Part three is going to deal with an item that I actually thought about just before lecturing about the same topic – I ended up discussing the item during the lecture and got a positive response – it was not in the lecture notes, but I thought I would add it anyway because it’s a point of discussion:
The definition and explanation of an altar…
If you are in a community where there is a strong “liturgical” church presence, you will no doubt be faced with concern from adults – and even children who have learned of the sacredness of an “altar”. In some traditions, an altar is a physical place in the church building that cannot be accessed by just anyone – only the minister or priest. I had the opportunity to visit some of the oldest church buildings in the world in Armenia. In these buildings were “altars” that were falling apart, yet, no one was allowed to go near them or touch them… they were sacred. I would imagine there are those who fear the idea of an “altar” because they’ve been taught that it is too serious of a place.
I will not have a theological debate with anyone on the topic; I will tell you that I grew up in a catholic tradition and became born-again at age 10. When I learned that I could approach God on my own, it fascinated me! But the concern still lingered in my new church environment as to where the “altar” was on or near the platform… it didn’t exist. It was later that I was taught that when the time of prayer came, an “altar” was created by each individual at the front by kneeling at the steps.
Now, I understand that each and every church is different. And am no doubt a believer in the power of prayer. But, I have come to the conclusion that some teaching on the topic of an “altar” needs to take place on a regular basis. Kids need to have an understanding of what an “altar” was and still is. It was a place of worship, prayer and sacrifice. It still is, but because of the work of Christ on the cross, we can make any place we go, a place of worship, prayer and sacrifice. At times, I will have an “altar” time near the front of the Kids’ Church room where kids can stand or kneel. Other times, I will make them turn and kneel at their chairs. And still, at other times, I will have kids scatter throughout the room to pray or worship and find a place where they can connect with God. We see that even in ancient Jewish cultures, one would wrap his outer cloak around himself and cross his arms… this was known as his “prayer-closet” – location didn’t matter at times.
I think that last statement is really what I want to get across: To me, location of an altar time doesn’t matter – as long as they are connecting with God.