‘Let Us Build a Tent’

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May 11-17, 2006
‘Let Us Build a Tent’
By Holy Family school staff/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) submitted
Holy Family Students Study Exodus, Build Tabernacle

“They shall make a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell in their midst. This dwelling and all its furnishings you shall make exactly according to the pattern that I will now show you.”
— Exodus 25: 8-9

In the Book of Exodus, God commanded Moses to build a Tabernacle, a portable tent used as a sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant. Following God’s strict instructions, the Israelites built what is considered the first place of worship using such items as acacia wood, pure gold, fine linen and precious gems.

For some time, Kathleen Harding, a teacher at Holy Family School in Fairmount, had been contemplating a way to recreate some of the images from the Book of Exodus in order to give her sixth grade religion students a better understanding of God’s work. In prior years, she had asked students to draw pictures of these items in the hopes of giving them a more realistic picture of what each looked like. Her faith and her own creativity, however, gave her the courage to try for something bigger — building nearly life-sized replicas using the precise instructions given in the Bible.

The project was made financially possible through a $500 “McGrant” from McDonald’s of Central New York and Northern Pennsylvania, but Harding first needed permission from a higher power.
“I would never have done this without asking God first,” she said. “I said to Him, ‘If this is something You want me to do with these children, then let this grant be approved.’”
“God gave us the huge go ahead,” she said of receiving the grant in September 2005. “It makes me feel closer to God, and I hope it makes the kids feel closer to Him, too.”

Harding decided to construct each item at a scale of one-third of the actual size. Her first challenge was to convert all the instructions, which were in measurements called cubits, into feet and inches. Next, Harding carefully selected appropriate materials — plywood instead of acacia wood, cotton cloth instead of fine linen and gold paint instead of pure gold. Finally, with the help of a few dedicated parents, she gathered her supplies and introduced the project to her class.

The students responded immediately to the project as they hammered, painted and sewed. “They love it,” she said of her students’ reaction to the project.
“It was fun and challenging and taught us to learn about God and what He told Moses,” said sixth grader Ciro Frontale who worked to build the laver.

“It taught us about how God wanted things to be,” added Olivia Cowling, also a sixth grader. Harding hopes to complete all the pieces before the end of the school year. Father Richard Prior, pastor of Holy Family Parish, has offered to use some of the pieces to celebrate Mass with the students before they graduate in June. Harding is pleased with the enthusiasm her students have embraced during the project. “I always tell them, ‘Religion is not a subject. Religion is your relationship with God,’” she explained. “I hope this project helps them grow in that relationship. Perhaps today a seed will have been planted that will help them turn toward God in a time of need 20 years from now.”

The tabernacle and its furnishings

(From the Book of Exodus)
Dwelling place: three-sided structure made of acacia wood which held the Ark of the Covenant, the Showbread Table and the Altar of Incense.
Tent covering: sheets of scarlet, purple, violet and goat’s hair sewn together to cover the Dwelling Place. Two cloth curtains: a woven veil embroidered with cherubim used to form a wall (Holy of Holies) between the Ark of the Covenant and the rest of the place of worship.

Priestly vestments: sacred pieces of clothing made of gold, violet, purple and scarlet yarn embroidered with gems and worn by the priest. Altar of incense: square, wooden table used to burn fragrant incense during worship. Showbread table: a table of acacia wood, overlaid with solid gold, on which unleavened bread was placed near the altar every Sabbath by priests as an offering to God.

Altar of the Holocausts: a hollow wooden altar plated with bronze, adorned with horns on its corners, and used for animal sacrifices as a means of reconciliation.

Laver: a bronze pedestal base with a basin on top used by priests to wash their hands and feet before entering the Tabernacle. Lampstand: a menorah-shaped object fashioned out of a single block of gold and topped with seven lamps. Ark of the Covenant: a sacred box plated inside and out with gold which held the Ten Commandments, the rod of Aaron and manna. It represented the footstool of God’s throne. Propitiatory: the gold lid for Ark of the Covenant with two angels resting on top.

Holy Family School, 130 Chapel Drive, Fairmount, is still accepting students for the 2006-2007 school year. The school will open in September as The Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family. For information, call 315-487-8515 or visit http://www.holyfamilysyr.org/

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