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Ministry with Children and Families: Carolynn reflects

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

Carolynn Pritchard, Great St Mary’s Children’s Minister reflects on a momentous year…

I sit down to write at the end of the Children’s Church year… and what a year. As I think back, last September feels another world and in many-ways it is another world.

By Autumn term 2019 we had settled in well to our new and hopefully final location for Sunday Children’s Church, with a Pray and Play area at the front of the North Aisle and Liturgy of the Word in St Andrews Chapel. We had been running Liturgy of the Word with unaccompanied children but due to the Safer Recruiting procedures we had to have parents present until that was complete. The Safer Recruiting Procedures were all successfully completed by the end of November. Thank you to Julie Crockford for all her work on this.

During the Autumn, the children with their parents followed the Church series on Prayer. Together, we explored and prayed The Lord’s Prayer, The Jesus Prayer, Faith5 (which is a family Examen), Imaginative Prayer, Contemplative Prayer and Liturgical Prayer and I preached an All Age Sermon on Sensory Prayer. It was a challenging series to lead as it was breaking new ground, but we experienced the presence of God in a close way through our prayer. It was lovely to begin to teach the children how to enter contemplative silent prayer.

We then went into Advent and followed the Godly Play Advent and The Holy Family stories. This again was a new venture as we had acquired the first of our Great St Mary's Godly Play materials. I am Godly Play trained and it was lovely to be using it again with children. Rebekah Hiney Pérez who joined us with her family in September is also Godly Play trained having learnt in Spain from a mutual colleague and friend! Early in the Autumn we ran a Godly Play Introductory Training Day in St Andrews Chapel and gathered a group from different churches.

Running Children’s Church, even part -time, expands to fill physical, mental and spiritual energy and I was tired after so many moves and big changes over the previous two years. I was also getting no Ph.D. writing up done on the relationship between Liturgy and Play. So, after discussion with Adrian I planned a two-month sabbatical until February half term. During the latter part of the Autumn term we were delighted to recruit Rebekah Hiney Pérez as Deputy Children’s Minister; I had been looking for a deputy for a long while and God provided at the right time.

Christmas was chaotic and incredibly busy and involved moving all the Children’s Church boxes multiple times; what I did not realise was that I worked through December with a persistent lower respiratory infection! Rebekah received her safeguarding clearance and was ready to take over from me in January leaving me free for my sabbatical. My sabbatical never happened in the way intended as I continued to be ill until the end of February.

Rebekah settled in well and ably held the fort, supported by the rest of the Children’s Church team, Miranda, Alison, Emi and Sally. My plan to return in March was extended to mid-May in the hope that I might get my Ph.D. writing further underway when I was better.

And then Lockdown! Rebekah has done an amazing work holding Children’s Church during lockdown, producing a series of videos over Easter looking at the Easter Story through the lens of the senses.

She has then continued producing weekly Children’s Church videos, no mean feat in a very small flat with 3 children and her ordinand husband. We are sincerely indebted to her for the amazing job she has done with no resources, all being locked down at church!

During May I arranged with Adrian to do an eased return to work, complicated by the fact I am still shielding. Rebekah and I are collaboratively jointly leading the children’s and family’s ministry; it is a joy to have someone to share responsibility, and to bounce ideas with. We are now jointly presenting the videos incorporating worship songs, Godly Play Bible stories, wondering and reflection, prayers and a Makaton signed and Peace Creed. Recent focus has been the Hebrew Scriptures and the story of the People of God, looking at Creation, Abraham, the Exodus, The Ten Commandments and the Exile and Return. The Exile is a pertinent theme for all of us at present.

We hope it is offering the children and families a worship experience that they are finding enriching and helpful, bring them closer to God. We are acutely aware that we have lost the relational aspects of children and families ministry. We have tried to keep as a team to keep in touch with families and this eMag gives opportunity to offer suggestions for families at home. Faith at home is now a key part of our children’s faith development and is something we hope to build upon in future months.

Midweek there has been a Zoom Ark service each week for parents and toddlers. Sarah Rittman very kindly agreed to take my place at Ark whilst I was on sabbatical and she and Rebekah led an Ark service online during lockdown. Our thanks go to Sarah for all her help and best wishes as she relinquishes the helm and returns to work at her own church during an interregnum. A small but very regular number have attended and really appreciated Ark during lockdown, offering community and worship when everything else was closed for toddler families. Zoom has even allowed families who have moved away to still attend. We are sad to see long standing members move on at the end of this term. Thank you to Jo and Ruth and Toni for their stalwart support of Ark through this year as they too moved online for Ark.

The future for Children’s and families Ministry is as yet uncertain. The return to worship is very much adult orientated in both the health measures required and the services allowed. Families may bring children but the environment and structures necessary are not family friendly at present and children must remain in the pew unable to move freely. Children’s Church and Ark continue online for the foreseeable future, until Government guidelines on social distancing and children’s groups change.

Rebekah and I pray and plan and look forward to the day when we can all meet again and worship and play together; possibly in a very different way initially as guidelines loosen. Watch this space as the future unfolds and for ideas for families over the summer holidays. Whatever that future holds we know we have a loving Heavenly Father who loves leads and guides us as we endeavour to bring our children up in the faith of Christ.

With my heartfelt thanks to the Children’s Ministry Team: to Rebekah, Sarah, Jo, Ruth, Toni, Miranda, Emi, Alison and Sally for all that they do and for all their support.

With God’s love and blessing on all the families and children we serve,

Carolynn and the Children’s Ministry team.

Children’s Church and Ark finish on the 12th and 14th July for the summer

We return on 6th September…

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