Children's Church

Children have always been regarded as a very important part of the St Matthias community. Over the years this has been reflected in all sorts of ways, not least by an active Children's Church.

There will be many people, some still living in the area and some who have moved away, who will have good memories of attending Children's Church - lots of these will remember attending the Children's Service run by Dave and Maggie Brooks at 11:00 am each Sunday morning. I am told it was a service full of fun, music, teaching and the children loved it - over a hundred children would come regularly! And going back, imagine the Church Hall packed with several classes all organised by Vera Koehler (who, now in her nineties, still takes a keen interest in the children). Further back still I found this paragraph in the Parish magazine dated January 1901 ...

'Our Children's Service at 3:30 pm is most encouraging both in attendance and in order. Owing to our limited space we have constantly to turn children away ......'and later that year the Sunday School outing to Bramber consisted of 89 children and 18 adults.

Inevitably, in 2003, things are very different but we would all agree that Children's Church is alive and well!! The format has changed - about 6 years ago it became part of the Eucharist service. The children meet with the rest of the congregation and, after the first hymn and a short prayer, they all go downstairs to the Church Hall with the leaders for their own part of the service. Later they rejoin the adults for the actual Eucharist. It is the practice at St Matthias for anybody to be offered bread and wine, regardless of age provided they have been baptised. This, of course, gives us an important responsibility to ensure the children have an understanding of the significance of this part of the service.

Generally the children have about 40 minutes for their own worship (depending on the length of the sermon upstairs!) So what do we do? We always start the same way with a few moments of quiet in which we light a candle and say a prayer. This reminds us of the purpose of Children's Church - to learn about the Christian faith among good friends and, remembering God's presence among us. We also hope for fun and enjoyment!

Each session will revolve around a particular theme - for example, we have studied some of the parables told by Jesus and looked for the hidden meanings and, at the time of writing, we are looking at the world that God created and our responsibilities in caring for that world. Every effort is made to relate what we learn from the Bible to how we live in the world today.

And how do we learn? Gone are the days when children will sit quietly to hear a long story so we employ a whole variety of additional activities such as games, drama, lots of artwork, videos, singing, crafts and even cooking. So there is generally lots going on each Sunday morning and sometimes we are hard pressed to get everything done in the time available. We also have to bear in mind that the age range of our children is quite wide - currently the eldest if 14 and the youngest just 3 so we have to try hard to ensure that everybody is catered for.

The children are very fortunate in the support, interest and love they get from the rest of the congregation. One lady generously donated a video machine in memory of her late husband and this has been invaluable. We only have to ask for, say, egg boxes and we are inundated. In response to this support the children regularly demonstrate their work with displays in the church and, from time to time, with a performance. They have presented Jonah and the Whale, Daniel in the Lions Den, Joseph (complete with their own hand crafted techni-colour dreamcoat, currently on view in the church) and, most recently Noah's Ark with impressive scenery. And, of course, every Christmas Eve, they perform the Nativity Play as part of the Children's Christmas Service. This is always standing room only and much enjoyed by all who come.

New children are encouraged to join us - there is no danger of them being turned away because of lack of space asin 1901!! Just turn up at St Matthias Church at 9:45 am on Sunday morning and you will be made very welcome.