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Celebrating Collaboration

by Michael Ford last modified 05 Feb, 2020 02:17 PM

It’s 10 o’clock on a very ordinary weekday morning at St James VC school in Gaunts Common near Wimborne, and the 100 or so children are sitting quietly, cross-legged, waiting with obvious focus for proceedings to start... A report by Headteacher Jacqui Booth.

They have filed in to quiet music being played, 4 classes of small children aged 4 to 8; they have made sure Woolly is present and correct [we’ll come back to Woolly later], lit the candle with 3 wicks representing the Holy Trinity, the flame signifying the light of Christ, and in response to the traditional greeting of the church, “Peace be with you”, have confidently signed and spoken the response “and also with you”.

And now the exciting bit they have been waiting for can get under way.

Today is Open the Book. The children love the stories and the opportunities to participate, and they love that the adults who come from the local parishes, Anglican and Methodist, are giving up their time to visit, and are quite often people they know, adults who are governors, or come to listen to them read or are related to some of their peers.

Since the scheme began, we have seen the children’s biblical literacy improve and they retain both the narrative and the messages they are shown behind it. We feel that they also have a real sense that faith is an ordinary and positive force working in their school.

So, worship today happened to focus on the Baptism of Jesus. The cast dressed up and brought props, including a fabric ‘River Jordan’. The children found the ‘baptism’ of the bystanders and the way the waters were shown rising and falling, absolutely hilarious but when the adult narrator reminded them through the text accompanying the actions, of the seriousness and significance of Jesus’ baptism, they immediately became quiet and thoughtful.

Questioning later revealed that the children had understood why this was special, that Jesus was making himself ordinary and humble, despite the words of John the Baptist which reminded the listeners, then and now, just how important He was.

One youngster confidently articulated the concept of repentance when asked about the lesson behind today’s worship, and all of them displayed knowledge of the previous session, about the tax gatherer, locusts, what they are and what they do, and showed a positive attitude to the prayer led by the narrator.

It had been a time of sharing for both children and adults which was very clearly enjoyed and valued by both.

Open the Book is a regular occasion of collaboration at our school, but not the only one. We are also lucky enough to have regular visits from clergy from both Methodist and Church of England churches, and children have services on special occasions in the church calendar held in their churches, too.

A local lay preacher is a popular and entertaining worship leader, and all the teachers at the school also lead worship in a variety of styles and on a variety of topics supporting the school’s Believe and Achieve vision.

And Woolly? Well, he’s a new member of the school community. He arrived after we chose the story of the Good Shepherd as our school vision from scripture. He has joined our British Values avatars, including Democracy the dragon, Taegan the tolerant T-Rex, and Ravi the respectful rabbit.

Celebrating Collaboration- 'Woolly can climb high. So high he can fly like the birds'

A winning caption: 'Woolly can climb high. So high he can fly like the birds'

Woolly is a sheep, of course, and he often gets lost round the school, so we all have to look out for him and make sure he makes it back to the hall for worship every day.

It’s a truly collaborative effort!

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