Why Not Celebrate! a Wonderful Collection of Celebrations, Especially Useful for Families, Small Groups, and Retreats

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Sara Wenger Shenk believes that small events as well as major life passages are worthy of notice.

In Why Not Celebrate! she offers suggestions for Christians who want to celebrate "the silences, the clasped hands, the broken loaf, and the first evening star" of an ordinary day, in addition to seasons from the church year ...

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Overview

From the Backcover

Sara Wenger Shenk believes that small events as well as major life passages are worthy of notice.

In Why Not Celebrate! she offers suggestions for Christians who want to celebrate "the silences, the clasped hands, the broken loaf, and the first evening star" of an ordinary day, in addition to seasons from the church year and secular calendar.

Why Not Celebrate! includes 150 celebrations for daily, weekly, and occasional events. These activities, readings, and songs are designed for use by Christians from a variety of traditions, Catholic and Protestant, in families, small groups, or retreat settings.

Items include "Lunch Box Surprises," a play for St. Patrick's Day, how to make an Advent calendar, ideas for moving day, and an assortment of birthday celebrations. There are also suggestions for graduations, weddings, and funerals.

Shenk is the author of "And Then There Were Three: An Ode to Parenthood. With her husband, Gerald, and their two sons, she is currently teaching and writing in Eastern Europe under the sponsorship of Mennonite Central Committee.

An abundance of ideas for celebrating life daily, weekly, monthly--all year long--with family and friends. The author presents ideas such as "A Play for St. Patrick's Day, " "A Litany for Moving Day, " "When It's Mommy's Birthday, " and "Advent as a Journey." Also included are prayers for every occasion and chapters of reflection on celebration. (Good Books)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780934672450
  • Publisher: Good Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/1989
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.17 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Preface

Dear Friends,

The spring rains began in earnest today, washing the last dirty snow from the streets and gutters. With some effort and more imagination I spied a hint of green grass beneath the frost-scorched mat of brown. A balmy breeze brought whiffs of damp earth through the window, evoking a memory of spring. I longed to respond with hallelujahs and hugs all around. It was only last week that on awakening, four-year-old Timothy's first mournful words each morning were "Oh, I can't wait 'til spring." And his mother was too much in tune with his sentiments for everyone's good. Winter's inner city grimness weighed down heavily this year.

Oh, I know winter isn't through with us yet. It's only early March in northern Illinois. But the promise of reprieve blew in through my open window today and I felt like celebrating. I baked a cherry pie -- my hurrah to the rhythmic reassurance of the returning seasons. At the dinner table our family of four enjoyed last year's sour cherries, slightly embellished, while hailing this year's hint of more to come.

I like to celebrate! At the same time, I'm not much for elaborate productions. I'm not the type to go in for decorating the whole house for an occasion. The mere thought of preparing a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner makes my blood pressure hit the ceiling. I resist, with a passion, doing things out of obligation or to elicit marveling accolades from my guests. Simplicity is the saving grace that enables me to celebrate meaningfully without madness.

I know there are folks who have a flair for festivity, folks who can pull off an enormous bash and love every minute of the preparations. Not me! My style is to search for sacred meaning within the small, everyday moments, to revere the silences, the clasped hands, the broken loaf, the first evening star. One can compose a symphony of simple beauty out of the stuff that fills an ordinary day. By God's grace, that which is common becomes sacred and points to the reality of God in our midst.

Most of us walk about with well-muffled senses, senses that for want of exercise have grown sluggish and dull. Even those of us who think we have keen vision see only "through a glass darkly." But when the gift of sight is given, we ache to respond. When taste, touch, sound, smell, and story awake our sleepy stupor, we long to celebrate. But how? Who can teach us? What traditions can guide us?

My husband and I have two sons. Joseph and Timothy are growing up in a very different world from that in which Gerald and I spent our childhood. Theirs in a city-apartment environment, people with folks from every conceivable ethnic and religious (or non-religious) background. Their friends at school talk of dinosaurs, robots, the Chicago Bears, and computer software programs.

Our world was peopled fairly consistently with ethnically homogeneous Mennonites. Both of our family lines can be traced in an unbroken chain back to Swiss-German Anabaptist folk who fled persecution in Europe to settle in William Penn's peaceful woods. Our childhood friends talked about John Deere tractors, ice-skating parties, small-game hunting, and summer Bible school.

