Stanwick Group of Churches

September 2021

Already in the height of the summer there is a slight scent of autumn, the flowers are beginning to fade, and I feel an occasional wave of sadness that takes me back to childhood days when I wanted the long summer holidays to go on forever. I wanted to stay at home, playing with my friends in our safe cul-de-sac with our long gardens full of dens and hiding places and a view across Leeds which looked like the whole world.

This year in our benefice we have some joyous September weddings to look forward to and many people are feeling relieved and excited by the return to many of the activities shelved for eighteen months. However, I don’t suppose I am alone in finding that the thought of September coming round again brings with it a slight sinking feeling. There are many adults and children beginning this new academic year struggling with mental health issues, or financial worries, and others are concerned about what the autumn and winter will bring in terms of Covid and flu infections and the threat of new dangerous Covid variants made more likely in a world where a high proportion are still not vaccinated. For teachers, children and parents it may also feel like there is an enormous mountain to climb this year, with so much learning to catch up on.  

There have been many discussions about how to begin climbing this particular mountain. A report by the Education Endowment Foundation said focusing on reading and a high-quality, reading-rich curriculum would be the best way to close attainment gaps widened by Covid disruption. Schools, and perhaps especially our small village schools, will have to work creatively with the extra £50 per pupil awarded in the government’s Covid recovery plan. Meanwhile parents will have budgeting choices to make too - recently Olympian Duncan Goodhew urged parents to get children swimming again – a luxury, like music lessons, private tutoring and school dinners, that many families cannot afford.

As a parish priest I feel that children’s ministry has suffered the most during Covid. Clergy have missed the face to face contact with schools and churches have found activities and services aimed at children and young people the most difficult to maintain or replicate online through all the Covid restrictions. Ground has been lost, but it is reassuring that our local schools have continued to do amazing work in both educating and nurturing children in the Christian faith. At the end of last term it was an absolute delight to see the children in Eppleby receive their prayer books gifted by Forcett Parish with eyes of wonder and smiles of delight.

Jesus said we should be like children to enter the kingdom of heaven (see Matthew 18v3). Research in children’s spirituality sees spirituality as being something natural and innate rather than something that adults (parents, teachers, church leaders) have to initiate.  Rebecca Nye (author, trainer-consultant on childhood spirituality and lecturer in child psychology) talks about engaging with and nurturing children’s spirituality in terms of recognising and supporting God’s ways of being with children, and their ways of being with God. While adults often like to emphasise the verbal and make things wordy, children’s spirituality often operates at a non-verbal level, in art, play, movement and through the sensory.

Church can sometimes be full of words, and often words that make little or no sense to those not brought up in the Judeo – Christian tradition. But church can also be rich in symbol and non-verbal ways of being with God. We have at the centre of our weekly worship the communion service which, while often wordy, is also a deeply imaginative experience in which we are called to grasp the mystery of Christ’s body, given and broken for us, as bread and wine was shared with his disciples. We are re-enacting that moment, imagining ourselves present with Jesus in that upper room. We can’t replace what this does with a statement, nor do we reach the stage where we ‘get the point’ and don’t need to go over this again. We can never fully ‘know all about it’. It is the same with the cycle of the church year where we imaginatively revisit and re-enact the same story year on year (Christmas–Easter–Pentecost).

As everything starts up again this September, and a new school year comes rushing in, I invite you to slow down and join us on this imaginative journey, week by week.

God bless,


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