In a Church of England school in Hartlepool a wonderful change of routine happens in one Collective Worship assembly each term: There is a whole-school Communion Service.
Communion has been taking place in the school for over three years, since a small group of year 5 and 6 pupils visited another school and, from this experience, brought back their own design of what they wanted the service to look like. Developing this further, the Worship Council takes responsibility for aspects such as leading prayers and controlling technology in the form of projected song words, illustrations, etc. The Worship Council is made up of a representative from each class who aid in the planning of Collective Worship through the year.
The original planning group invited local clergy to further participate in the worship life of the school by leading the Eucharistic elements in the service. (Interestingly, they also requested that the clergy should be robed, for example.)
Open to the families of the children, as well as the staff and every pupil, the service takes place in the school hall. Put together with the by the Worship Council, supported by a teacher, there is a different focus each time.
However, there are some moments of similarity each term too. For example, the same song plays during the serving of Communion itself and the Lord’s Prayer and Eucharistic Prayer are always included, in the same wording.
Each class and every adult – staff and visitor – were invited to take part in receiving, either the bread and wine (blackcurrant juice) or to receive a blessing. The majority chose a blessing and embraced the individual prayer they received.
The atmosphere was one of reverence but was flooded with informal welcome also. There was an ease in expectation which allowed for the nervous to have a voice, for the unsure to step forward and try. To be honest, the service felt as though the demands of being in an education institution were lifted for a bit – and that was unexpectedly refreshing! With lively songs and a ‘magic’ Gospel message shared by one of the vicars present*, the service was engaging and challenging in equal measure.
Outside of the school, the majority of the pupils live within the parish boundaries. The parish church (which is where the presiding clergy come from) has a policy of admitting children to communion before confirmation and have gained the Bishops’ permission. This means that if / when the children from the school were in church and wanted to receive on a Sunday, they could, without there being a disparity between school and church.
For more information about how your school could have Eucharistic Services, please contact your local church. Perhaps A Church Near You would help to find the right person and define which parish your school is in.
Perhaps your church is wondering about offering Eucharistic Services to your local school. If so, please contact Sharon Pritchard (primary) or Andy Harris (secondary) in the Diocesan office.
More information can also be found in this document:
Admission of Children to Holy Communion before Confirmation in Durham Diocese Policy 2018
* The Gospel Message shared at the service I visited included this ‘magical’ illustration