Prodigal Part 1, Skit
Golden Rule Game


Click here for: Overview * Background Notes * In the Arts * Questions for Discussion * Workshops * Review, Lydia 1

Workshops include: Arts * Kitchen * Beat Box * Computer * Music.




The story of a grand lady who opened many doors.


June Year C


ARTS – make a purple colour wash illustration

BEAT BOX – create a rhythm routine based on key elements of the story

KITCHEN – make strawberry freezer jam

MUSIC – teach Wade in the Water, or Down to the River to Pray

COMPUTER – Let's Talk; Cal & Marty


Acts 16. 6 - 15



Acts 16.14.

"A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul." (NRSV)

After story time in church, all will meet in central Sunday school area for gathering time, brief review, then to scheduled workshops.


Where do we find this story in the Bible?

In the book of Acts, traditionally attributed to writer of the gospel of Luke.

Come over to Macedonia.

In this story, Paul is told in a dream or vision to go to Macedonia. The idea that Lydia welcomes him and asks him to baptize the people in her household is traditionally viewed as Christianity's first successful toehold in Europe. It's Lydia's hospitality, respectability and openness to a good idea that makes this possible.

Outside the gate by the river

The water reference here highlights further the importance of baptizing new people in the faith in this story. Notice as well that Paul's receptive audience at the place of prayer by the river was made up of "women who had gathered there."

Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth

This reference certainly gives the impression of Lydia as an independent businesswoman. And according to Canadian writer and former moderator of the United Church of Canada Lois Wilson, in her book Stories Seldom Told, the "only people who wore the purple fabric she made were the top people at court."

Nonetheless a smelly business

But the road to independence would have been a tough one. On this topic, Wilson writes: " Lydia was the first convert to Christianity on the European continent. We are not sure if she was wealthy or not, although in Christian circles she is usually described as a successful businesswoman who had her own household... The dye industries were located outside the urban zone because no one could stand the smell. Lydia was born and raised in a similar dye industrial ghetto outside the city of Thyatira."

Lydia's household

In Stories Seldom Told, Wilson points out that since Lydia invited Paul and Barnabas to stay at her house in Philippi, she must have been a woman "in high standing with the earliest Christian communities. Her invitation does not necessarily indicate she was prosperous enough to have a huge house."

More about the house church

Wilson provides further interesting detail on what's meant by a house church in another of her books, Miriam, Mary & Me:

"Christians in the early days met in houses of worship. Travelling missionaries and house churches were central to the early Christian movement which depended on mobility and patronage. Women functioned in both missionary and house church operations. House churches provided opportunities for women to play a leading role in ministry...

"The shift in the second century from house church to church as the 'household of God,' with its attendant transfer of authority to local officers of the church, signaled the emergence of what were to become bishops and clergy. Only male heads of households were eligible for these administrative and financial functions."

Great fiction

Canadian fiction writer and poet Michael Ondaatje provides some description that sticks with you of the garment district in post-WW1 Toronto in his book, In the Skin of a Lion, which features some characters that show up in Ondaatje's later book, The English Patient. Here Patrick, one of the main characters, gets a job at Wickett and Craig's tannery on Cypress Street:

" Alice would smell the leather on him, even after he had bathed in the courtyards when work was over, the brief pelt of water and steam on the row of them standing on the cobblestones. They were allowed only ten seconds of water. The men who dyed the leather got longer but the smell on them was terrible and it never left.

"Dye work took place in the courtyards next to the warehouse. Circular pools had been cut into stone — into which the men leapt waist-deep within the reds and ochres and greens, leapt in embracing the skins of recently slaughtered animals. In the round wells four-foot in diameter they heaved and stomped ensuring the dye went solidly into the pores of the skin... And the men stepped out in colours up to their necks, pulling wet hides after them so it appeared they had removed the skins from their own bodies. They had leapt into different colours as if into different countries... they were twenty to thirty-five years old, were Macedonians mostly, though there were a few Poles and Lithuanians...

"They were the dyers. They were paid one dollar a day. Nobody could last in that job more than six months and only the desperate took it... There was never enough ventilation, and the coarse salt, like the acids in the dyeing section, left the men invisibly with tuberculosis and arthritis and rheumatism."

