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Garlands of joy and gladness

Click here for a powerpoint which can be used in the worship

 

Gathering

Leader: We gather together in Jesus' Name

All: Help us to explore, discover and learn togethr

Engaging

One of the lovely things about life in Southern India is that special visitors to schools or churches, or even factories, are given a shawl or a garland as a sign of welcome and honour. These garlands might be made out of lots of flowers and the perfume from these floral garlands is beautiful. They might be made mainly of pink roses or white jasmine, or even some other flower you don't recognise. These floral garlands don't last very long. By the end of the day they are beginning to fall apart and the flowers in them are turning brown. You can see garland makers stringing flowers together at the local markets and street stalls. Sometimes the garland is made of strands of silk tied together with beads. This sort of garland is very light to wear. Garlands can also be made of strings of beads smelling of sandalwood, decorated with gold thread and sequins. These types of garlands can be readily bought in local shops.

Because garlands are given to every special guest who comes, many groups of people find ways to make garlands with the resources that they have at hand.

If you go to the Devalois CSI school at Kasam, in the countryside near Vellore, you will be given a garland made of plastic jasmine flowers, beads and wool. These garlands are made by gypsies at a nearby encampment. Gypsies have been seen as one of the outcast groups in Indian society. Many of the gypsy children go to the school. Often they will be the first generation of gypsy children to be educated. The school give free lunches to the children, to encourage the parents to send their children. The school also wants to encourage and help the parents, so they buy the garlands that the gypsies have made to give to all special guests to the school.

If you go to the north of the diocese of Vellore, you might visit the Palamaner Women's Industrial School. This school is run by the diocese of Vellore to help teenagers of whatever faith, who have failed and dropped out of school. If a family is poor, and they need some help with the work, or the younger children, the girls will be taken out of school to work or help. Many girls do not get a proper education, and cannot pass their exams. But just think what happens if they don't pass their exams - they cannot get proper jobs and cannot bring any more money into the family. In India, after a girl has married, she usually goes to live with her husband's family. Parents arrange the marriage partner for their children. So poor parents of daughters without a proper education often want to get their daughters married quickly. They don't always worry what sort of man they have found for their daughter.

Palamaner Women's Industrial School takes these girls and trains them in sewing and embroidery. It also teaches them how to take care of animals and crops, how to manage their money, even how to build! When the girls leave the school they are given a sewing machine so that they can continue to do sewing and embroidery in their villages and earn money. If the girls bring some money into the family, their parents are a bit more careful about who they marry! Many of the girls have done so well that they have become sewing teachers, or are working in business. Whilst at the school, the girls make many beautiful embroidered objects which they sell to make money for the school. They also make garlands out of loops of plastic thread, which they give to visitors.

Throughout the diocese of Vellore, there are many other institutions and schools which are helping to change people's lives. These places are bringing hope to people who had no hope, and turning tears of sadness into tears of joy. Anyone in need is taken in, whether they come from Christian families or not. Everyone who goes to these schools, colleges, homes, training centres and so on hears the message of Jesus Christ at assemblies and daily prayers and Bible studies but there is no compulsion for them to become Christians.

The prophet Isaiah wrote to people who were suffering:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.
to bind up the brokenhearted,
...to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. (Check it out: Isaiah 61: 1-3)

He promised them that God was going to bring them hope and happiness once again. The garlands that you are given when you visit these places prove that, even today, God brings hope and happiness into people's lives - giving them a garland of joy instead of the ashes of sadness, worry and fear.

Responding

Who are some of the people around us who are sad, or worried or afraid? Are there ways that we can help them, and change things?

Prayer

There is an embroidered copy of St. Francis' prayer, made by the girls at Palamaneer on the powerpoint. Why not say it together now.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 
to be understood as to understand; 
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life

Sending

Leader: Go in peace to discover God's world and your place in it.

All: We go in Jesus' name


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