The Children's Worship Center at Westminster
The Worship Center is a mini-sanctuary for young children to be with God, to listen to God, to talk with God, and to hear the stories of God.
In the Worship Center, the children learn experientially, in the context of worship. Their time together follows the same four-fold order for reformed worship which the rest of the congregation follows in the main sanctuary: Preparation for Worship (Gathering), Proclaiming God's Word (The Word), Giving Thanks to God (Responding), and Going Out in God's Name (Sending).
The children learn to enter the Worship Center talking and walking quietly. It is similar to the way adults disengage from their hectic daily pace and enter the sanctuary expecting peace and reverence.
The Gathering, or Approach to God, is followed by a presentation of the Word. Stories are presented by a trained storyteller who uses wooden figures so the children can see as well as hear the story. Lee and Dick Coalson lovingly created over 600 wooden "little people" and buildings, so that three complete sets of Bible stories, which follow the lectionary cycle, can be shared with the children. Westminster is also grateful to Linda Russell, former Christian Education Director, for her vision and persistence in creating the Worship Center.
After the story has been presented, the children move into their time of Responding to God's story. They may choose to work with a variety of art materials or to retell the stories themselves using the wooden figures.
The children then gather in a closing circle. Here the Bible is read, prayers are offered, and a simple "feast" is shared. To conclude worship (the Sending), each child comes to the Storyteller for a parting blessing "God go with you. Go in peace."
In the Worship Center, there is an air of quiet and reverence, and a sense of order, space, and church year time. The stories come from Young Children and Worship by Sonja M. Stewart and Jerome W. Berryman, and the format is based on the Montessori model.
The goals of the Worship Center are that children learn to know God and to know that God loves them, that they be introduced to God's presence among us through worship, and that they learn to respond to God's presence in their own ways.
Young children ages 3 through second grade worship in the Children's Worship Center on Sunday mornings during the 9:30am worship service hour. They participate with their families in worship in the main sanctuary for the beginning of the service, then are invited to the Worship Center following the Pastor's Time with Children (at approximately 9:45am). The Worship Center is open year round.
Elizabeth Verdi, Children's Worship Center Storyteller
Elizabeth is a trained Worship Center storyteller, who began leading Westminster's Worship Center in November 2011. Elizabeth is a 2007 graduate of Keuka College, with a BA in Early Childhood Education and American Sign Language. She earned her Masters in 2009 from SUNY Oswego in Literacy (Birth-6th Grade). She is a classroom teacher in the Head Start Program at Cayuga-Seneca Community Action Agency and teaches American Sign Language at CCC. Elizabeth is a life-long member of Westminster Church. She and her husband David live in Auburn.