Mennonites who hail from the left wing of the 16th century Reformation have traditionally stood somewhat apart from mainstream Protestantism and Catholicism. The desire to be nonconformed to the world has shaped Mennonite lifestyle and theology, giving them a distinctly separatist flavor. As more and more of us have moved from our rural enclaves to the cities, however, we are searching for new ways to be "in the world but not of it."

Gerald and I still consider ourselves Mennonites. In fact, our loyalty to the faith of our mothers and fathers runs very deep. But when confronted by a barrage of other traditions and voices in our urban environs, we are forced as never before to decide, consciously and deliberately, how to pass on the faith to the next generation. How do we celebrate peoplehood? How do we celebrate God's good earth? How do our children develop a sense of identity that runs deeper than the latest fad? How can we give them a heritage with firmer roots than the current peer group rage?

These are questions that go to the heart of what celebration is about. Celebration is the honoring of that which we hold most dear. Celebration is delighting in that which tells us who we are. Celebration is taking the time to cherish each other. Celebration is returning with open arms and thankful hearts to our Maker.

In my desire to give my sons a steady place to stand, a heritage, I began looking for models, for someone who could teach me how to celebrate even in a small apartment, in urban America, in the late 20th century.

To my delight I found a community of people who have been experimenting with a variety of celebrations and traditions in just such a setting for the last 30 years. Folks here at Reba Place have worked hard to bring celebration and worship life into their home contexts. It was into their family and small-group gatherings that my quest took me. I didn't find sophistication or elaborate techniques on how best to train children according to certain developmental schemes. No. What I found were simple, unpretentious ways of celebrating life, small gestures for making family and small group life a "means of grace," festive activities that stretch the imagination and move one toward God.

What I found here at Reba Place Church is well worth sharing. These folks have blessed me with their flair for celebration, and I hope they will bless you.

Sincerely, Sara
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Table of Contents

Table of Contents Preface
Chapter One: Why Celebrate, for Heaven's Sake?
A Family-Based Revolution of Hope
Sensible Bridges Into Transcendence
Stories -- The Staff of Life
The Jewish Bedrock of Family Celebrations
Play Rehearsal for the Future

Chapter Two: Daily Spirituality and Rituals
Mundane Rhythms and Sacred Rhymes
Present In the Practical
Wondering Into Mystery
Wondering Into Prayer
Cutting Familiar Paths
Daily Ritual, from Sunrise to Sunset

Breakfast Traditions
Mealtime Rituals
After-Dinner Traditions
Bedtime Rituals


Chapter Three -- Weekly Rhythms
Spirituality in Seven Day Cycles
A Sabbath Day "Bit of Nothing"
Sunday's Dual Purpose
Holy Moments at Home in the Everyday
Listening to Silence

Home-Based Weekly Rituals

Chapter Four: Yearly Festivities
Advent Traditions
Christmas Eve Festivities
Christmas Day Traditions
Three Kings' Day
New Year's Events
Valentine's Day Activities
St. Patrick's Day
Ash Wednesday
Lent
Palm Sunday
The Passover
Maundy Thursday
Good Friday Commemoration
Easter Traditions
Mother's Day and Father's Day
Jewish Feast of Shavuot
Pentecost
In Memory of Hiroshima
Back to School
Last Day of School
Halloween and All Saints Day
Succot -- Feast of Booths
Thanksgiving Grace-Notes
Birthday Celebrations
Yearly Silent Retreat


Chapter Five: Occasional and Life Cycle Rites
A Celebration for Every Occasion
Making Time for Each Other
Celebrations for Anytime and Anywhere
A Bay's Birth and Arrival Home
Baby Dedication
Moving Day
The Blessing of Houses
Open House
Potpourri Traditions
The Soda-Pop Routine for a Sick Child
Recognition of Twelve-Year-Olds
Entering Adulthood
Baptism and First Communion
Graduation Festivities
Separations and Farewells
Forgiveness and Healing
Preserving Family Memories
Praying for Peace
Wedding Plans
Funerals and Dealing with Grief
How the Sonshine Group Does It


Postscript: Who Are the Folks at Reba Place Church?

Readings and Sources
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