The work of the Diocese of Durham’s Children’s Council was presented to The Queen at a celebration service to mark the 150th Anniversary of Scripture Union on Wednesday 6th at St Mary’s Islington.
Children’s Ministry Adviser for the Diocese, Sharon Pritchard, was invited to attend the service and to meet the Queen. She gave a short presentation on the Children’s Council mini missionaries project. This was recently recognised by Scripture Union through the award of £5000 to the Children’s Council from their Good News fund. The fund which is part of Scripture Union’s 95 Campaign, is based on the statistics that 95% of children and young people aren’t in church and the need to find ways to address that.
The Children’s Council came up with a project called ‘Mini Missionaries’. The mission opportunity is to enable the children to engage in peer evangelism – child to child. The aim is to enable children to engage in a series of activities and events where they share their faith with their friends and other children in new ways.
Sharon said: “This is an amazing opportunity to share with the Queen and others what we are doing here in the Diocese of Durham, that we are working with children as one of our main priorities and that the children are active followers of Jesus, engaged in mission and eager to share their faith with other children. I am thankful for this opportunity to share stories about the children’s plans for our Mini Missionaries project as it highlights our Children’s Council and values the work they are involved in.”
The sermon for the service was delivered by The Rt Revd, Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham who is currently President of Scripture Union and has been one of their long-standing volunteers and an ex-employee. [Sermon here]
Bishop Paul said: “I am delighted that Sharon was invited to present the work of the Children’s Council to The Queen. This is a really significant event, and to have the work we do in this area highlighted for all to see is very special.
”Some of the service will be televised early next year in a special edition of Songs of Praise hosted by Katherine Jenkins with another long-term supporter Floella Benjamin doing one of the readings.”
Over 100 children and young people from around country attended the service alongside Scripture Union International leaders from many nations.
The Children’s Council was formed in 2016 by the Diocese to give a voice to young people aged 8 – 13 and to help guide its work with Children. Made up of 12 young people aged 8 – 13, the formation of the Children’s Council is helping to shape the Dioceses strategy on Children & Young People; one of its three key priorities; Poverty and Church Growth being the others.
Bishop Paul's Sermon
SCRIPTURE UNION 150 SERMON FINAL Psalm 78.1-8; 1 John 4.7-12 May your word be like the lamp that shows us the way, the light that guides us. Amen God is love “God is Love. How did God show his love for us? He sent his one and only Son into the world.” In the summer of 1867 Josiah Spiers met with 15 children aged 7-11 in the home of Thomas Hughes just around the corner from here. At that point, unnamed, the Children’s Special Service Mission, later Scripture Union, was born. On 26th August 1868, unplanned, Josiah, whilst on holiday in Llandudno, spelt out the text, ‘God is Love’. He was helped on that beach by around 50 children, to whom he then told stories of Jesus. The work of sharing God’s good news with children was expanding. These founding events tell us the heart of Scripture Union that still remains. The heart is the conviction that God is, and that the God who is, is Love. It is the conviction that God’s love is for all, including children and young people. This loving God has been making himself known through creation from the very beginning. He has been specifically making his love known through the history of Abraham and his descendants, the children of Israel, as Psalm 78 so powerfully reminds us all. Jesus shows it Yet supremely God’s love is shown in and through Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, born of Mary, in Bethlehem and laid in an animal feeding trough who next became a child refugee in Egypt. He then lived out a full childhood as a member of a family in Nazareth. He worked as a carpenter through his youth and young adulthood before leaving home to follow his Father’s call. He became the most wonderful and amazing preacher and teacher ever known. As he taught so too he healed and restored people to life and dignity, making it clear that God’s love is truly for all. He was then betrayed, arrested and lifted up on the cross where he gave up his life for the forgiveness of all. Then on the third day the Father vindicated him by raising him from death showing us that forgiveness from all sin is won and that death is defeated forever. It is this, now ascended and glorified, Jesus who shows us the depth and wonder of God’s love. As Her Majesty put it in her Christmas address 2011, “God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.” This good news of a Saviour for all the world is why Scripture Union, working with the churches, in Burundi, Bangladesh and Bolivia; in Singapore, Senegal and Switzerland, and all across the world keeps telling the story of the Lord Jesus. We want all people to know him as friend; to share in God’s forgiveness and Jesus’ resurrection life forever. The Bible tells us Yet this Jesus is found only in the pages of the Gospels, and explored in the rest of the New Testament writings. The earlier wonderful works of God described in Psalm 78 are found only in the pages of what we call the Old Testament. So from the outset the Bible has been at the heart of this work; hence Scripture Union. Helping children, young people and adults encounter the God who is Love in Jesus has always meant helping people read or listen to, meditate on and respond to the Scriptures. It is never meant to be about knowing the Bible better. It is always about knowing the God of the Bible better through reading and studying it. Creativity in helping people do so has always marked Scripture Union; hence why today, alongside printed materials, we have Wordlive online, and why the tablet based game Guardians of Ancora has been developed. The Bible tells us God is love. We want to share this good news with Albania, Australia and Angola; with Rwanda and Russia and with all the world. God loves you, me and us For if God is love; if Jesus truly meant it when he said, “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.” then that means that God loves you. Yes you; not just the person sitting next to you, or in front of you but you, personally. He knows and loves you by name. He loves you, whether you are rich or poor; young or old; well or poorly educated. He loves you. He loves me; this boy from Chessington, this Bishop with all his faults and failings. He loves me. This is why Scripture Union has always sought to help children discover that they can have a wonderful personal relationship with God for themselves. Personal commitment and faith has always mattered for SU. Each child, each young person can know the delight of that unknown child whom Jesus called into the midst of the arguing disciples. Each can hear Jesus say, “God’s kingdom belongs to such as these.” Each can belong to the amazing family of God that is drawn from “every tribe, language, people and nation.” This is why the fresh focus of Scripture Union England and Wales is on The 95. The 95 percent of children who are not in churches. For the God who is Love does love each and everyone and wants them to be in relationship with himself, and one another. Conclusion Scripture Union remains at its heart a worldwide family committed to making known the truth, particularly to children and young people, that God is Love. We do so knowing that this love is supremely shown in Jesus Christ, revealed in the pages of the Bible. We also do so because we want everyone to know that they are of immense value because they are loved by God. There is nothing of greater worth or significance for any human being, for all humanity, than knowing that we are loved by God; for God is Love.