A few years ago, I read a novel by PD James, The Children of Men. It was a futuristic account of what would happen if the pattern of increasing sterility among both men and women came to its logical conclusion. There were no children. In the first chapter, Theo, the principal character, attends choral Evensong. The anthem is played on a tape, because there are no boys left to sing it. That perfect pure sound has gone forever. It showed that a world without children was not just a world with no future; it was a world without freshness, without hope.
It is the same for many of our churches. While there are a few children, we are content to jog along. Once there are none, the community realizes what it has lost. Then it acts, but it does not always know how to act. I hear many of my fellow priests lament that they have no children, or only very young children in their churches, yet there are children in the streets around them, in schools, sports clubs, health centres and libraries. How can we reach out to them with the Good News of the Gospel?
Eight years ago, we had a similar situation in my parish of St Mary’s, Swanley. Our links with our school were growing, but very few children darkened the church doors on Sunday morning. But with a lot of prayer and hard work from a few dedicated people, our children’s work has grown and flourished. We started a Sunday school with just four children colouring pictures in the corner of the church; now we have over forty on the books. We have built relationships with our local schools, and we have a small youth group. We have become involved with diocesan events, the Children’s Festival last year, the biennial Schools’ Festival recently, and several people went on the diocesan training course for children’s workers, Fired Up! Not all of them do children’s work regularly but we believe that the children are everyone’s responsibility and encourage everyone to be involved in some way.
We know that it is often hard to find the right training at the right time and place, so we decided that we would host a training day, Encountering Children, as a way of offering something of what we have learned over the last few years. It will be on Saturday 23rd November at St Mary’s School, Swanley. There will be expert speakers and leaders of workshops on all aspects of our ministry with children, a special children’s programme, and the day will finish with a celebration Eucharist of Christ the King.
Who is it for? If you are clergy, children’s workers, parents or just longing to see more children come to faith, you are welcome. Thanks to the sponsorship of CBS, we are able to offer the whole day for a token £5.00 per head. Further details will be publicized on fliers, on our website: www.swanleyparishchurch.co.uk or by contacting me on (01322) 662201.
See you there!