On our last day for this year in the Good Shepherd atrium, we had a goodbye ceremony for a few of our friends. Some are moving away from Durham. Others are moving down the hall to the True Vine atrium. Either way, as much as we celebrate that it is time for them to move on, I will miss spending time with them each week.

As anyone who works with children knows, it is awe-inspiring to witness the tremendous growth and change that take place in them over the course of a year.  To me (especially as a parent), it’s comforting to turn over the tremendous responsibility for that growth to God, which I find easiest to do in quiet moments. Lucky for me, these kinds of moments come frequently in the course of a year in the atrium. For example, we might hold our breaths, just a second, as we light a candle to begin our prayer time. Or, when we work in the practical life area, we listen for the sound of a sponge holding water (really! it crackles!). Reading a parable, we ask questions and wait in silence for a confident voice to hold up an answer. And we make small offerings for our prayer table –aromatic spices ground and collected on little dishes, diminutive vases arranged with just-picked flowers, a hand-sized model of the Good Shepherd himself, holding a sheep.

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New this year (thanks to Elizabeth!), we have a collection of beautiful items, mostly from nature, that the children can use to make their own ephemeral arrangements as offerings for the prayer table. The resulting collages vary greatly, depending on the child, the mood, the season. Here are a couple examples:

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For our goodbye ceremony, we invited our friends who are moving on to select a treasure from the tray to take with them. It is my fervent hope and prayer that they will also take with them a growing awareness of the love of God, and that, as much as they recognize that love in the bigger things (the natural world, creativity, beauty, the Eucharist, to name a few), they will continue to see it in the smaller things, too (goodnight kisses, quiet moments where nothing needs saying, belly laughter, working hard when something doesn’t come easy, and so much more).

It has been a tremendous pleasure to be with and learn from these children this year.  Thank you, parents, for bringing them to our atrium, and thanks be to God!