Children’s Sermons

Russell Saltzman has an article up over at First Things where he examines the dreaded dreadful children’s sermon, pharm and how most of them are merely moralistic exhortations.

But object lessons are easy, view too easy. They are almost always “law, site ” an important distinction from “gospel” for a Lutheran guy like me. They end with exhortations to be better, do better, practice hard and study well and keep their rooms clean, and get along with other people. Take this one from a real children’s sermon: “And I want you to remember not to fight with one another, not to be ugly, and to do as God asks.” Tell you what. Tell the adults first. Maybe if they get the hang of it, it’ll have a better chance of filtering down.

So how does a pastor do a children’s sermon well? My favourite piece of advice from the article:

If a pastor isn’t good talking with kids, and some aren’t, don’t talk. Show them things in the church instead. These are the only objects fit for use. I invite children to come and watch every baptism and I’ll pick a kid to be my book stand. I explain what baptism is, what is happening and why, and show them how to make the sign of the cross so they can remember their baptism every morning and evening like Martin Luther said to do in his catechism.

Read the whole thing here.

Canadian Pantomimes

One of my favourite memories from childhood is watching theatrical pantomimes on television. In the 80’s, store there were two Canadian pantomimes (fractured fairy-tales) that were filmed for tv: The Cinderella Gang, and and The Magic of Aladdin. Both were headlined by Karen Kain and Ross Petty and starred some amazing Canadian talent (including, Jeff Hyslop from Today’s Special; Denis Simpson from Polka Dot Door; Bruno Gerussi from the Beachcombers).

In the 90’s, Ross Petty resurrected the pantomimes and mounts one every year at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. I was privileged to attend Robin Hood, which was later filmed for tv.

I love The Cinderella Gang because it is the only panto where Ross Petty plays the “good” guy. In all subsequent theatrical pantos, Ross Petty plays the villain. He does a fabulous job as a villain, and relishes the “boos” from the audience, but I really like him as the good guy.

The Magic of Aladdin has an amazing energy, due in large part to the talents of Jeff Hyslop.

And Robin Hood is fantastic because it pairs Karen Kain and Frank Augustyn (both ballet dancers), and it has some of the best music of all the pantos.

I had all three of these taped off tv onto VHS, and for the past several years, my husband and I have scoured all avenues, trying to get DVD copies of these performances. We emailed Bravo and CTV. No luck. We even emailed Ross Petty Productions and there is no DVD release expected of these fabulous Canadian gems.

So our family Christmas present this year was to have all three videos converted to DVD. And I have to say, the quality is much higher than I expected. I thought that there would be a loss in the conversion, but there isn’t.

If there are any die-hard fans out there who are desperately searching for these gems, email me (cdntheologianscholar {{at}} mac {{dot}} com) and we can talk about “sharing” these DVDs.