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Saints for all ages

A themed service about saints and light focused on Acts 9.1-9, the conversion of St Paul

This season is dominated with dark and negative costumes and decorations related to Halloween, literally 'All Hallows Eve'. The churches should have something to say about that, reclaiming the Christian All Saints festival, and showing that Christ brings light into the world, not darkness. These all-age worship suggestions could be used on a Sunday morning or at another time both to encourage the congregation to celebrate the season properly, and to provide a valid alternative to the way the world marks Halloween.

 

Preparation
You will need:

  • materials for the opening Collage saints activity; a large sheet of paper, newspaper and magazine headlines, scissors and glue sticks
  • Halloween masks and a black bin bag
  • candles, and buckets of water as a safety precaution
  • inflatable plastic globes

 

As people gather
Collage saints
Put the title 'A saint is …' at the top of a large sheet of paper. Provide headlines cut from newspapers and magazines. As people arrive for the service encourage them to find in the headlines words which are the attributes of a saint. Invite people to stick these onto the sheet of paper to make a collage of words. Make sure that you have suitable words (brave, strong, determined, kind and so on), and that you check the papers out first to sift out any unsuitable stories. Make sure that adults as well as children take part in this.

 

Call to worship
We are the saints God has called.
We are the saints God has called.
God has called us to worship.
God has called us to worship.
We will worship in the light of Jesus.
We will worship in the light of Jesus.

 

Song
Sing the song Thank you, Lord, for this fine day , which you will find in many children's hymn and song books. Include the following verses:

Thank you, Lord, for saints of old.
Thank you, Lord for living saints.
Thank you, Lord, for all of us.

Introduction
Bring the 'Collage saints' to the front of the church, and display it where everyone can see it. Ask the congregation briefly to gather into groups of about 5, with mixed ages together. Encourage them to consider these questions, which you could project or have on display:

• What is a saint?
• Do saints exist now?
• Are we saints?

 

Brief talk
This is an opportunity to offer a little background to the season. Try to cover the following points, simply and clearly:

  • This is a time to remember and celebrate the saints who have gone before us and left a legacy of Christian witness.
  • The date chosen for the Christian All Saints' festival in the eighth century was around the same time as the pagan festival of Samhain.
  • Some of the old pagan rituals have become part of All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, celebrations.
  • As Christians, we should remember the good of the saints, not the darkness of this time of year.
  • There are people who are 'saints' to us – they are special people who show that they love us and care about us.

 

Confession
Use this introduction or similar words:
God calls us all to live lives that are different from those around us, just like the saints did. That means being different at school, at work, at home and on our streets. We should shine like lights, and people should notice that we are different.
Let us face what is behind us by turning around.
Invite people to turn around and face the back of the worship area.

As we stand facing the past we remember times in the past few days when we have not been saints, when we have not brought light to the world around us. We remember things we have done, things we have not done, and things we regret saying.
Loving God, we are sorry.
Loving God, we are sorry.
Please forgive us and help us.
Please forgive us and help us.
Let us face what is before us by turning to face the front.
Invite people to turn back and face the front of the worship area.

As we stand facing the future we think of the challenges to come. We think of the people who have hard, dark lives that we could help, and we promise God that we will try to be a saint for him in all situations.
Loving God, we want to be your saints.
Loving God, we want to be your saints.
Please fill us with your Spirit to help us.
Please fill us with your Spirit to help us.

 

Singing in the light
If the children have done this activity in their groups this would be a good point for them to share it with the whole congregation. Make sure the revised words are available so that everyone can take part. This is not a spectator sport! The group will have chosen a popular and catchy current pop song that and worked in small groups to re-write the words, focusing on the light of Jesus in our world. If they have suitably talented children, they may have been able to create a dance routine to it also.

 

Reading    Acts 9.1-9.
Present this as a dramatised reading if possible, with at least two voices, one (the voice of the Lord) coming from out of sight.

 

Songs
Sing some songs which focus on light and the saints, depending on your church style and tradition. Possible songs include:

Colours of day
For all the saints
Give me oil in my lamp
Light of the world
Like a candle flame
Longing for light
Lord, for the years
Shine, Jesus, shine
This little light of mine

These and other suitable songs can be found in Kidsource and Kidsource 2 , Junior Praise , and the Spring Harvest Kids Praise range, as well as traditional hymn books.
There are also suitable songs in the book Better than Halloween by Nick Harding.

Story
This is a simple re-telling of the story of Saul/Paul. You may use the words below or elaborate on them a little, depending on the time available. You will need to divide the congregation into two halves, one to shout 'Booo' and another to shout 'Hurray!' If you think it would be helpful, have the words on two large cards to be held up at the relevant times. Cover the following:

  • Saul was a baddy, out to get the saints who followed Jesus. (boo)
  • Saul didn't realise that Jesus was the light. (boo)
  • Stephen was a saint who spoke out for Jesus. (hurray)
  • But Saul watched as Stephen was punished by being put to death. (boo)
  • Jesus wanted to help Saul see the light, and stop living in darkness. (hurray)
  • Saul was travelling to pick on more Christians, the first saints. (boo)
  • Jesus met him by sending a blindingly bright light. (hurray)
  • Saul realised that Jesus was the light. (hurray)
  • Saul's name was changed to Paul, and he became a saint. (hurray)
  • He told people that Jesus was the light of the world. (hurray)
  • But Paul was hated by those who had been his friends. (boo)
  • He was arrested and put in prison many times. (boo)
  • He suffered all his life for being a saint, bringing the light of Jesus to others. (boo/hurray)
  • Despite the suffering he still continued being a saint. (hurray)

Conclusion
These brief points can be referred back to the life of Paul, and are connected with the other activities in the service:

  • God can change anyone, and turn them from darkness to light.
  • We can all be saints, and bring the light of Jesus to others.
  • We may face hard times, but God is still with us.
  • There will always be people who prefer darkness to light.
  • Are you ready to be a saint for Jesus?

Sharing saints
Ask everyone to stand and think for a moment about other people in church today who are 'saints' to them. After this responsive prayer invite all to go and say to those others: 'You are a saint to me.'

We are called by God.
We are called by God.
We are saints together.
We are saints together.
Let us encourage those people who are saints to us… .

 

Prayers
Have a black bin bag at the front, along with a number of masks and other items connected with the darker side of Halloween. Take each one and drop it into the bag. As each mask is dropped in the congregation says:
We don't want darkness, we love the light.

Ask the congregation to stand in straight lines, and give the person on the end of each line a lit candle. Note that younger children will need help with this, and buckets of sand should be available. Display the following
simple prayer for each person to say out loud or silently as they hold the candle and then pass the candle to  the next person in the line.
Help me to be a saint. Help me to bring the light of Jesus to others.

Ask the congregation to stand. Throw a number of inflatable globes to them. Ask them to hold a globe when it comes near to them, look at any country, and pray for the saints who bring the light of Jesus to that place.

Dismissal
May the light of Jesus shine in us. Amen.
May the light of Jesus shine through us to others. Amen.
May we all be saints for Jesus. Amen.

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