Friday, January 22, 2016

Exploring the Holy Trinity as a Whole Community

Here’s a hypothetical: Let’s say your faith community is planning a sermon series on the concept of the Holy Trinity. As a leader or minister, you want your whole faith family to explore this concept together. You know it’s a tough concept for children. It’s a tough concept for adults! But you also know that offering activities that connect with the sermons will enhance their learning.

Picture Book Theology (PBT) is a big proponent of that kind of organic programming which allows you to explore even complex theological concepts via literature that children (and adults) can relate to and connect to meaningful life experiences. Encouraging children to experience the idea of the Holy Trinity in various contexts and within a variety of activities will lead to more understanding and richer meaning. Isn’t that what we all want in religious education?

The book I’m offering today is such a book. At the surface, One Family is a fun book about counting and collective nouns – those words that stand for a group of persons, places, or things. Numbers 1-10 are explored in order, but 1 is emphasized. Here’s a taste of the text pattern, the first 2 & last with a photo of the last:

One is one. One lamp. One clock. One book to share.
One is two. One pair of shoes. One team of horses. One family.
(after 10)
One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.

The Holy Trinity is a collective noun so here a book about numbers and language can be transformed into a profound lesson about the Holy Trinity. In your lesson, read the book first, then connect it to the concept of the Holy Trinity.

While reading, point out the collective nouns (you might want to call them “group words”) in the text. In later pages, let your children locate those words. Continue with the pattern and play of the text to bring in the concept of the Holy Trinity by saying this when the book is finished:
One is three.
Creator, Jesus, Holy Spirit (Use your terminology here.)
One is God.
One is the Holy Trinity. (Repeat)

Explain that “Trinity” is a collective noun too. Present these additional verses visually and eventually have them say the phrases with you. The children will more easily see the link if you make those connections with the text of the book in overt ways and subtle ways, such as in your voice tone and meter. Refer back to the 3 page in the book. Offer other examples of threesomes that are seen as one (a Neapolitan ice cream cone, 3-leaf clovers, a fleur-de-lis, etc.)

When talking about the Holy Trinity, be sure to get a sense of what the children know already. Build on that knowledge and be sure to reassure them. This concept is hard! If this picture book is too juvenile for your tweens and teens, go ahead and check it out because while reading it, you might be creatively inspired to design programs appropriate for those ages.

There are several aspects of this book that I especially love. It emphasizes the power of “one” which in turn emphasizes the power of unity. Also, this is a great book for practicing counting with young children. Engage them in some choral counting while you present the book.

You’ll find that I use phrases like “family of faith” or “religious family” a lot here at PBT. This is an important value for me and this book fits nicely with that idea. If you share this value, build on it in your lesson. 

One last benefit I’ll mention here is the way this book presents diverse families, diverse in structure, in color, and in culture. It is crucial that children’s books represent children’s realities so that the connections to self can be more easily made.
Picture Book: One Family
Author: George Shannon
Illustrator: Blanca Gomez
Original Publisher & Date: Frances Foster Books, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet