Seminary Church School Plans March Lenten Retreat

21 February 2012 • On-campus Event

Seminarian Ashley Lear, director of our Church School Program, leading the children's choir.Seminarian Ashley Lear, director of our Church School Program, leading the children's choir.On March 3rd, children in our seminary community will be participating in a "Kid's Lenten Retreat" complete with Divine Liturgy, brunch, and lessons about preparing for Christ's Passion and Resurrection. Second-year Seminarian Ashley Lear, director of the campus Church School Program, explained, “We will be discussing the role of prayer, fasting, and alms giving, as well as the crucial role of repentance in our journey toward the Cross.  

“There will be priest available to help prepare the younger children for their first confession as well as teachers who will help the older kids develop a more mature understanding of sin and repentance,” she noted. “I pray that God will bless these children, and all children, with an awareness of our brokenness and dependence on Him for all things.”

The lenten retreat is just one example of the newly adopted format for the Church School Program, designed and begun by Seminarian Lear this year. The program consists of much longer, less frequent learning experiences. Each month, there is a theme, usually related to the liturgical cycle (or season) or the lectionary. The kids spend 3 1/2 hours praying, singing, reading, listening, creating, and eating together.  

“It's actually lots of fun,” said Seminarian Lear, “and I've found that these longer sessions allow for a deeper engagement with the material. The themes found in Scripture and our rich liturgical hymnography can be approached from many angles, thus in a way, acknowledging and catering to the many learning styles of our children.”

Seminarian Lear described in particular her design for this year’s upcoming lenten retreat: First, children of all ages (3–14) will meet together for an opening prayer. At that time, they will also learn and review a liturgical hymn—in part, in preparation for the Lazarus Saturday Divine Liturgy, when the church school children typically form a choir in the chapel and sing antiphonally with the adult choir.  Next, the students will break off into their separate age group and classrooms. There, they will review scriptural passages related to the theme, and engage in a variety of activities to reinforce the Scriptures. After about an hour, they will come back together for a craft (during the Nativity season, they made ornaments, and for the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, they made prayer books). Then, all students will return to their classrooms for follow up lessons, designed to address the application of scriptural themes to their daily lives. Finally, they will come together again for lunch and a closing prayer.

“The kids still come together weekly, for ‘reinforcement’ of scriptural study related to each Sunday’s Gospel reading,” added Seminarian Lear, “and this happens at the much-anticipated ‘Kid’s Café.

“Kid’s Café follows Divine Liturgy, and the children get to ‘interview’ either the presiding priest or a visiting bishop,” she continued. “They, and their guest, enjoy this time immensely.”

Seminarian Ashley Lear, who is in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, was president of the teen SOYO at her home parish, where she also often served as assistant director for choir events. At Ball State University, she studied music education and served as president of the university’s chapter of Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF). She also participated in the PRISM project, a performing arts program for children with special needs. Additionally, she served as a camp counselor at the Antiochian Village for two years. During her first year at SVOTS, she began to assist Danielle Miller with the SVS Children's Choir, and to help fellow seminarian Logan Johnson with Kid's Café on Sundays, while serving as a teacher for Church School on Monday nights.

Parents! Please register you children for the March 3, 2012 lenten retreat by replying to Ashley Lear with their names and ages.