May 14 2020

5 tips for “church at home” with kids

This is an article written by my wonderful wife, Catherine Camilleri.
Originally posted on the Bundoora Presbyterian Church website.


5 tips for “church at home” with kids

There have been so many changes over the past few weeks that it is hard to keep up! The learning curve for adults and kids alike has been huge, as we have adjusted all aspects of life to a new corona environment. Our family has had fun working out how to ‘do church’ at home and I thought I’d share a few of the things we’ve been doing in case they help your family also. So here are 5 tips for making the most of live streaming church with your kids.

1) Be Prepared

One of the key things we have tried to do each weekend is ‘set up’ for church. On Saturday night (or usually Sunday morning) we pack away the toys, place out bibles, set up a table of activities and have nametags ready for when the congregation of three ‘arrive’ at church. A set up space makes the room feel different to the rest of the week and communicates that we are doing something special. In the morning we prepare kids snacks for the service, we get the livestream ready and make sure we have had breakfast (and caffeine for the adults!). The basic goal is that when church begins you can all participate without having to come and go. 

2) Involve the Kids

We have found that the more we involve our daughter with this preparation, the more she is engaged with the service. Helping to set up the room, making nametags and choosing musical instruments tell her that this is something we are doing as a family together. For young children especially ‘imaginative play’ can help them get excited about church and give a sense of ‘normality’ to these strange times.  Some families ‘walk to church’ by walking around the block before the service begins, others do ‘welcoming’ and we often do ‘drop off’ for Little Sunday School complete with pick-up tags! 

3) Explain the Service

Livestreaming has provided us a new and rich opportunity to engage our kids in the Sunday Service. When else can you have a conversation with your kids during the service about what the word repentance means? We have used a variety of things to help engage our daughter during the service. From having a kid’s bible open with the same passage, to acting out the bible story as it’s being read or having home-made musical instruments ready for the singing. God’s Word reminds us that he wants us to explain our religious practices to our children so let’s make the most of this unique opportunity!

And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.

Exodus 12:26-27 NIV

4) Modelling Worship

“Church at home” gives us a great opportunity to model to our children our worship of God. More important than any creative tool you could use is the model we set as they watch us each Sunday. Making time and space in our home for church shows our kids how important God is in our lives. Our attention and participation in the service models how we listen to God in his word, talk to him in prayer and praise him in song. Never underestimate how significant a witness you are to your children simply to listening and responding to God. So make the livestream time on Sundays a priority and be aware of your own distractions. This may mean leaving your phone elsewhere if it is not needed!

As government restrictions are lifted we may also have the opportunity to model hospitality to our kids as we welcome other believers into our home to worship with us on Sundays. (A great opportunity to also model sacrificial love by cleaning and disinfecting in preparation!)

5) God’s Word for Everyone

The most challenging part of the livestream service is what to do during the sermon. We want our kids to engage with God’s Word but we need to hear it for ourselves also. For us, we send our daughter to “Little Sunday School” with activities she can do by herself and morning tea to eat. As a back-up we have our iPad with headphones ready so she can watch a kids’ talk whilst we listen to the sermon. For older kids, this could be a great opportunity to teach them how to listen to sermons. You could print off the sermon outline or transcript or give them a special notebook for their own notes or drawings as they listen. You could even think of one or two questions to ask them at the end.

I recognise that a lot of this is made easier for us having only one child, so if it is not possible to hear the sermon during this time either alternate which parent is ‘on duty’ or plan another time when children are sleeping to sit down and watch the sermon together. Whatever you decide, make it a priority to be able to hear from God’s Word for yourself. Remember, God’s Word is powerful so there is much for your children to learn even by hearing his word preached in the background whilst building a Lego tower.

Have grace for yourself and your kids

Even before coronavius, some Sundays are just difficult! Grumpiness abounds, kids are crazy, adults exhausted, the house is a mess and the list goes on. Your Heavenly Father loves to hear from you and provide for your needs so ASK for his help each Sunday. God has shown grace to us, so have an abundance of grace and patience for your kids and yourselves in this season. God doesn’t expect us to do things perfectly. In fact, our weakness exists so that we would trust his sufficient grace! (2 Cor 12:9-10

So pray, prepare and try new things until you find what works for your family.  We have been doing this for a number of weeks now and each Sunday we have seen more and more fruit from our efforts. Our daughter is participating in the singinging and children’s talks, we are able to hear more of the sermon and there are less meltdowns on Zoom after the service.

