As part of the ‘discernment process’ (gosh they really do need to give it a catchier name don’t they…) It was suggested that I visit a local primary school where they hold a Eucharist service in the school once a term. Now I have to admit I wasn’t sure how that would work given that the majority of the kids were going to be too young to take communion, or possibly even understand what on earth was going on. And I admit I was tainted by memories of very dull school assemblies from my chidlhood. BUT… I went, with an open mind (well it was semi-open, I was trying…). And actually I enjoyed it. It was a Church-aided school (so I learnt what that meant for a start!) of 200+ kids. The Priest, of the Anglo-Catholic persuasion, was really lovely with the children, but still inspired a bit of respect. I was impressed when he kept asking the children what things were called, like bits of his outfit and various implements on the Communion table. I am ashamed to say I knew none of the names – hope that doesn’t come up at BAP or I will fail on the spot.. 😉
He involved the children in the service, getting them to light candles, burning the palm cross (it was an Ash Wednesday service), reading, saying prayers etc. He talked very briefly about what Ash Wednesday was all about, briefly only, and at their level. He had their (almost) full attention. I say almost as there were the obligatory few tears, hair-pulling and giggles, but even that was minor! Not like my day, when there would have been a row of cheeky boys lined up facing the back wall by the end of the service…
Anyway… I went into this service wondering really what school assemblies were all about, whether the kids were actually taking any of it in. I came away thoroughly convinced of the importance of it all. I believe in the ‘living’ word of God and those children have the word of God spoken over them weekly. They are exposed to the reality of faith, of the Gospel, at their level. What a start. They may get no biblical teaching at home, they may never set foot in a church, they may leave school as agnostics or atheists, but they have been given that start, that gentle nudge. I’m not sure I’m explaining myself very well, but in that school hall this morning I felt the presence of God. Which surprised me I have to say! Not sure why that should surprise me but it did. It was a traditional approach to the Eucharist, although obviously shortened and simplified for the children, so not my kind if thing at all, and I am sure I would do it differently, but I recognised in it, the importance of opening all our children up to the truth of God, from an early age.
Even funnier was the fact that I seem to hold on to this belief that I am not good with OPKs (Other Peoples Kids), I do not want to help with the Sunday School, I do not want to go into schools and talk to the kids but this morning I had a picture in my head of me doing exactly what the Priest was doing (ok not exactly, I will not be ringing bells and bowing for a start…;) ) but I know God was opening my eyes, (yet again) to what I am capable of.
And incidentally, some of the kids did take communion, plus nearly all the staff (or they had a blessing) and we had the opportunity to get ashed too. Seeing as I have never been to an Ash wednesday Service (oh horrors, should I admit that?…) that was rather nice!