CCS grad Annika Sangster has published a delightful retelling of the story of the Good Samaritan called Neighbours. We recently talked about the genesis of the book and gaining the confidence to share her creativity. Details for purchasing Neighbours are at the bottom of the article.
Neighbours emerged from a Vacation Bible School with a twist. Not just “Bible”, Annika’s church had decided to explore the Golden Rule through different faith traditions. The story Annika wanted to share from the Christian tradition was the Good Samaritan, but she couldn’t find a version that she liked. So she created her own out of plasticine.
“I could see this picture in my head,” she explained. “I wanted [the children] to see the Good Samaritan as a basic person. I made the Good Samaritan an androgynous kind of person, at least that was my intent.”
In the final version, that original image changed characters. “The person I imagined to be the Good Samaritan turned out to be the person who was hurt. I thought the person who was relatable to them was the person who was hurt.”
Annika is a cake decorator. Working with fondant is one of her favorite creative ways of expression. She used that skill and translated it to clay making several images for the story..
“As I told the story, I passed the clay slides around the circle. The kids loved it! One little girl picked up a picture when I finished and said, ‘God gave this to us.’ “
Annika had no plan for the story after that. But she had the clay illustrations sitting on her counter one day where her niece saw them and asked what they were. When Annika explained that it was a story, her niece asked to hear it. “As soon as I finished, she said, ‘Again!’ “
Annika’s sister encouraged her to turn her images and storytelling into a book. “When we were kids, if we were bored mom would say go make a book. It didn’t take much imagination to imagine publishing.”
When she sent a draft, her brother-in-law was fascinated. The questions included in the book come from him. He grew up in “a loosely Catholic household where going to church was not a big deal”, she explained, and he did not know the story. He wondered why things were happening and the cultural context. And while she recognizes that you don’t need to know those things, Annika agreed that it is good to know, so she added his questions.
Annika acknowledges her diaconal training and formation at CCS as foundational to the making of Neighbours. “Before I went there I would not have had the confidence to take my own artwork to tell a story with a group of kids,” she said. “CCS encouraged me to develop my own gifts and share them with other people.
“Part of the draw of the whole camp was the interfaith,” she continued. “I wouldn’t have even thought of doing something like that if I had more traditional training.” Other leaders at the camp included someone First Nations who made medicine pouches with the children and took them on a walk to find things to put in them and a Buddhist who talked about compassion and made eye masks which they used in savasana (a yoga pose where you lie on your back and allow the body and mind to relax.)
The conversations with her brother-in-law were “a big Aha” for Annika and now she is thinking of creating a workshop to introduce Jesus into Christmas for parents. “I don’t think that children get that Jesus likely inspired Santa to do what Santa did,” she said. “Families aren’t familiar with church any more to even know to connect the story. They know who baby Jesus is but they don’t know anything that happened between baby Jesus’s time and on the cross. And they don’t know what happened after the cross. I had a family ask me about that last year. I just found that interesting. It’s a pretty big piece of our history for people to not know why they do this.
“I think Neighbours is a great way to introduce children to ministry of Jesus,” she said. “To get a book about Jesus from Santa, it begins to make sense. And it helps phase kids from Santa to Jesus.”
Neighbours is available for purchase from Annika’s website annikasangster.info or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The $10 cost includes shipping, and $1 from each sale supports faith formation and children’s programming at St Luke’s United Church in Upper Tantallon where Annika serves as minister. She is also happy to share the curriculum for the Vacation Bible School.