Every year, we (church staff) plan a "give away" for Lent. We want folks to have something tangible - something to help each person focus on Christ and their relationship with him. Two years ago, we made these great prayer beads. You can read all about it here if you are interested. Last year, we gave each family a votive candle (purple, of course!!) to use with their Lenten bookmark. The candles were just "so so" - we had lots of left overs!!
So this year, we wanted to have something that folks would find meaningful. We have a tiny budget for this project and to purchase something already made . . . .well, you have to get something pretty inexpensive. Eleanor, another staff member, and I were perusing catalogs and pinterest looking for ideas. I loved the idea of a wooden comfort cross . . .but they were about $15 -- EACH. We searched for directions and found some on a blog - for the life of me, I can't find that blog. It was written by a mom! We took those directions and tweaked them and came up with a plan. I ordered pounds and pounds of clay - we used Sculpey clay that has to be baked. The cheapest clays were white and terra cotta because we could buy it in 25 pound boxes. Using those two colors of clay made our average cost just under 50 cents per cross!! SCORE! I found 2 ounce blocks of colored clay at several stores (Michael's, Hobby Lobby, etc.). The cheapest place was . . . are you ready? Do you want to guess????? The cheapest place to purchase the 2 ounces blocks of colored clay . . . .WALMART! Not all Walmart stores carried the clay but the one that was closest to my house did! Yay!
One Thursday, I sent out an email to all of the females in our Sunday School class. I said that I would provide a snack supper and wine if folks would come and help make kits. Kits were simply two ounces of clay sealed into a baggie. About 7 of us gathered that night and I got to know some folks a little better! Small groups are a good way to chat - - especially if everyone is working together!! Have you ever noticed how that works? Amazing!
We then staged the boxes of baggies of clay in my office and folks volunteered to help make and bake the crosses. Some were better than others! All were beautiful. Just like God's children. Some of you are prettier on the outside . . .some are prettier on the inside . . .and we are all beautiful! Our United Methodist Women made some. Wonderful individuals made some. We worked together!
I made a lot of the crosses with colors. It was easier to give directions for the terra cotta or the terra cotta and white crosses. I also just LOVE a good project! Mark said he was going to be so happy when this project was over . . .and I frowned!
Everyone on our staff has participated in the Strengths Finder (it is great! Take the test!!) One of my strengths is activator (I also have positivity and Woo - are you surprised -- at the moment, I can't think of my other two strengths!! . . .maybe communicator . ..hmmmmm)
The point is that as an activator, I can COME UP with an idea! I need a maximizer on my team! It just so happens that Brian (my new boss!) is a maximizer. Just as an aside comment, he said that it sure would be nice if we had some sort of little bag to make handing out the crosses easier at the Ash Wednesday service. Thank you for that idea, Rev. Maximizer!! I went online to trust Amazon.com and ordered one million (almost!) clear plastic bags. We filled huge baskets with the bags filled with a cross and a bookmark.
This was a great project for many hands . . .and these crosses were made with the love of Christ . . they were prayed over by many people . . .and now they are in the hands of church members and friends and family members of church members.
The crosses were gently squeezed before baking so that they "fit" into a person's hand. Hold on tight to God's word . . .hold on tight!
Want directions? Measure two ounces of clay (all one color or a mixture of colors). Work the clay with your hands until it becomes smooth and pliable (just fyi - if you make a lot of crosses, odds are your hand will hurt at some point). (p.s. - clay stains your hands but baby wipes will remove stains!!)
Roll the clay into a smooth ball. Roll the clay into a snake - 6 - 8 inches. Using a knife, cut off one third of the snake. Cut that 1/3 into two pieces. Put one piece on either side of the cross (about 1/3 of the way down the cross). Gently adhere . . and smush (is that a word?) - you need to make sure that the arms of the cross are attached but you want it to look smooth and finished. Lay the cross in your hand and gently squeeze. You want some finger indentions!! While the cross is in your hand, gently shape the ends so that everything part looks finished! Bake in a 275 (preheated) oven in a glass dish for 18 minutes. Allow to cool completely (I mean completely - don't get excited and try to pick it up!!!) and remove from pan. If you need better directions, send me a message. I can even send some pictures of the process.