by Carol Eisenbeis, Salem Mennonite Church, Freeman, SD, member of Christian Formation Committee
A cozy winter evening. Three good books. A time to gather with friends.
Combine those elements with the magic of the internet and that's the celebration our Christian Formation Committee envisioned as we planned to host an event to showcase some of the books in our conferences' Shalom Readers Library. This would be a celebration of our love for stories that promote peaceful ways. And, a webinar format would allow us to create a virtual experience, erasing the miles between us and bringing together groups of children from multiple Central Plains Mennonite Conference churches.
The date was set for Wednesday evening, February 12, and plans were in place for our first attempt at such an event. Those plans, however, were met with a few challenges, most of which resulted from some less-than-favorable winter weather conditions. Rather than gatherings in groups at a variety of churches, many of the participants logged in from their own homes; this was an evening to remain where it was warm and safe.
While weak internet signlas and limitations of some of our devices impacted the streaming quality, we forged on with three readers taking turns reading the featured picture books, Abuela's Weave by Omar S. Castaneda, An Angel for Solomon Singer by Cynthia Rylant, and The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills. The messages of these three texts focused on the relationship between a young girl and her grandmother, the impact of a kind waiter on a man who had little in the world to give him hope, and a group of school children who realized the pain caused by making fun of a classmate.
Stories play a powerful role in helping people broaden their perspectives. Stories allow us to make emotional connections with the author's message and empower us to see things from a different point of view. The stories we share with our children have the power to plan seeds of change that can impact our world in positive ways.
Our committee plans to tweak our approach and try something like this again. By bringing together some good books and gathered groups of friends, we hope to plant seeds with stories that have the power to make the world a place where peaceful ways and kindness prevail.
The purpose of the Christian Formation Committee (CFC) is to assist the members of CPMC to grow continually in Christ-likeness. The CFC does this by promoting Christian formation resources and equipping formation leaders. The CFC works closely with Amanda Bleichty, Conference Minister for Christian Formation.
More information about the Shalom Readers and an annotated book list can be found on the CPMC website, http://www.centralplainsmc.org/shalom-readers.html. Shalom Readers books "reflect core Christian values of peace and justice from an Anabaptist perspective."
During the COVID-19 outbreak, CFC has been hosting occasional Shalom Read-Alouds. Pastors are sent invitations to these Read-Alouds to disperse throughout the congregation. Please contact Amanda Bleichty if you have any questions.