St Paul’s and St. Barnabas are hosting a special event this week for schools called “Experience church.” The material is from the Jumping Fish “Experience” series of publications which are available from the Diocese of Gloucester website. The week is being led by the parish’s Children and Family worker Aisleigh Johnston. Aisleigh has previously worked in churches in England and used the Jumping Fish “Experience” series in the past.
Local school groups are being invited into the church during this week 12th – 15th June to take part in “Experience Church”. After being welcomed, the children are split into groups and move around the church building visiting 6 different areas. Each area has a church volunteer who explains that part of the church, what happens there and why it is important. The children are invited to do an activity at each area and are given a goody bag to keep all their activities in as they go along. The children are also given stickers to write their name on. These are collected at the end of each session to be given out to church members to pray for the children.
Station 1 The church celebrates – Holy Communion
The church volunteer shows the children the chalice and the plate and the holy Communion table and explains why we celebrate Holy Communion and what it means. The volunteer tells the children about how Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples before his crucifixion. The children then colour book marks with the Holy Communion symbols on them.
The church volunteer explains to the children that the lectern is where the bible sits and where people come during the service to read a passage from the bible. The children get a chance to come up and stand at the lectern. The volunteer then reads a short passage from the bible from Matthew 6 where Jesus tells us not to worry for the birds of the air do not reap or sow, yet God looks after them. The children are shown how to make some origami birds.
Station 3 The church prays
The children are taught about different kinds of prayers we say in church- thank-you, sorry and help prayers. They then write thank you and help prayers themselves on slips of paper and add them to a prayer cross.
Station 4- The church welcomes -Baptism
The children are shown the font and the church volunteer acts out the baptism asking the children to “name this child” and showing them how the baby would be signed with the sign of the cross. They are told of how Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist at the beginning of his ministry. The children then fold a paper cross and put it into a tray of water. The cross opens up and inside it says “welcome”
Station 5 The church serves
The children are brought up into the balcony of the church and shown the stained glass window. They are told that the stained glass windows in churches tell stories of people from the bible. Jesus is known as the Light of the world and wants to shine through us, just like light shines through a window. He wants us to be kind and generous to others. The children are given glass pens, templates and acetate sheets to trace and colour their own stain glass windows.
Station 6 The Church shares – The door
At the final station the children are all gathered together, their name stickers collected and reminded that the congregation will be praying for them. They are invited to ask God a question and write it on a post-it note. On the way out they stick their questions on the door of the church.
Experience Church uses features of the church building to teach about key events in the life of Jesus, offering an insight into the worship and witness of the local church community. It was written to support the primary RE curriculum and employs a range of multi-sensory activities to engage children in discussion and reflection.
Rev Isy Hawthorne-Steele, the Curate-in-Charge at St. Paul’s and St. Barnabas is excited about the opportunities Experience Church brings. Isy says “Connecting with so many local school children and their teachers is fantastic, and the church will continue to build on the links made during this week. We will do our best to pray regularly for the children. ”