinner for the other group. we had brought stuff for the table and invited a number of families to bring finger food. so each group spent about 10 mins decorating the table and wondering what the other group was doing. when both were finished, we gathered on either side of the door, opened it and each group yelled "surprise"!
the groups then swapped rooms to enjoy the dinner that the others had prepared. during this time we talked about giving thanks for food and used one of the graces on the place mats. we played a game of "pass the salt" -
You will need 4 different items that can be passed from person to person. eg. marg/butter, salt, pepper, sauce, jug…
- Start with one item, being passed clockwise.
The first person says to the person on their right,
“Pass the salt”
Person on the right says “Say please!”
Person on the left says “Please”.
Person on the right passes the salt and says “You’re welcome”
Once this has started, start the pepper going anti-clockwise.
Go to the opposite side of the table, and start the margarine going clockwise.
Then start the jug going anti-clockwise.
We had a number of things to invite people to talk about at the table while they ate:
Today we’re talking about hospitality. Hospitality is about welcoming people
When we welcome people we show them that we care for them and that God cares for them.
Hospitality is about helping friends feel at home when they come to visits.
And its also about making new friends. When someone is invited to our home, even if we don’t know them, we try to make them feel welcome – just like in their own home.
(Work through these four discussion areas at your own pace, inviting people to refer to what is on the placemats. Make the opportunity to enquire about cultural differences.)
1. Giving Thanks
Talk about giving thanks and use one or more of the prayers on the place mats.
Ask if people ever 'give thanks' at home, and talk about why we might do it.
2. Special visitors
Have you ever had a special visitor to your home?
Who was it? Why were they visiting?
What did you do to make them feel welcome?
When you have a special dinner with guests, what are some things that you do to
Explain that guests sometime bring gifts. Pass around the gifts that you have received. (we brought some with us)
What special gifts have you received from special guests?
I wonder if guests themselves are something like a gift to us. How might guests be like a gift to us?
(You can pour some drinks and pass around the food after the conversation has started, but not too early, otherwise the eating will take over.)
3. Friends coming to spend time with us
How do you make your regular friends feel welcome when they come to play or spend time with you?
What do they do to make you feel welcome when you go to their home?
What kinds of thing don’t make people feel welcome?
4. Regular Meals
What are some things that your family does to help regular meals feel ‘special’ as family time?
What are some things that sometimes get in the way of meals being special?
Have you ever had a sense at the meal table that ‘God is with us’?
The conversation worked better in one group than another, largely I think because of personalities. There were too many questions, so we both ditched some. and certainly when the eating started, it was hard to keep the younger ones engaged in any conversation. the other factor was that each table had 18 people at it, so the groups were a bit big for good conversation. still, it worked OK.
the idea had been that people would bring their place mats to the table and they would give a basis for some conversation. we had problems with this:
- not everyone chose to make a place mat
- we were trying to laminate them during the evening, but didnt have a person dedicated to doing just thus
- hence we had to try to locate all of the place mats once the tables were set, and they weren't all laminated, and then people had to carry them from one room to the next... it was placemat chaos. but having said that, those who enjoyed making it, got it laminated and took it home will hopefully use it at their meal table and may use it as a basis for conversation and 'giving thanks'.
we gathered back together a bit late, so we left out asking people to talk about the experience, and finished with a song and blessing
on reflection, it would have been interesting to do more of a 'stations' type of thing, which we havent tried yet apart from at our 'interactive easter' event.
we had two more new families turn up this week, bringing to total to four so far. as of next month we change to the second Sunday in the month for the remainder of the year.