By Jessica Griggs for Mennonite Church USA
ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Church USA) — The Faith Formation ministry of Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) has released a new interactive, devotional card deck for families, called “Pause: Play, Breathe, Pray.” This resource was developed as a passion project by a Faith Formation cohort made up of six Mennonite pastors and lay leaders and led by Shana Peachey Boshart, the denominational minister for Faith Formation.
The deck consists of 40 reflection cards, with instructions and tips for use. The cards contain prompts for the individual or family to use to reflect on their feelings and attitudes, as well as Scripture. Many of the cards include physical or creative activities — like taking a walk or drawing a picture — and some even encourage the use of the Voices Together hymnal.
The possibilities for using the cards are bound only by the users’ imagination, but to help families get started, the creators have offered the following ideas:
- During a meal as an “instant” devotional.
- As a conversation opener in a large committee or retreat setting.
- In a hospital or retirement setting, as a way to “bring God’s presence into spaces of isolation.”
- To help families, both children and adults, communicate their feelings.
- As part of a daily routine, at a specified time of the day.
- To facilitate conversation across differences in faith.
- As a means to allow families to reset when stressed or emotional.
- Whenever someone in the family needs a little more mindfulness in their life.
- As a way to take a step back from a tense argument.
The following is an example of the text from one card:
“Take a walk outside and notice everything in the natural world: plants, animals, birds, sky. Maybe you just want to sit outside or lie on the ground and look at whatever nature is there. If the weather is cold or rainy, you could sit by a window to watch and listen. What sounds do you hear? What smells do you notice? What do you see now that you are resting?
“Read Psalm 23:2-3a.”
On the other side of each card is an original image, created by one of two artistic cohort members: Maren Hange, who provided the colorful nature watercolors, or Michelle Burkholder, who primarily contributed the black-and-white papercutting designs.
The cohort that developed the cards was:
- Alison Casella Brookins, pastor of Chicago Community Mennonite Church;
- Michelle Burkholder, associate pastor of Hyattsville Mennonite Church;
- Maren Hange, co-pastor of Charlottesville Mennonite Church;
- Sarah Neher, director of Faith Formation at Rainbow Mennonite Church;
- Katie Misz, pastor of family life ministry at Waterford Mennonite Church;
- Rachel Taylor, children and youth pastor at Raleigh Mennonite Church;
The cohort was led by Peachey Boshart, They were able to create the first run of “Pause: Play, Breathe, Pray” card deck, thanks to a grant from the Schowalter Foundation.
The creators have already witnessed the power behind these cards. Alison Casella Brookins shared the cards with a parent, who became very excited, as the cards have become a way for her son, who experiences anxiety, to practice more mindfulness in his life.
Maren Hange shared her own powerful experience with the cards; she said, “I used the cards with two friends at the beginning of a retreat day for a sharing time. We used the prompt, ‘Pick 3 cards you are drawn to and tell us why.’ It shaped the sharing; one card helped me discern what I was wrestling with, and another card was an image of what I yearned for.”
In May 2020, Peachey Boshart began to offer Faith Formation coaching cohorts to help youth and children’s ministry workers grapple with the difficulties of caring for youth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Peachey Boshart said these cohorts were very popular; during 2020, she led seven cohorts, each made up of six people. As the five-week cohorts ended, it became clear that one cohort wished to continue meeting to create a resource to help families reset and connect with each other and God during difficult times.
“This cohort wanted to create a resource to equip parents, many of whom had unexpectedly found themselves home with their children 24/7 during the pandemic, with a tool that somehow addressed the stress and responsibility that they were under, while also offering faith formation for both the parents and the children together,” said Peachey Boshart. She went on to say, “We intend for the deck to be useable by people of all ages. Of course, some cards are written with children in mind, but we think that most cards can appeal to anyone.”
To purchase a copy of the “Pause: Play, Breathe, Pray” card deck, visit the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) bookstore, either online or in person. An additional donation of $10 can be made here to cover the cost of production, so more cards can be made available once the first printing has sold out.
Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, approximately 530 congregations and 62,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 58 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana, and Newton, Kansas. mennoniteUSA.org