I'm still bitterly home-sick for the Little Fishes toddler church in my training parish, who constrained me to organise my theology into the sort of nugget that can be delivered in 2 minutes to a restless assemblage of babies, toddlers and caffeine-deprived mothers, but I'm blessed in having two schools here that welcome me with open arms, not to mention the splendid Valley Church Playgroup...so my education isn't suffering too much.
Yesterday was very much dedicated to Valley Church School. First thing this morn came a KS1 assembly on planets, which was startlingly successful, despite woeful lack of preparation.Later on I found myself in Reception, conducting a wedding...The bride was given away, reclaimed,then given away again before her father fell over the best man's feet and collapsed into infectious giggles...The groom decided the only comfortable place for his ring was on his right thumb...The bride and her bridesmaids concentrated above all on getting their hair perfect...All in all, it was startlingly convincing, except that I'm not used to guests giving me hugs afer the service and asking me to their birthday party. Clearly I need to spend more time on people skills :-)
Finally, after lunch, I landed in Y3, where they had been considering Committment. We started by talking about the committments they make - to Beavers, Cubs and Brownies, to their pets (if you let me have a rabbit I promise I'll look after it every single day), and to their school. We talked about the sort of committment that needs to be reinforced by reward or punishment and decided that less real than those committments that we kept to "just because".
The children had done some work already, and had some starter questions on vicaring, whose answers had me basically rephrasing the ordinal in terms suitable for 8 year olds! We decided that the committment I had made when I came to the benefice was something like this
- to love everyone in the valley AND on the hill and do all I could to help them
- to offer worship to God and help them to do so
- to try and learn more about God and help others to do so
- to pray for everyone every day (that last one made me feel particularly breathless, - but fundamentally, that's what saying the Office is, I think...)
"If we're silly in Assembly, you might never want to come back again and then you'd not be doing what you said!".They were very perceptive about the ways in which I might learn more about God so that I could help others to learn as well (I was specially keen on the idea that if I didn't "get" something, I should ask FabBishop. - it's only sensible, after all)..They were clear about the need to listen more than to talk in prayer (If we talk more, Kathryn, God might think we don't believe He's worth listening to - like in circle time...") and about the committment of love that a priest makes to the parish, and they teased me delightfully about how they might like that love to be demonstrated (and maybe I WILL have a birthday party with a bouncy castle for the whole school next year - it would be one way of getting over the alarming prospect of turning 50!) .
Then it started to get a bit exciting.
THEY made the connection between the rain or shine committment of a priest to the local community and the "Better or worse" committment of marriage. They asked me to tell them EXACTLY what the bride and groom say to one another and then, one after another, quite calmly, they shared their stories of the times when it hadn't worked out. Probably half the class no longer live with both their parents, or have half-siblings from other relationships. We talked about how committments are made in good faith, about how sometimes the loving thing is not to stay with someone no matter what, and the possibilities of wonderful new starts bringing all sorts of joy. We even touched on forgiveness...But the children insisted that a broken committment is never a good thing, and the overwhelming decision at the end of the session was that you should always think long and hard even before the smallest committment, because, said the children
"If you promise to do something, then it hurts you if you can't manage it".
Ouch. I said I learned alot from children