With the program year in full swing at St. Philip’s, many people have asked those of us who are working with children on Sunday mornings, “What curriculum are you using?”
The answer, for 3-year-olds through third grade, is that we are not using a store-bought curriculum, but providing a beautiful and prayerful place, called an atrium, designed especially for them and staffed with adults who will listen to God’s word together with them and repeatedly ask the question, “Who are you, Lord?”
Materials for the children to pick up and use are often handmade and form a close link to biblical and liturgical sources — such as maps of Israel, parables of the Kingdom, figures for the infancy narratives, Last Supper and Jerusalem presentations. The arrangement of the altar and baptism convey the centrality of the Eucharist and initiate the children into the liturgical life of the church.
“Help me to come closer to God by myself” is the silent plea of children everywhere as they seek to understand the quiet voice that calls them into relationship with their creator, lover, and friend. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an international organization whose main aim is to involve adults and children, ages 3–12, in a common religious experience in which the religious values of childhood are predominant. We believe that God and the child have a unique relationship with one another; particularly before the age of 6, and that while the growth of this relationship should be assisted by the adult, it is directed by the Spirit of God within the child.
Adapting the “self-teaching” method of Maria Montessori to religious formation, in which little ones practice physical movement, grace and courtesy that lead them into prayer and the older ones expand their understanding of who God is calling them to be, the joy of the children and the affirmation of the adults become evident.
All are welcome to “Come and see” as Jesus once said, the children running to the atrium after the 9:00 a.m. Eucharist and the adults, who wait with open hearts for them each week. Three-year-olds through Kindergarten children meet in the Mustard Tree room and first through third graders meet in the Cactus room from 10:15 to 11:15 every Sunday. Blessings!