“A holy hodgepodge”: Music minister offers weekday livestream for kids, families



Sing-alongs, dance-alongs, prayers, worship anthems, spontaneous comedy, banter and heaven-knows-what-else.

“That’s why we’re calling it ‘Music ’n Stuff.’ We really don’t know what else to call it,” said Shannon Cerneka, music teacher at St. Peter School in Fulton and youth minister at St. Peter parish.

Mr. Cerneka, half of the well-known youth-ministry duo Oddwalk, has begun livestreaming a 30-minute program from his home at 11 a.m. each Monday through Friday.

Anyone can tune in live or on-demand by visiting www.facebook.com/shannoncerneka.

The uplifting and mostly unscripted exposition is for children and parents who are at home in order to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

“It’s really a hodgepodge of things,” said Mr. Cerneka. “It’s kind of like a little variety show. My wife (Erin) is part of some of it. My kids kind of pop in and out of the frames.”

It started out as a way to offer something familiar to his students who are away from school and out of their routine.

“I thought that at least for them and their families, I could put something together that’s fun and give them a little break,” he said.

He has noticed that people are looking increasingly beyond themselves, searching for ways to share healing, hope and humanity in this time of “social distancing.” 

All the while, a sudden abundance of “together time,” coupled with a quick transition to homeschooling, can bring stress to families.

“So we’re basically just trying to have some fun together and offer the kids and their parents some music and a little respite during the day,” he said.

A typical offering includes an audience-participation song, such as “Awesome God,” “Lean On Me” or “The Chicken Dance,” that gets kids up on their feet and burns up some energy.

Then, guitar in hand, Mr. Cerneka tackles some requests.

“Someone asked me for some Willie Nelson,” he said on March 23. “So today, I played ‘On the Road Again.’”

From that, he leapt into “Soul On Fire” by contemporary Christian band Third Day.

Mrs. Cerneka then joined him for a duet of a song called “Anchor of Hope.”

He noted that people request the rambunctious “Matilda the Gorilla” every day.

“We just can’t play it every day, so we’ve instituted ‘Matilda Mondays,’” he said.

He acknowledged that honoring requests and keeping things fresh is “stretching me a bit.”

“But this is something I can do,” he said. “It’s a way of kind of breaking down the walls and having some fun.”

He closes each livestream with a short, simple prayer he recently composed and set to an equally simple melody:

“God of all that lives, hear our heart-felt prayer: Grant us healing. Give us peace. Keep us from despair.”

“It is intentionally a short, easy, accessible song,” said Mr. Cerneka. “My hope is that these kids who are watching will learn it and memorize it and be able to pray it on their own.”

He believes this “Prayer of Hope” is aptly named.

“For me, it expresses confidence in a God Who is going to walk with us through all of this and will still be with us on the other side of it,” he said.

“We’re not playing a game of chance,” he asserted. “I know that we have a God Who loves us and is suffering with us and will be with us always.

“That’s what this prayer is for me, and I want children to be able to pray it as their prayer, too.”

Mr. Cerneka also urges everyone to pray for all the people who are sick and suffering from this health emergency, as well as the medical professionals and everyone who has a hand in helping people stay safe and find healing from illness.

“We need to laser-focus our prayers on the people who are separated from each other and for those who have gotten sick,” he said.