There has been lots of prayer, conversation and experimentation to get us to this point. But it is worth it to make the most of this and every opportunity to teach our daughter how amazing our God is and that he is worthy of all our praise and worship, both on Sunday and forevermore.

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May 9 2020

Reading Ephesians in one sitting

This coming Sunday, my church will be starting a sermon series on the book of Ephesians. One of the things I love to do (and I think is important to do) before starting to work through a book of the bible, is to read it all the way through from start to finish.

At my church over the years, I have hosted “epic readings” of large books like Romans, Ecclesiastes, Revelation and the Gospel of Luke. And every time I begin to study a new book in a bible study group, the first session is dedicated to reading through the book (if that is practical to do so).

Doing this has always been so rewarding and helpful. Like looking at a map before starting a road trip, it helps give you the big picture of a biblical text before you get stuck into it verse by verse.

It also helps you see thematic threads and the flow of the argument, which means when you come up to a confusing or challenging part of the text, you can use your general knowledge of the entire book to put it in perspective and hopefully interpret it more accurately.

Finally, it helps you “hear” the voice of the author of the text. Remember, the original author probably never contemplated that 2,000 years later we would be dissecting their letter like a frog, analysing every single word individually and writing theses on the meaning of the word “head”. What they did expect though, is that their audience would read the book out loud, all the way through, in one sitting. As Paul instructed in his letter to the Christians in Colossi…

After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

Colossians 4:16

Think of it like a movie that you might buy from JB HiFi (not that anyone really does that any more!). A DVD is often broken up into chapters, but imagine how silly it would be to watch one chapter and then stop the movie, with the intention of just watching one more chapter a week later! Even if you were a cinema studies student who was keen to study each scene and analyse each camera shot, you would still naturally start by watching the whole movie, from start to finish.

So, before you study a book of the bible, either through a church sermon series, a bible study group or in your own personal devotions, try reading through the entire book in one sitting. Even better, read it out loud with a few friends. A small book like Ephesians takes less than half an hour. A big book like Luke’s gospel might take a bit over 2 hours. But really, if we’re willing to watch a film that goes for nearly 3 hours, surely we can rise to the challenge of giving God’s Word the same effort.

I guarantee, if you do, the text will open up insights to you and you will hear both the voice of the text’s author and the God that inspired them, like never before.

If you have a spare 25 minutes, feel free to listen to my reading of the book of Ephesians, and stay tuned for more info about an epic reading of The Book of Job that I am currently working on.

Extra Resorces:

Read the book yourself at: BibleGateway.com

The sermon series on Ephesians from my church, Bundoora Presbyterian can be found (from Sunday 10th May 2020) here: https://bpc.org.au/audio/

The Bible Project have made a helpful video giving an overview of Ephesians:

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April 30 2020

Simon doing Shakespeare

I love Shakespeare. I love the mix of poetry, humour, philosophy, old english language and universal human emotion.

For my 30th birthday I hosted a Shakespeare-themed costume party, where I insisted on no speeches. Instead, I asked my friends to perform scenes from my favourite Shakespearian plays (you can see one of my performances at that event down below).

Over the years I have had the wonderful opportunity of studying Shakespeare, performing Shakespeare, directing Shakespeare and even training others in Shakespeare.

Back in 2003, I even started a theatre company called The Backyard Bard with the original idea of performing Shakespeare in people’s backyards, and the very first show under The Backyard Bard was a production of Othello that I edited, directed and performed in (you can watch in in full below).


Simon’s Shakespearean Performances

The Opening Speech of Richard III (Act 1, Scene 1)
Bottom’s Speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act 4, Scene 1)
Egeus’ Speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act 1, Scene 1)
St Crispin’s Day Speech from Henry V (Act 4, Scene 3)

Shakespearean Productions I have performed in over the years:

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Macbeth
  • Hamlet
  • Othello
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2018)

Othello – directed by Simon Camilleri

Othello – Part 1 of 2
Othello – Part 2 of 2

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April 25 2020

Where’s Wally? – a poem

WHERE’S WALLY?

