A year ago, as we were part way through Lent and all our churches, schools and some businesses suddenly had to shut down because of a new virus we could barely pronounce, one of my daughters had an idea. Could we have a family worship service on Zoom?
It was an easy yes. We so needed to pray in the face of this terrible invader. My husband plays guitar, so he said he’d take care of the music. That left me to tell the Gospel, in a way that would speak not only to the adults, but also keep the attention of three active boys: 20 months, 5 and 8 years old.
The spice jar apostles share the news of Christ’s undying love with the crowd.
Godly Play, I thought. But I didn’t have any figures. Looking around the house, I thought of my spice jars and of a bag of quilting scraps sitting in the basement. Voila! The “Sacred Spice Jar Players” were born.
As time has gone on, I’ve tried to match the spice with the person. Herod and Pharaoh were empty jars – no life in them. John the Baptist was chili powder. Moses (cardamom seeds) wore the same green head wrap each week as we followed his story, and I found that a staff made from popsicle sticks could tuck into his head wrap. As could the flames of Pentecost for the Apostles.
Spice jar Jesus – who comes “every day,” for us all
And Jesus is always Trader Joe’s Everyday Spice, and he wears the most multi-colored fabric I have. I hope that helps the children trust that Jesus does come every day – and that he comes for all people.
But it makes cooking interesting sometimes. Where is the basil? Ah, yes, it’s in the green room, resting up from being Martha last Sunday.
After the service there is a brief “coffee hour,” strictly for the children, who bring a toy or project to the screen to show each other.
The children are 2 3/4, 6 and 9 now. Sometimes they spend more time off camera than on, but then, kids do that in church, as well! And, under the pew or on it, children absorb more than we know. The two-year-old says that John and James are his favorite disciples. In December, the 6-year-old proudly took a turn giving the acclamation and lighting the Advent wreath. Now the 9-year-old has started to lead the prayers.
Someday we’ll all return to our various parishes and Sunday schools. But for now, we’re grateful for our spice jars, who provide this holy opportunity to be nurtured and supported by Christ and one another in this strange and scary year.
The Rev. Margaret Holt Sammons is a retired priest in the diocese.