St Paul’s and St Barnabas hosted ‘Experience Church,’ a special event for schools from June 12-15.
The material for the week was taken from the Jumping Fish ‘Experience’ series of publications which are available on the Diocese of Gloucester website. Activities were 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 were invited to come along. After being welcomed, the children were split into groups and moved around the church building visiting six different areas. At each area (station) a church volunteer spoke about that part of the church, what happens there and why it is important. The children enjoyed an activity at each area and got a goody bag to keep all their activities in.
The children had stickers to write their name on, and these were collected at the end of each session to be given out to church members to pray for the children.
The different stations were:
The children were shown the chalice and the plate and the Holy Communion table and learned why we celebrate Holy Communion and what it means. They heard the story of the Last Supper before colouring book marks with the Holy Communion symbols on them.
Station 2 – The church teaches – the Lectern and the Pulpit
The children saw that the lectern is where the Bible sits and where people come during the service to read from the Bible. The children had the chance to stand at the lectern, and a volunteer read a short passage 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 were shown how to make some origami birds.
The children also learned about the pulpit and how the minister goes up there to preach the sermon, before they climbed into the pulpit to fly their origami birds.
Station 3 – The church prays
The children were taught about different kinds of prayers including thank you, sorry and help prayers. They wrote thank you and help prayers themselves on slips of paper and added them to a prayer cross.
Station 4 – The church welcomes – baptism
At the font a church volunteer acted 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 heard how Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist at the beginning of his ministry. The children folded a paper cross and put it into a tray of water. When the cross opened up, inside it said ‘welcome.’
Station 5 – The church serves
In the balcony of the church the children were shown the stained glass window, and learned that the stained glass windows in churches tell stories of people from the Bible. They heard that Jesus is known as the Light of the world and wants to shine through us, just like light shines through a window. The children were 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 gathered together, their name stickers were collected and there were reminded that the congregation would be praying for them. They were invited to ask God a question and write it on a post-it note, before sticking their questions on the door of the church.
Connor Children’s Project Development Officer Jill Hamilton said: “’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.”
The Rev Isy Hawthorne-Steele, the Curate-in-Charge at St Paul’s and St Barnabas, said: “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.”