Amidst the crowd there is a man
Unique among the rest
To seek and find his funny face
Was always quite a test

You might search among the palm trees
In their leaves he might be hidden
Or behind a stack of papers
Of the poems he has written 

Take a peek around the guitars
You can listen for his sound
For behind a tune and heartfelt words 
He often can be found 

You could look among the larrikins 
He’s the best amongst those blokes
With his lightning wit and cheeky grin 
And even cheekier jokes

Though if you a see a glorious sunrise
You won’t his find his face within
Cos he’ll be behind the camera 
Capturing that which captures him

And you might not find him there at all
If he received an invitation
He would show he cared by being there
For a special occasion

But now my eyes are scanning 
For his face amongst the crowd
Past palms and poems and old guitars
He now can not be found 

Where’s Wally? He is missing 
So I’ll take one final look
And entrust him to the Author
Of this sadly now-closed book



By Simon Camilleri

Dedicated to my favourite uncle, Wally Donovan
Who died unexpectantly on Saturday 25th April 2020

Download a copy of this poem here.

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April 15 2020

566 – a short story


566.

She sees the numbers from a distance. Squinting eyes widen with hope like the father spotting his prodigal son. She doubts herself for a moment and quickly digs into the heavy grey purse on her lap, pushing past the rattle of medications and an unnecessary pile of tissues. She pulls out a faded bus timetable and the scratched plastic reading glasses that she had bought at her local chemist back in 2011. Only $6. Why waste money at a fancy Optometrist when you can buy everything you need at the chemist for $6? She nodded to herself in agreement as she put them on and held up the paper close to her nose to try to catch the tiny writing between the scratches on the lenses. 

Bus 566 – Lalor. She smiled. That’s the one.

She looked back up to the road as the 566 approached, rolling towards her like a lumbering dog running to its master. She started to wave at the bus as if it would smile and raise one of its wheels to wave back. Groan. Her joy was interrupted by the ache of a stubborn hip. One hour was a long time to wait and the steel frame of the bus stop bench showed no mercy. But it was either one hour here or another hour at home. Her empty house had been a cold museum for the last few months. The walls lined with framed memories of family gatherings teasing her in her isolation. With her Type 2 Diabetes and history of lung cancer she was deemed high risk. Immuno-something-or-other her doctor said. So the anticipation of physical touch now that the restrictions had finally been lifted were worth every ache and pain.

Her hands, worn and crumpled as the old paper timetable she clutched, now tightened their grip as the 566 reached her stop with a hiss. The sound reminded her of the steam trains of her childhood growing up in Ireland. She would wait at the station with her mother for her father to arrive back from his long business trips in the city. When she spotted him step on to the platform she would squeal with delight and run into his open arms. His embrace was warm and safe and full of love. She longed again for that embrace. She could no longer run, but now she lifted her shaky frame off her seat with the kind assistance of her trusty walker. The doors of the 566 opened with a mechanical clunk and one person hopped off with a backpack and a beaming smile.

“Grandma!”


This was my contribution to a creative challenge set by a Writer’s Group I am part of. We had to write around three paragraphs based on the prompt “A woman at a bus stop”. Our challenge was to write it using interesting and creative words or phrases.

It was wonderful to write and then go back over a sentence and think “How else could I describe this?”

It was also wonderful to try to express some of the longing and loss that many feel during this pandemic season, especially the elderly and the isolated.

We are all longing to be able to embrace our loved ones again.

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April 13 2020

Sharing in the Joy of Easter

This is the Kid’s Talk that I put together for my church’s Easter Service.

It was maybe the second time I had done a kid’s talk for church (the last time being around 15 years ago), and it was definitely the first time I had done one on video.

It was a lot of work to put together, but I had the support and help of my wife Cat (who provided the voice of Mary) and my 4 year old daughter Dot (who voiced the angels).

This year is a particularly difficult time for kids as they have lost so much due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic. It is easy for Easter to be lost in the chaos and confusion of this time. So I wanted to acknowledge that and point the kids (and the adults watching) to the joy of the resurrection that we not only read about, but are invited to share in.

