All Saints Day (1 November)
All Saints Day (or All Hallows Day) is a celebration of all the saints, living on earth and alive in heaven. With the somewhat sinister Halloween the day before, it’s a relief to turn to the glowing joyful example set by saints in the past and present and to the hope we have for a future safe with Jesus.
Of course, one problem we have is that we’ve often been taught to think of saints as ancient, dead, very holy, special people. However, the biblical understanding of a saint is someone whom God has made holy. For the Old Testament people of God, this meant belonging to God’s Chosen People, the Jews. For New Testament believers and beyond, this means belonging to the Body of Christ, a people made holy through Jesus’ sacrifice. For both groups, being a saint has implications as to the way we live our lives. ‘But you are God’s chosen and special people’ writes Peter. ‘You are a group of royal priests and a holy nation. God has brought you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Now you must tell all the wonderful things he has done.’ (1 Peter 2:9)
Here are some ideas for exploring the idea that saints are the whole body of Christ on earth and in heaven.
Stained glass saints
Check out the saints in your stained glass windows or pictures around church with the children. Make sure you know their stories (Stories of Everyday Saints might well help with some.) See if you can spot their symbols. Talk about the way they were friends with Jesus and told other people about him. Ask what living saints you have in your church today. Do they know Jesus and tell other people about him? Then draw stained glass windows with today’s saints from your church featured in them: what symbol might they have? (A lawnmower? A teatowel? An OHP?) This would make a great display for the church to enjoy.
Older children could research the story of the saint who shares their own name (unless you’ve got lots of Kylies and Waynes and Henriettas who don’t feature much in standard hagiographies). Ask what the children like best about their saint and what aspect of that saint they would like to copy in their own lives. (You might have to encourage more general ideas like ‘standing up for what I believe in, even when it’s hard’ rather than ‘spontaneously sprouting hair all over my body’ etc.)
Remind them that we’re a huge family of God through the centuries, in and out of time and we’re all there to help and encourage each other to come closer to God. How can the children help and encourage people in their turn?
Stand up for Jesus
Standing up for what you believe in is an important aspect of being a saint, and it’s never easy, particularly for children with all the peer pressure exerted on them. The example of the saints can be very inspiring for their own walk with God. You might like to pick out stories from Stories of Everyday Saints like those of Martin Luther King, St Bernadette, St Alban, St Paul, St Frideswide, St Thomas of Canterbury who all stood up under pressure for what they believed in.
For older children and teens, dctalk’s book ‘Jesus Freaks’ (Eagle Publishing) has many stories of modern and historic saints and martyrs who suffered for their faith. This book contains much more explicit violence.
- Making haloes to wear out of foil, tinsel or gold card (to remind children that they are just as much saints as the saints in medieval art).
- Making tiny models of themselves with haloes made out of air-drying clay and mounted on a badge backing.
- Glass painting for nightlight containers (jam jars are good) to remind us that saints are people who let the light of Christ shine through them.
- Cellophane and black sugar paper ‘stained glass’ pictures could draw out the same meaning.
- A collage showing people from the past, present and future all holding hands in the presence of Jesus.
- Designing invitations to a special event you’re holding soon or to come to your children’s group, to remind children that saints tell people about Jesus.