PROVISION FOR CHILDREN
Children are very welcome at both churches. There is space for them and our wish is that they feel that they are in God’s House which is also a place that is familiar and easy to them. Babies and children can easily be taken out of a service if they are restless or unhappy. There is accommodation in the Lady Chapel at St Etheldreda’s Church (the children call it the “Big Church”) divided only by a glass screen from the nave and also in the Hall at St Clement’s Church (the “Little Church”) with books and suitable toys and paper and crayons and access to toilets and drinks and biscuits
Children are purposefully involved in the Services and they have special jobs such as lighting and snuffing candles (very popular indeed), collecting and distributing books or serving at the altar. At the end of a service they are very busy indeed. Older children (7 years old and upwards) are encouraged to join the Choir or to become Servers
We do however make special provision for the Care and Teaching of our children and to enable their parents to participate in services
First Sundays Project
On the first Sunday in each month (save August) a family service is held at the Big Church at 11.00am. At the Big Church which is a grand traditional space with a real church organ and choir the children are introduced to liturgy as a special event with a fully sung but energetic and joyful service. Each service has a special theme the hymns are specially chosen with the children in mind; the junior singers are much in evidence; and the sermon is replaced by a special presentation e.g. the first Sunday in January is Epiphany Sunday and so the presentation is related to the visit of the Three Kings to the infant Jesus. Last year the first Sunday in November was not only very close to All Saints Day but also to Bonfire Night and fireworks featured largely in the presentation !!!! After the presentation the children are taken to the Lady Chapel where they have Sunday School before returning for the Communion and the end of the service
Often a First Sunday is combined with a Baptism. The Big Church has a very beautiful baptistery and the children form part of the procession including the person to be baptized. It is a particularly lovely opportunity for new children to be involved in the service
Sunday School on Ordinary Sundays
On all other Sundays throughout the year the family service is held at St Clement’s with its intimate atmosphere. There are small chairs available for the use of children in the congregation and a good library of suitable books to keep them interested (and to borrow). They leave the service for Sunday School in the Hall (which has access to a very pleasant courtyard garden) after they have heard the Readings and then return for Communion and the end of the service
When they return they will have said the Lords Prayer. They will also have heard a story or a presentation usually based upon the readings which they have just heard (often involving role play or a game – once we had Moses Burning Bush in the yard, a great success). This is followed by drawing and painting pictures on the same theme or making models or badges. Christ the King has been celebrated with paper crowns. They are taught the Christian Calendar and the purpose and meaning of Prayer. They are made familiar with what is happening in a church service especially the Communion and why
Our aim is a traditional Bible based Sunday School which is fun and full of imagination. Have you ever thought about why we put our hands together to pray?
Festivals and Activity Mornings
On certain special days in the year we have a combined service at the Big Church usually at 10.30am. These events are advertised by posters outside the Big Church and the Little Church
Currently these are Mothering Sunday in March, St Etheldreda’s Day in June, Harvest Festival in October and St Nicholas’Day (the children now know this is Santa Claus’ day) in early December to get us all in the right frame of mind for Advent and Christmas
St Etheldreda’s Day is also the occasion of the annual Parish Picnic usually held down in the country near Guildford at a private property with beautiful grounds and woods
The Harvest Festival is followed by a Harvest Lunch in the Church Hall which is a very relaxed and enjoyable event to which everybody brings food and drink to share
On the Saturday immediately before these special days (except St Etheldreda’s Day) there is a themed Activity Morning in one or other of the church halls from 10.00am to 12 noon. The children create a special altar frontal which will then be attached to the altar for all to see and enjoy on Sunday. They also take part in games and creative activities and hear stories or enjoy videos or sing songs all connected to the special theme. These mornings are open to all children whether or not they will be able to attend the church service the next day. The activities are well supervised and children may be left by their parents and picked up later although parents are often reluctant to leave they are having so much fun !!!!
Christmas is celebrated by a Carol Service by candlelight usually on the last Sunday before Christmas Day. This is a glorious event with plenty of opportunities for congregational singing. The children participate by dressing up as characters from the Christmas Story and there is a Nativity Procession – maybe one day we will have a Nativity Play. The Big Church has the most beautiful collection of almost life size Christmas Crib figures and the Crib stays in the Church throughout the Christmas season
Easter is also celebrated by a Songs of Praise service when the Big Church is filled with flowers and music usually on the Sunday after Easter Day. We all go to the outdoor Palm Sunday service and procession in Normand Park where we join a number of local churches on the Sunday before Easter Day – sometimes there is a live donkey and there is much waving of palm leaves and joyful singing !!! The Big Church also has a very beautiful set of Easter Garden figures and the Easter Garden stays throughout Holy Week and the Easter season
We are very aware of the need to care for our children. We have a Child Protection Policy as recommended by the Diocese and have a Children’s Officer and Advocate. Sunday School is properly supervised by at least two adults and the activity mornings are supervised by as many more as are necessary for the numbers actually attending
Church History and Art - we are making plans for a competition and exhibition for local schools in 2006
Older Children and Teenagers – every effort is made to make services (especially sermons) interesting but we want to make more provision for children over 11 years old. Children and teenagers are of course prepared for confirmation by the Vicar who was a teacher before he became a priest. We are in addition considering ways in which we can provide every Sunday for those who may not wish to sing or to be servers and are too old for Sunday School and are on the threshold of commitment. We are taking advice from the Diocese Youth Consultant and hope to have a project in place in the not too distant future.