If you want to share this video on Facebook, you can do so by clicking here: SHARE

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April 1 2020

Making a Coin Disappear – TUTORIAL

My 7 Steps:

1. Show

2. Drop

3. Grab

4. Misdirect

5. Convince

6. Ditch

7. Reveal

Please leave a comment below and if you have a YouTube link showing you doing this trick using my method, please put it in the comments or email me at: hello@simoncamilleri.com

To see more of Simon’s magic and to keep an eye out for more online magic lessons, go to: https://www.facebook.com/simonsaysmagic

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March 5 2020

6 People Buying Toilet Paper

PERSON 1 – Reads some article somewhere that toilet paper might run out if Coronavirus hits our shores.

PERSON 2 – Thinks person 1 is silly for believing that article but sees them buying all the toilet paper and doesn’t want to be left with none, so buys a bunch as well.

PERSON 3 – Hasn’t read any article but sees persons 1 & 2 buying toilet paper and concludes there must be a national shortage and so buys whatever toilet paper they can.

PERSON 4 – Just ran out of toilet paper at home and just wants to find a couple of rolls. Takes a photo of empty supermarket shelves and posts it to social media expressing how silly it is that people are freaking out.

PERSON 5 – Sees multiple photos of empty supermarket shelves on social media and completely freaks out. They go on Ebay and pay $100 for a roll of toilet paper thinking it might be the last there is.

PERSON 6 – Bought a bunch of toilet paper early and is selling it on Ebay. They wrote the article and sent it to person 1.

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October 1 2019

Why a Pro-choicer might March for the Babies

march babies

On Saturday 12th October, several thousand people of all walks of life will attend a peaceful protest in the city of Melbourne called “March for the Babies”. At the same time, a counter protest will also take place in the city. At one march will be mostly people who identify themselves as “pro-life” and at the other march will be mostly people who identify as “pro-choice”.

I say “mostly” because many people don’t like the rigidity of such terms. On the complex and sensitive issue of abortion, people often have mixed emotions, views, beliefs and opinions. Sometimes a label like “pro-life” or “pro-choice” doesn’t accurately describe someone’s position on abortion.

To clarify, let me try to summarise the two positions as generously and unbiasedly as I can:

  • prolifevsprochoiceThe pro-life position focusses on the life of the unborn child arguing for its right to be protected from abortion.
  • The pro-choice position focusses on the choice of the pregnant woman, arguing for her right to have an abortion if she wants to.

When two protests like this take place, it is easy to suggest that these two positions are absolute and that there is no overlap. The sides are polarising and people feel pressured to choose which side you wholeheartedly support. I do not think this needs to be the case. Although, I personally am pro-life, I also acknowledge that there are many positions that a person may hold and I would hate for someone to feel excluded from attending the March for the Babies, simply because they felt they were not sure they were a 100% pro-lifer.

I would even suggest that a pro-choicer might feel free to join the March for the Babies. In fact, I think there are good reasons to do so.

5 REASONS WHY A PRO-CHOICER MIGHT JOIN THE “MARCH FOR THE BABIES”

1. The march is not about taking away women’s rights.

The march began back in 2009, one year after certain abortion laws were passed in Victoria. As it says of the March for the Babies website: “On October 10, 2008, the Victorian Parliament passed the Abortion Law Reform Act, one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world. This law eliminated all legal protection for Victorian children until the moment of birth.” The goal of the march is to draw attention to these laws with a hope that they will one day be repealed. Sure, many people present at the march will have strong views about all abortion. Sure, you may disagree with people you would be marching alongside. But you would agree on one point though – that the laws in Victoria are too extreme and should be changed.

2. The Victorian laws as they presently stand allow for abortion all the way up to birth.

late-term-double-image-fetusMany people are unsure about when a human being should be granted the right to life. At the point of conception, the human doesn’t appear to have many of the qualities of what we would call a “person”, but few people can see a late term baby in the womb with all the features of a newborn, knowing that they can feel physical pain during abortion, and that they could survive outside of the womb, and still think that they do not deserve some protection. Even if you are fine with first term abortion, march for the sake of those late term babies.

3. Doctors and nurses are forced to be complicit in the process of abortion.

Often the argument is put forward, “If you think that abortion is wrong, then don’t have one.” Well, Victorian doctors and nurses do not have that freedom. Even if they believes that abortion is a form of murder, or even if the child is in its final term, then by law the doctor or nurse must either perform the abortion themselves or refer the patient to someone who will. If you are pro-choice you may also believe in a medical practitioner’s right to choose. If you think that doctors and nurses should be allowed to conscientiously object to being complicit in an abortion, then join us in marching for this law to be changed.

