Together at Eleven

Together at 11


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Our 11am service began in April 2017 and is proving popular, with many families coming every week. Together at Eleven is a service with the needs of children and parents particularly in mind, though everyone is welcome. It is a shorter, punchier service, and includes a Bible story aimed at youngsters and contemporary singing, all presented from the big screen.

The service is fun-filled with lively songs and hands-on activities. We listen to a famous Bible story with the whole family learning together. We also keep things punchy so that the service is less than 40 minutes long, and is followed by crafts and refreshments, with time for the children to play while the parents chat over coffee. During the craft activities the children have made Sarai & Abram finger puppets, a serpent from the Garden of Eden, a creation bookmark, a rainbow to remind us of God’s promises, and much more. The craft is so important because it is a piece of the Bible that they take home, maybe hang on their wall, and it reminds them of the Bible story they’ve heard and what they’ve learned about the people of God. 

This is such an important ministry because we are able to tell parents, come just as you are. If your child needs to wander around during the service a bit, that’s fine. If they need to hold on to the shakers a bit longer, well we celebrate their zeal for worship. If the parents just need five minutes for a cup of coffee, we we’ll do some crafts with the children while you drink that cup. If you are new to church, or just want a simpler structure to your worship, this is an accessible way to experience the love of God and grow your faith with like-minded people.

So do come along and see for yourself.

"We had a great start to our new 11am family service. A good number of adults and children avidly listened to the storytelling, entered into the fun of the actions, joined in the songs of praise and helped make pieces of artwork."

 

Together at Eleven Together at Eleven Together at Eleven

 

Godly Play

Children sitting on the floor in a circle around a teacher holding a mysterious golden box ready to hear a special story called a parable; this is the exciting story time called Godly Play that St James’s has been using since November. Godly Play is what Jerome Berryman calls his interpretation of Montessori religious education. Berryman says, ‘It is an imaginative approach for working with children, an approach that supports, challenges, nourishes, and guides their spiritual quest. It is more akin to spiritual guidance than to what we generally think of as religious education.’

Godly Play is a type of storytelling different from many other programmes that take a fun, active approach to the story. It has been described as a ‘deeply respectful experience with scripture’. We tell stories in fun and interactive ways weekly during our 11am family service, but we’ve decided to incorporate this quiet, contemplative type of storytelling twice a month to give children yet another way to creatively encounter God. We began our Godly Play endeavour with Jesus’s Parable, but there are many other Godly Play stories.

What’s inside the gold box?
All of the school-age children go into a separate room with two teachers or ‘guides’ for a portion of the service while parents stay to consider more adult teaching. Children are encouraged to enter the room in a calm manner and quietly settle into a circle around a teacher who places a gold box in the middle of the circle. The gold box symbolises how precious the story inside is because gold is so precious and valuable. The teacher wonders aloud about what might be in the box, even giving a knock to see what clues may emerge. The children look and listen intently, with growing anticipation of what could be in the box. Finally, when the children’s patience is about to run out, the teacher opens the box to reveal each story prop, one at a time. The children have the task of wondering what each item could be and how it could come together into a story.

The story always starts the same way
Once the stage is set the teacher begins the story told by Jesus with the same words that become familiar to the children with each story: ‘There once was someone who said such amazing things and did such wonderful things that people followed him. As they followed him, they heard him talking about a kingdom, but it was not like the kingdom they lived in. It was not like any kingdom they had ever visited. It was not even like any kingdom anyone had ever heard of. They couldn’t help it. They had to ask him what the Kingdom of Heaven was like.’ Then the parable begins.

When we went through the Parable of the Good Shepherd, the children showed great concern about a sheep that had been left behind in ‘the dangerous place’, but a sigh of relief passed through the circle as the Good Shepherd went back to rescue the sheep. After the story finishes, we wonder about what it could all mean. Each item is packed away with care in the golden box and children are released to contemplate the story in their own way with different response stations set up around the room.

Children may use play dough to sculpt a figure from the story, we had some lovely sheep sculpted, or they may choose to draw a picture that reminds them of the story, like the tree that grew from the mustard seed. During this time the guides are available to answer questions about the story and ask the children how their art reminds them of what they heard or what it means.

Nurturing their time with God
Children quietly experience the story as a group, but are asked to respond individually through their work with a range of creative materials. This environment seeks to nurture each child’s personal relationship with God and his word in a safe and open space.

We’ve experienced the Parable of the Good Shepherd, the Mustard Seed, the Sower, and the Leaven. More are sure to come as St James’s uses Godly Play to help children discover the depths of God, ourselves, one another and the world around us.
 

Godly Play Godly Play Godly Play

Find out more

Together at Eleven (photo album)
The History of Family Worship at St James's