At the end of the school term this year we welcomed the Year 6 children from our three local primary schools – Burnside Primary Academy, Bernard Gilpin Primary School and Gillas Lane Primary Academy into church for a special leavers’ service. We did this new style of service for the first time last year and after its success we couldn’t wait to welcome the children back!
Rather than a traditional style service the children moved around the different parts of our church to take part in some creative prayer activities to help them reflect on their time at primary school and think about the move to secondary school. There were 5 ‘stations’: Please, Thank You, Sorry, Together and Wow! The Please activity was about putting worries into God’s hands. The children drew around their hands and wrote on their hands the things they were worried about – they cut these out and put them on a board. At this station the children were also invited to light a candle for a loved one – and many took us up on the offer. The Thank You activity was about thinking about people we’re thankful for (this ranged from dinner ladies to inspirational teachers to best friends), the children made pipe-cleaner people to represent those they were thankful for. The Sorry activity involved the children taking a stone in their hand and thinking of something they’d regretted and then ‘letting go’ of the stone as a sign that God forgives them. The Together activity had the children draw a portrait of themselves on a piece of jigsaw – we joined all the faces together to make one big family. For the Wow activity the children thought of a ‘wow’ moment at primary school to decorate a flag with. These ranged from passing SATs exams to performing in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to scoring lots of goals in football!
The most moving part for me this year was working with the children on the ‘sorry’ activity. One group of about 5 children came to me and a boy in the group said ‘I’m not a Christian, I don’t believe in God. I didn’t want to come here today.’ But then quickly followed this up by saying ‘but I’m having a brilliant time today!’ This boy was then the first to try the activity. Once all 5 children had taken their turn, they returned to me and I asked them how it had felt to let go of the stone. The same boy said to me ‘can I share what my thing was?’ I said he could if he wanted to but he didn’t have to say it out loud. He insisted ‘well, I want to share it as it’s about someone here’ at that he pointed to his friend who replied ‘well my thing was about you!’ They both said that their big regret had been fighting a lot instead of being friends. The two boys made up in front of my eyes with no prompting from me! It was a beautiful thing to see and reminded me why Jesus said we had to have faith like a child.
Each service ended with the children singing a rousing rendition of the song ‘Lean on Me’ and reflecting on this scripture from Romans 12 (this is the Message translation):
“Be a real family, warm-hearted in your care for one another. Look forward to God’s new world with gladness. In hard times, stand your ground: never forget to pray. Share other people’s happiness and other people’s sadness. Learn to respect everybody. As far as you can, be friends with everyone.”
A big thank you to all the volunteers that made the services so special and to the children for engaging so well. Do have a look at the photos and video on our church Facebook page.
We are praying for all our local schools and especially for those children moving up to secondary school this September.
Every blessing, Rev’d Bryony (Curate)
A big thank you to the Prayer Project at the Diocese of Durham for supporting this work.