4. Our current laws allow for partial-birth abortion.

Partial-birth abortion, also known as Intact dilation and extraction (IDX) is a very controversial form of abortion that is banned in many places around the world. It involves killing the child on the very verge of being born, when its entire body is out of the womb except for its head. This is the sworn testimony of nurse, Brenda Shafer, who describes what happens during the procedure:

partialBirth“I stood at the doctor’s side and watched him perform a partial-birth abortion on a woman who was six months pregnant. The baby’s heartbeat was clearly visible on the ultrasound screen. The doctor delivered the baby’s body and arms, everything but his little head. The baby’s body was moving. His little fingers were clasping together. He was kicking his feet. The doctor took a pair of scissors and inserted them into the back of the baby’s head, and the baby’s arms jerked out in a flinch, a startled reaction, like a baby does when he thinks that he might fall. Then the doctor opened the scissors up. Then he stuck the high-powered suction tube into the hole and sucked the baby’s brains out. Now the baby was completely limp. I never went back to the clinic. But I am still haunted by the face of that little boy. It was the most perfect, angelic face I have ever seen.”   

Partial-birth abortion is as close to infanticide as you can get. It is killing a baby when it is almost completely out of the womb and justifying it by the fact that the babies head is not outside as well. And it is legal in Victoria.

Whether you call yourself pro-life or pro-choice, if that law turns your stomach, then join us on Saturday.

5. If an abortion fails, the living baby is left to die.

This may sound extreme, but it is actually true. Consider the scenario… During a late term abortion, the baby is removed but they abortionist failed in their attempt to terminate the child. Now they have on their hands a living, breathing, BORN child. What must they do? Well, in Victoria the child still has no right to life, and these unwanted babies are left to die without food or medical support.

Every year in Victoria, more than 50 babies die shortly after failed abortions. In 2010, Peter Kavanagh MLC (DLP, Western Victoria) raised a motion that these deaths should be investigated. The motion was voted down. They didn’t even want to investigate it. In a media release, Peter Kavanagh said: “My suspicion that abortionists assume the right to kill any baby after birth, whom they try but fail to kill before birth, is now confirmed, however, with the revelation that survivors of abortion are being deliberately neglected to death. One nurse even reports that she was told to drop a surviving victim of an abortion into a bucket of formaldehyde.”

Most people, even hard core pro-choice advocates, would agree that a child should be afforded basic human rights after it is out of the womb, and that if partial-birth abortions aren’t infanticide, this surely is. And yet, in Victoria, that is what the law allows.

If all this information about the Victorian abortion laws is new to you, then check out the following video, which explains it in a bit more detail:

There are many questions raised by the issue of abortion. There are many discussions worth having and there are many compassionate and thoughtful people on both sides of the debate.

But even if you fall more on the pro-choice side, you might still be able to stand with some pro-lifers in saying that Victoria’s abortion laws, as they currently stand, are wrong and worth protesting.

I hope to see you there.

Saturday 12th October, meet at Treasury Gardens in Melbourne by 1pm.

Click here for the Facebook event
Click here for the “March for the Babies” Website

cat Simon march

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September 16 2019

The Foetus, The Heretic & The Evangelical – a parable

A foetus was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by abortionists. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

An evangelical happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the foetus, he passed by on the other side because it wasn’t a gospel issue.

But a heretic, as he travelled, came where the foetus was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.

After a while, the evangelical felt bad that he hadn’t helped the foetus and so he went to the inn where the foetus was being cared for.

But when he saw that a heretic was helping the foetus and had provided bandages, oil, wine, a donkey and financial support, the evangelical began to worry that if he helped as well, those watching might associate him with the heretic and his heresy.

In fact, he thought, the heretic probably only took the foetus to that inn to look good in order to promote their heretical ideas.

The evangelical immediately went home to write a scathing review of the inn to warn all other decerning travellers not to go there due to its secretive association with the heretic.

Meanwhile, the foetus, not knowing or caring who came to their assistance, rested, recovered and thanked the person sitting next to them for their kindness.

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