Children from Hempsted Primary School have been signing up to go to a Wednesday service at their local church. There is a very active worship group at the school with around 60 members, and a long-term partnership has developed between the church and the school.
Once a month, four or five different children get the chance to come along to the communion service, take part in it and learn more about what goes on in church. They are very much a part of the congregation, welcoming, giving out the books, reading the Gospel, praying, helping lay the altar and receiving communion or a blessing.
The local priest, Nikki Arthy talks the children through the communion service, explaining any ‘churchy’ words and showing them how she prepares the table for communion. The children stand around the altar so that they have a good view of what is going on.
Mary Gould, who is a pastoral assistant at St Swithun’s and St Mary de Lode, said the congregation loves having the children along. She said, “It works extremely well and we like their input. We read the children’s gospel and have an interactive reflection. The children are used to services at school and are quite happy to voice any prayer requests that they have.
“We all think it is a great way forward and there is a lot of enthusiasm on both sides. It gives us youth, enthusiasm and often children can bring a different perspective which can be quite helpful for those who are of an older generation. It’s a joyous occasion.”
Some of the comments that came from the children were; “It helps us understand the service more. I like being on the altar seeing what is happening.”; “I like seeing the people from the parish and talking to them.”; “I have enjoyed finding more out about the church, especially the bells.”
The school pastoral team and the parish pastoral team have also set up a drop in coffee and chat session for parents with children at the school. Local family day centre Family Haven also supports this initiative. Sometimes a speaker comes and does a talk on subjects like bedtime routines, or they host a pampering session.
Mary said, “We have shared birthdays, had tears and smiles and also had the chance to cuddle the new babies, which is wonderful. There’s a real sense of community and it’s a place where friendships are formed.”
As part of their joint commitment to working together to serve the community of Hempsted, school and church have organised a traditional village fete this Saturday 14 July, 12 noon to 3pm. There will be a flower festival and art by the children in the church, cream teas, old fashioned games, country dancing, barbeque, pony rides and numerous community stalls on the school field. All are welcome.