Monday, March 04, 2013

"The Big Thankyou" - what happened next

So by Thursday morning it was obvious that Experience Eucharist was a GOOD thing :)
Yes, there were bumpy bits along the way - but that's what pilots are for.
As the journey was part of the school's "Enrichment week", each class had undertaken supplementary activities, working around the themes of the stations - and the final celebration, "The Big Thankyou", had to include all of these as well as being the 1st School Eucharist ever for St Matthew's.
As these contributions were still being created by Wednesday evening, this made the late night creation of liturgy rather more stressful than usual...but by midnight the last slide was finished, and all that remained was alot of prayer as I drifted into anxious sleep.

A letter to parents and a meeting with them meant that I had 2 dozen children poised to make their 1st Communion. All through the week I had stressed that those who chose not to receive would still be offered a blessing - though I wish, with hindsight, I'd thought more about logistics! Head & Deputy both thought we'd agreed that each class would come to the front for Communion or blessing, but when the time came, clearly nobody had told the teachers. The little band of communicants duly came forward...but instead of being followed by their class mates and staff, at that point everyone else sat still. The only option, then, was to weave my way between the lines as best I the end of the morning, I felt a marked affinity with Quasimodo - but it was worth it!

I pared the liturgy down to the barest of bones.
We greeted one another as we do at every school assembly
"The Lord be with you"......then I reminded them of how we'd learned about gathering during the week...the jar of liquorice all-sorts on the stage and the completed patchwork that hung behind me a reminder that at God's party old and young, rich and poor, any and everyone has a place and belongs.
Reception shared some pictures from their week of gathering - and some delicious biscuits that they had made, having gathered the ingredients. We agreed that as the biscuits were perfect, they would not have been as good if any ingredient had been missing....

Then we thought about being sorry...The bowl of water flowers on the stage, and the thoughtful words of Y6, who had taken "Forgiving" as their theme, led us into a very simple confession

Loving God we know that we get things wrong.
Sorry – for letting you down
Sorry – for being unkind
Sorry – for hurting other people and hurting you.
Please forgive us
Please help us to start again
Through Jesus our Lord Amen

Absolution led to a rousing chorus of 
"You're forgiven and you know it, clap your hands" - borrowed from my friend Fr Simon's excellent Nursery Rhyme Mass  then a Collect, written by another online friend as I footled with layouts the previous evening.

I loved the feeling that, as I'd asked my twitter community to pray for the whole Experience Eucharist week, they were present with us not just in their prayers but in their words as the celebration came together.

Father, you love to see your family gathered around your table
to feast and celebrate
Bless us and all those we love
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Y5 talked about Listening, in the light of "The Soul Bird"  and we listened once again to the parable of the Great Feast.

Having shared the Peace (again, the children are very familiar with this...though instead of rushing round collecting handshakes, we simply linked hands with our neighbours - so that we made a wonderful chain that included the whole school) we talked about remembering, with special times shared by Y2 & 3, and letters written to those we could no longer talk to.
By this point I was feeling hugely emotional...when I presided at my 1st Mass there was SUCH a sense of all my departed loved ones gathered round the table that to hear those children reading letters to grandparents and to pets whom they remembered with love was very powerful.

I talked briefly about the different sorts of remembering...having spent much of the week losing track of my phone/tablet/glasses the children all knew just how wobbly that sort of remembering could be...but that THIS remembering, - making the past present - was something quite different, a bridge that we could cross whenever we wanted to.
Y3 children brought up the elements
"With this bread that we bring, we shall remember Jesus....."
and then we were off into the Big Thankyou Prayer itself - using the 2nd of the new options, which seemed to say all that we needed. 

".......You give us happy times and things to celebrate
In these we see your Kingdom, a feast for all your children.
You made us all, each wonderfully different,                                                                                           to join with the angels and sing your praise"
Inspired by Fr Simon, I'd created an instant Sanctus, sung to "Twinkle, twinkle"....which clearly hit the spot as I heard children singing it about the place for the rest of the day
"Holy,holy, holy Lord ,
God of power and God of might
All creation praises you, 
and we sing your praises too.
Holy, holy, holy Lord, 
God of power and God of might"
The Lords Prayer, and then
"Come to the celebration. Jesus welcomes us all"....

Yes, there was choreographic confusion - but the holy silence that filled the hall as I worked my way round, blessing every child after that little group of communicants had received Jesus in bread & wine, was beyond price.
I was very glad that I'd decided to end the service with another verse from Fr Simon
Jesus loves us and we know it – stamp your feet!
Jesus loves us and we know it – stamp your feet!
Jesus loves us and we know it – and it's time for us to show it.
Jesus loves us and we know it – stamp your feet!

 Y4 shared some thank yous, and Y1 their determination to be shining lights.

Then we went in peace, to love and serve the Lord....and all was very well indeed in our world.


Anonymous said...

This sounds wonderful!! Congratulations to both you and the school. Given me lots of ideas, and the link to the nursery rhyme mass is now saved in my useful ideas folder.

Perpetua said...

That is a marvellous achievement and something the children will carry with them. All good wishes for future Eucharists at the school.