A Safe Place and a Light: A Liturgy for Children and Adults

From The Pattern of Our Days: Worship in the Celtic Tradition from the Iona Community by Kathy Galloway

I think most of you know by now that I love the Iona Community/Wild Good Resources liturgies and resources. They have a beautiful way with words and evoking emotion and praise all at once. I came across this liturgy in a book I had on my shelf and thought it fit our situation perfectly. When people are at home, where they may feel the safest but also uncomfortable being for so long, a reminder that God is with us in the midst of whatever emotions we are feeling is necessary as often as we can do it.

This liturgy is meant for adults and children, and I’ve reshaped it to be doable around the supper table rather than in a sanctuary. I don’t think it has to be done with adults and children, it can be done with two people read responsively, it can be done as one person reading it all to yourself. However, there’s something about children reading the story of Zacchaeus and lighting candles to pray for people of Africa that brings joy to my heart.

If you want to prepare yourself for this liturgy, I recommend placing at least 5 candles on your table, more if you’d like to add specific prayers. I recommend thinking of two favorite songs of your family – preferably ones you don’t need the words for, that you feel comfortable singing around the table. And I recommend picking one person to be the “leader” and that person can tell others what lines to read. If you have non readers in your midst, tell them the short lines to say and they can repeat them!

Opening Responses

Leader: When we are happy, when we are full of fun and laughter.

All: God Welcomes Us

Leader: When we are angry, when people let us down and make us sad. 

All: God welcomes us

Leader: When we are tired, when we need to stop and curl up and rest,

All: God welcomes us.

Leader: God of welcome, God whose door is always open,

All: We are glad to meet you here.

Sing a favorite song 

The Word of God 

Leader: Listen to God’s Word. First we hear some words from the book of Zechariah that tells us about the sort of place God wants our world to be. Then we’ll listen to a child’s retelling of the story of Zacchaeus. 

Reader 1: God gave this message to Zechariah I have longed to help Jerusalem because of my deep love for her people. I will return to Jerusalem and live there It will be known as the faithful city. Once again old men and women A safe place and a light: a liturgy for children and adults 1 so old that they use a stick when they walk will be sitting in the city squares. The streets will be full again of boys and girls playing … people will sow their crops in peace the vines will bear grapes the earth will produce food there will be plenty of rain … These are the things you must do speak the truth to one another in the courts give real justice the kind that brings peace do not plan ways to hurt each other do not tell lies about each other. Have courage do not be afraid. Love truth and love peace. 

Reader 2: One day there was a man called Zacchaeus. He was working with his pen and paper. Zacchaeus said to the people, ‘Pay twelve coins.’ He gave the Romans ten coins and he kept two coins for himself and put it in his pocket. So he was rich. He had a beautiful house. One day Jesus came and Zacchaeus wanted to see him, but he had one problem – he was little, so he could not see over the people’s heads. He saw a tree and climbed up it. Jesus saw him and said, ‘What are you doing up there?’ Everyone was laughing. Jesus said, ‘Get down here Zacchaeus,’ so he got down. Jesus said, ‘I am coming up to yours for tea.’ Zacchaeus was nervous – he got all his servants to tidy up – they got out all the best knives and forks and spoons and it all looked beautiful. Jesus and Zacchaeus sat at the table and were talking. They drank all the wine and ate the food. Zacchaeus said, ‘I am sorry about all of the things I have took off the poor people. I will give them  their money back.’ Jesus said, ‘That’s what I want to hear – you have got everything – sort it out.’ Then they finished their tea. 

Praying for ourselves 

Voice 1: Let us pray: God, we live in a world that needs to change we are part of the world we do things that hurt each other things that are wrong. There are things that we need to sort out. Silence to think about these things 


Voice 2: Let us listen to God’s words words for those who want to change. In Jesus, God says to us: ‘I know you are sorry I forgive you I love you Don’t be afraid’ 


Sharing our stories 

Leader: For all of us it is important to know that we are loved, that people care for us and stand up for us. We need food to eat and safe places to sleep and work and play. For all of us, it is good to have places where we feel comfortable and safe, people we enjoy being with, and friends and family who love us.

Share around the room about the places where you feel safe and the people you enjoy being with, and if you’ve time, try and work out what makes those places feel safe and good. 

Praying for others

(if you’d like to place some candles (5 or more) on your table to light as each thing is lifted up, this could help you lift it up)

Leader: We are going to pray now for people around the world, who, like us, need to know that God loves them. We light candles as we pray, as a sign that God brings light and love into the world. After we have lit the first five larger candles, light a candle for anyone you know, or have heard about, who needs to know that God loves them. 

Voice 1: We pray for the people of Africa 

Add words for specific situation.

Voice 2: We pray for the people of the Americas

Voice 3: We pray for the people of Asia 

Voice 4: We pray for the people of the Pacific 

Voice 5: We pray for the people of Europe

Leader: Into the dark places of our world Where people are frightened and hungry 


Leader: Into places where people are fighting Into places where people have no homes 


Leader: Into the places where we feel unsafe Into situations that hurt us and scare us 


Leader: We ask our prayers in Jesus’ name and in the Holy Spirit’s power 


Sing another Favorite Song! 

Closing responses  

Read alternately by each half of the congregation, e.g. children/adults, lefthand side/right-hand side. 

A: God keep us safe in danger 

B: Give us courage and keep us loving 

A: God help us to speak the truth 

B: To stand by those who need our help 

A: God give us friends who love us 

B: Places and people that help us grow 

A: God send us on our way rejoicing 

B: And welcome us safely home


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