Sometimes adults are curious to know what happens in church school. Here’s a summary of a recent church school session I led.
Lindsay Bates, the parish minister here in the Geneva church, does a Tenebrae service every year. I did a concurrent program for kids on Good Friday. The theology I used is pretty similar to that expressed by Carole Fontaine in a lecture on human rights at General Assembly in 2002: “I like Jesus. He’s my guy. The fact that he’s executed on trumped-up political charges — I mean, he’s the Stephen Biko of the first century. We can work with this!”
We had five children, ages 5 through 11, show up — a good turnout considering that the Tenebrae service was from 8:00 p.m. to just after nine, past many kids’ bedtimes.
The kids and I went off to Pioneer House, along with Yuri, one of the regular child care providers. We built very tall block towers for a while, and then it was time for the story of Good Friday.
My main learning objective was that these UU kids would know what “Good Friday” means. They had all heard Craig’s story of Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem in last Sunday’s worship service, so we went from there. I used excerpts from Sophia Fahs’s Jesus, the Carpenter’s Son, pp. 127-131. I gave them the story of Jesus challenging the commercialization of the Temple, framing this as a tale of a religious challenge to the politicized Temple hierarchy. We looked at pictures of the Temple at Jerusalem from UCLA’s Urban Simulation Team, to get a sense of the scale of action Jesus was involved in. Then I briefly told how Jesus was betrayed to the Roman military police by one of his followers, and then executed on what we now call “Good Friday.” I did not go into details of the means of execution — not with a five year old and a six year old present.
One girl made the obvious comment: “‘Good Friday’! — but it wasn’t good at all, they should’ve called it “Bad Friday.'” Needless to say, we also discussed (at an age-appropriate level) the inherent ambiguity of the story and the attendant difficulties of understanding it fully. The kids were also fascinated by the idea that live animals were sacrificed in the Temple at Jerusalem in Jesus’s day, and we spent a little time discussing this alien notion.
We ended by sharing a snack of cinnamon grahams and apple juice, and then everyone helped clean up.