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This is a craft I've done with elementary students, my own children, and adults (during a church school seminar) to learn more about censers within the context of worship, teaching, and praxis.  This is a phenomenal way to engage visual learners along with everyone else in the group.  F.Y.I.: I prep my materials ahead of time because it can take 15-30 minutes for them to assemble the censer even when all the materials are ready to go beforehand.

Using Dr. Constance Tarasar's doctoral dissertation, A Process Model for the Design of Curriculum for Orthodox Christian Religious Education, as a catalyst for a lesson plan framework, my outline is as follows:

Worship:  (attending and participation in services)

  • When is the censer used?  (during church services)

Formal Learning:  (expanding our knowledge)

  • What do the different parts of the censer symbolize?  (see handout)
  • What does the smoke from the burning incense symbolize?  (our prayers rising to heaven)
  • What are our five senses? (sight, hear, smell, taste, touch)  How do we use them during the Divine Liturgy?  (i.e. sight: icons, hear: our priest reading the Gospel, smell: incense, taste: Holy Communion, touch: make the sign of the cross) What senses do we use when the censer is being used? (sight, smell, hear)
  • Complete censer craft (see instructions below)

Praxis:  (Living our faith in our daily lives)

  • Letter home to parents explaining the symbolism of the censer, when to make the sign of the cross during services, and why
  • Handout on home censers: When to use them, how to use them, where to get them, where to keep them
  • "Toy" censer is sent home and can be used (with only pretend incense please!) during prayer time at home

Materials Needed

You will need the following materials to make one censer:

  • 2 gold cups (I bought these at Party City.  They are by far my favorite cups to work with but ultimately, you can use whatever cups you want.)
  • 4 pieces of metallic gold cord approximately 22 inches long for each string  (I bought mine at Michaels in the sewing section.  I've used yarn in the past but it's harder for kids to string the bells.  This cord is easier than yarn.)
  • 12 gold jingle bells  (I used 20 mm size.  You can buy them at Michaels or Hobby Lobby but they are cheaper at Hobby Lobby - although neither of them have these jingle bells listed on their websites.  At my Michaels', they were located near the beading section but not in it.  At my Hobby Hobby, they are with the Christmas craft stuff near the scrapbooking section, not near the ornaments.)
  • 2 gold rings (I used 24 mm split rings from Michaels.  You can find them in the beading section.)
  • scissors
  • ruler
  • hole punch
  • sharp round object around your home to poke a hole (i.e. pen, turkey injector, large sewing needle, etc.)

Steps 1, 2, & 3

1. Start with the bottom cup.  If you are using a cup that has a seam, punch the first hole next to the seam in the bottom cup.  This will help you line up the holes later with the top cup.  Then punch 2 more holes on the sides of the bottom cup as equally apart from each other as possible.  (Think about an imaginary triangle inside the cup and punch a hole in the side of the cup at each of the three points.)  

2.  If you are using cups with a seam, line up the top cup's seam with the bottom cup's seam.  Punch a hole in the top cup directly above the bottom cup's hole.  Then punch two more holes in the top cup above the holes in the bottom up.

3.  Poke a hole in the bottom of the TOP cup using any sharp object you have around in the house that will make a small enough hole for the cord to pass through.  (i.e. ice pick, turkey injector, pen, large sewing needles, etc.)

Step 4

4. For some reason, all of our rulers in the house disappeared and nobody seemed to know where they went.  So, I decided it would be appropriate to have Christ as my guide.  I measured out two lengths of Christ's icon (which is approximately 22 inches) and cut.  

You need 4 cords for the project, each approximately 22 inches long.

Step 5

5. Tie one cord to each hole in the bottom up.  (Bottom cup = only 3 holes punched in the side. Top cup = 3 holes punched in the side and one hole poked through the bottom of the cup.)

Use a simple knot for tying the cord to the cup.

Steps 6 & 7

6.  Thread one cord through the hole in the bottom of the top cup.  Tie a simple knot on the inside of the cup so that the cord will not slide out.  The knot should be inside the cup and the rest of the cord visible outside of the cup.

7. If your cups have seams, line up the seams so the holes match.  If your cups do not have seams, line up the holes before you begin.

Taking the first cord that is attached to the bottom cup, thread it inside (under) the above hole in the top cup so that the cord is outside of the top cup when it comes out.  

Repeat for second and third hole.


Step 8

8. It's time to put on the bells!  

Slide one bell onto the string and tie a simple knot to keep the bell in place.  Slide a second bell on the cord, leaving some space between it and the first bell and tie a simple knot.  Slide a third bell onto the cord, leaving some space between it and the second bell and tie a simple knot.  Repeat these steps for the other three cords as well.

There should be 3 bells on each cord.

Step 9

9.  Taking the 3 outside cords, tie them together to one of the gold rings.

Take the middle cord and thread it through the gold ring.  Then tie it to the second ring.  This will enable the four cords to stay together but also allow for the top cup to be able to slide up and down for pretend incense.