Into the wilderness - a sensory event for Lent
This event was inspired by Sensory Good Friday and Taste and See for Holy Week.
Our sensory Lent event took place in our local Community Room, as part of our Footsteps series of events.
We used screens to separate the different stations, which were set up around the edge of the room. Most of the crafts and activities took place on the central tables, with a few at the individual stations.
We had nine stations – this time we combined smell and taste as it was difficult to think of ways of approaching this separately.
1 Shrove Tuesday: Taste and smell
Setting:We offered pancakes with a variety of toppings including jam, golden syrup, lemon and sugar.
Words:In some countries, and in the past, people fasted during Lent.
They gave up luxury foods such as meat and cake. Instead they would eat bread, fish and vegetables. They thought that eating only plain food would help them to pray.
As they knew they were going to have a long time eating plain food, the day before Lent was a feast day. People made pancakes to use up the eggs. Some countries call this day "Mardi Gras" - "Fat Tuesday" and have a carnival.
Activity:You may like to add toppings to your pancake and eat it!
2 Jesus' baptism: Touch
Setting:We used the long plastic water tray (with water!) and put out baskets of stones, shells and little people. We placed a pottery bowl of water and a basket of shimmer stones on the table, which was covered with a shiny blue cloth.
Words:Lent is about Jesus's journey into the wilderness. His journey began with water.
Jesus travelled to the River Jordan where his cousin John was baptising people and he asked John to baptise him.
John pushed Jesus down into the cold, dark water of the river. When Jesus came back up into the light, some people thought they heard a voice saying "this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased".
Some people thought they saw a dove flying above his head.
Activity:You may like to add a shimmer stone to the bowl and think about how it felt to go down into the cold, dark water and come back up into the warm light.
You may like to play with the stones, shells and the water.
You may like to make a scratch art bracelet to symbolise the change from darkness to light.
3 Into the wilderness: Sound
Setting:We hung up the desert back cloth that had been painted by the children several years ago and put out a selection of musical instruments: tambourines, shakers, xylophone...
Words:After he had been baptised Jesus crossed the river and went into the desert. He needed time to be alone. He needed to pray and find out what God wanted him to do.
I wonder what it is like in the desert? I wonder what sounds you might hear if you were there?
Activity:You may like to use the instruments to create the sounds of the desert – the wind and the wild animals. You may like to use the recorder to record the sounds.
4 Bread and stones: Taste and smell
Setting:We covered the table with hessian and put out a tray of sand containing bread and stones. We also had a basket of bread for people to take a piece.
Words:After eating nothing for forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
"What should I choose?" thought Jesus. He thought and prayed and then he said: "People cannot live on bread alone." He turned away from the tempter...
Activity:You may like to eat a piece of bread and remember that Jesus chose to go hungry rather than listen to the voice of the tempter.
5 On top of the pinnacle: Sight
Setting:The pinnacle had originally been made out of cardboard and papier mache for a schools' event (Shed for Lent) five years earlier. Despite being stored in a garage it had lasted well.
Originally a large photograph taken from the top of Great St Mary's church in Cambridge had been placed beneath the struts. However it wasn't possible to track this down at the time so instead we placed plain paper under the struts and asked the children to draw what they might see from the pinnacle.
Words:It seemed to Jesus that he was in the holy city of Jerusalem, standing on the highest point of the temple, looking down on the tiny people below.
The tempter said to him: "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. God will send his angels to catch you."
Jesus thought about what it would be like to be caught by angels. He would be famous. Everyone would want to know him... But was this the right thing to do?
"What should I choose?" thought Jesus.
He thought and prayed and then he said, "You shall not test the Lord your God."
He turned away from the tempter...
Activity:I wonder what you would see from the top of the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem? You may like to draw in some of the things you might see in the gaps between the struts. You might like to stand on the struts and look down.
6 All the kingdoms of the world: Sight
Setting:We draped boxes with hessian to create a mountain and placed a small wooden figure on top.
Below we placed the map of the world that had been painted by the children at a previous event. Small crowns were placed on the map as a symbol of the kingdoms of the world.
Words:It seemed to Jesus that he was on a very high mountain, looking down at all the kingdoms of the world.
The tempter said, "If you will bow down and worship me, I will give you all the kingdoms of the world."
Jesus thought about what it would be like to have power over all the kingdoms of the world. Did it matter who he worshipped? What should he choose?
He thought and prayed and then he said: "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only." Jesus turned away from the tempter.
Activity:You might like to paint the desert either on paper or on the blue cloth.
You might like to paint one of the kingdoms of the world.
7 The desert: Touch
Setting:We put out the desert bag with the sand and a selection of wooden people and Biblical animals: camels, snakes, lions etc
Words:The tempter went away and Jesus was left alone in the desert with the wild animals. God sent angels to be with him.
After 40 days and 40 nights Jesus knew what work God wanted him to do. He left the desert and went back across the River Jordan.
Activity:You may like to play with the desert.
You may like to make a desert tile by sticking on coloured sand and things with different textures.
Setting:We screened off this area and made a simple focus table with Bible, candle, icon and cross. Books and a selection of pictures were added for people to look at and there was a basket of prayer leaves.
Words:In Lent, Christians try to spend time with God, thinking and praying.
Some people go to special places to be quiet and alone.
Some members of the Russian Orthodox church create Poustinia huts where they can go to be with God. Usually they contain just a chair, a bed, a Bible and a cross.
Activity:You may like to spend some time in silence, looking at the pictures or books.
You may like to write a prayer on a purple leaf.
You may like to build a little shelter using the art materials.
9 Ash Wednesday
Setting:I had made ashes by cutting up palm crosses and then baking them in the oven until brown. I then crushed them with a pestle and mortar. (This needed some experimentation! It is also important to use only palm crosses as many things that make ash can cause chemical burns). The ashes were placed in a small container.
Words:Lent starts today on Ash Wednesday. At times everyone, adults and children, say and do things that they know are wrong.
Lent is a time to be sorry, a time to think about change. To symbolise this Christians use ashes that have been blessed to make the mark of a cross.
These ashes have not been blessed, but you may like to use them to make a mark on your hand. You may like to think about being sorry...
The response activities were included in each station but most of them were set up centrally, as this was a better use of the space.
Painting the desert
We used a strip of blue sheet (left over from a charity shop buy) and offered different shades of yellow, orange and brown paint. It was set up so several children could paint alongside each other.
Textured tilesWe used small bark tiles with a variety of different textures to stick on - including sand, fake fur, hessian and bark chippings.
We provided cardboard bases (roughly square and cut up from cardobard boxes), lolly sticks, art straws, matchsticks, card, sellotape, masking tape, glue dots and glue.
How well did it work?
We felt that the children engaged really well with this event – every station was used (though not necessarily by every child).
The quiet area, which at other events is often not be used (or only by one or two people), was surprisingly busy and several children and adults wrote or drew prayers.
The pinnacle, walking round it and standing on the struts is always popular. The children drew a variety of things in the space including angels, flames and what looked like a miniature village.
The textured tiles are something that we would use again as this involved the children in thinking about things in a sensory way rather than just visual.
I had hoped that "paint the desert" would result in a backcloth that could be used for other events but this didn't happen – possibly because there wasn't enough structure on the cloth and also because I had included green paint (for cacti!) as well as reds and yellows.
The youngest children loved the water – not just the water tray but the bowl of water and the shimmer stones.
One toddler spent almost his entire time in there putting the shimmer stones in and out the bowl (this activity did need adult supervision.)
I am not sure how much the adults engaged, but the opportunities were there for them to do so.
You can download a PDF of the words: here