jMeet Noel Lardeo
Worship Center storytellers receive special training in the “Young Children and Worship” philosophy. Noel Lardeo has been the storyteller/worship leader since September 2018. Noel says, "I love children and helping them grow closer to the Lord. I earned my Bachelor's Degree from Buffalo State College in Elementary Education. I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada after graduating where I first taught pre-school, then with their school District for several years. I returned to New York in order to be closer to family. Here in Auburn I've worked as the Assistant Director at the after school program at Genesee Elementary School, as a Park Director for the city playgrounds, with the YMCA summer program, and with Freedom Camp; a summer camp for children with disabilities."
Other trained storytellers include Audrey McNally, Linda Russell, Annette Bell, Lydia Marteney, Jill Fandrich, Elizabeth Verdi, Shavonn Lynch, Ann Wiley, Judy Runkle, Jenna Heery, and Patrick Heery. Storytellers are accompanied by trained greeters. There are always two adults with children, in accordance with Westminster’s Child Safety Policy.
During the Covid-19 restrictions, we have been creating short animated videos of the Worship Center stories which were scheduled for this time. These videos, which are narrated by Noel, along with the “I wonder questions” are posted to the Westminster REACH Facebook group every Sunday morning. In addition to the videos, Noel is taking advantage of Zoom by inviting caregivers and children to join her on Sunday afternoons as she reads selected stories live. Join the Westminster REACH Facebook group for details.
The Worship Center is a mini-sanctuary in which young children can be with God, listen to God, talk with God, and hear the stories of God.
The Worship Center is for children ages 3 through 2nd grade. Children begin worship in the sanctuary with their families at 9:30am, then come into the Worship Center after the pastor’s Conversation with Children (approximately 9:45am). The Worship Center is staffed by two trained adults (a storyteller and a greeter) and is situated right outside the main church sanctuary.
The children learn to enter the Worship Center talking and walking quietly. It is similar to the way adults disengage from their hectic daily pace and enter the sanctuary expecting peace and reverence.
In the Worship Center, there is an air of quiet and reverence, and a sense of order, space, and church year time.
The goals of the Worship Center are that children learn to know God and to know that God loves them, that they be introduced to God’s presence through worship, and that they learn to respond to God’s presence in their own ways.
The stories come from Young Children and Worship by Sonja M. Stewart and Jerome W. Berryman, and the format is based on the Montessori education model.
In the Worship Center, the children learn experientially, in the context of worship. Their time together follows the same four-fold order for reformed worship which the rest of the congregation follows in the main sanctuary: Gathering, Hearing God’s Word, Responding/Giving Thanks, and Sending/Going Out.
The Gathering (a welcome and a song) is followed by a presentation of the Word. Stories are presented by the storyteller who uses wooden figures so the children can see as well as hear the story.
After the story has been presented, the children move into their time of Responding to God’s story. They may choose to work with a variety of art materials or to retell the stories themselves using the wooden figures.
Before leaving, the children gather in a closing circle (the Sending). Here the Bible is read, prayers are offered, and a simple “feast” is shared.
To conclude worship, each child comes to the Storyteller for a parting blessing “God go with you. Go in peace.”