More water music

When you hear the story of Lydia, doesn't a classic spiritual like 'Wade in the Water' spring to mind?!? There's a terrific sample on Roger McGuinn's Folk Den. To hear it click here.

Questions for Discussion

1. At the time of her encounter with Paul, Lydia was an independent cloth dealer. Was she always so flush?

2. Why or why not?

3. Can you name a district in the Toronto area that shares a similar kind of background with Lydia. [garment district at Bathurst/Spadina, south by Lake Ontario, west of Yonge Street.]

4. If Lydia became successful from humble beginnings, what other guesses can we make about the character traits she possessed? [ Confident, intelligent, decision-maker (for her household on whether to become Christian), business acumen...]

5. The Bible describes her as a 'worshiper of God.' What do you think would have hit home with her in Paul's message about Christ. [Something like all children of God are equals, as in Gal. 3: 28.]

6. Did Lydia have anything to lose by welcoming Paul and Barnabas? [Says Wilson: "Surely this was dangerous for Lydia, a businesswoman in the trade of marketing purple fabrics to the wealthy. She would need to remember who her customers were, and to remember that they did not consider her their social equal!"]


Please find below suggested workshops for this unit. For each one, when you are in real time with the children:

1. Quickly review or recap the story with them before starting activity. Each week, see how much more detail each group of kids can supply on the story they've been studying.

2. Link or explain your activity to the current story.

Arts -- Purple colourwash illustration.

Why -- to reinforce the colour purple that goes with Lydia's story as well the act of dye-ing, thus calling attention to her independent status.

Materials -- large pieces of white paper, purple crayons, purple watercolour paint, fairly wide brushes, paint smocks if you wish.

How to do this.

Get the kids to interpret a scene from this story. They can design first in pencil, then go over firmly in purple crayon on their white paper.

With purple watercolour paint, they will wash over the entire crayone picture. Crayon will resist, and it will look like an ink wash illustration, heavy on the purple.

Kitchen -- strawberry freezer jam.

Why -- Lydia is all about hosptality. Strawberries are in season when Lydia comes upon us. Why not whip up some jam that you can serve, like Lydia, to unexpected guests.

Materials: lots of berries, potato masher, fruit sugar, pectin for no-cook jam, lemons for lemon juice, jars or plastic tubs cleaned in hot soapy water.

Freezer jam doesn't need sterile containers. Basically clean the berries, mash them with a masher in large bowl. There are good straightforward directions on the back of the no-cook jam pectin package. Follow them. (Mainly you let sit in sugar for 15 mins, then stir in pectin, keep stirring for 3 mins, then ladle into your final jam containers.

If you put nice labels on them, this could be a nice outreach project. Your class or pastoral care team can run the jams around to folks on your list.

Music -- teach songs Wade in the Water or Down to the River to Play.

Why: To reinforce the notion that Paul found Lydia, where he got his foothold in Europe, by finding the women down by the river at prayer.

Find lyrics and guitar chords for Wade in the Water on Roger McGuinn's Folk Den

We all know Down to the River to Pray as done by Allison Krauss on the Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. Try google for lyrics and music.

Computer -- Let's Talk; Cal & Marty.

Use Let's Talk from Sunday Software.com to create dialogue between Paul and Lydia when they connect in Macedonia.

Use Cal and Marty to create some questions to help commit key verses from this wonderful story to memory.

Beat Box -- work up a rhythm routine based on this story.

How to do this.

Divide group into 4 parts. Design and practice the parts separately. Then together as in a round.

Here are 4 suggested parts:

1. Say, We sailed to Macedonia. Actions, sailing or rowing.

2. Say, Down by the river; action, make wavy river arms

3. Say, We found Lydia; action, curtsey

4. Say, Come and stay with me; action, wave someone over beside you.

Review of Activities from Lydia 1

Arts 1 -- tie dye socks, shirts, whatever!

Arts 2 -- scroll illustrations

Kitchen -- strawberry shortcakes.

Click here to see our photos from the tie-dye and kitchen workshops from Lydia 1.

All original text 2004 - 2014, LD McKenzie

For a brief site ed's bio, click here:


Components of these lesson sets may be used for non-profit educational purposes, citing this author and site.

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