If you go down to the church today ...;Talkback

26th June 1998 at 01:00
Today we are going to do something different, Class 5. We are going to go for a short walk down to the church. Miss Davies, the churchwarden, will meet us there and show us some interesting objects, and I hope we will find out a lot about the building and the wonderful things inside.

Remember, we have done lots of work on "symbols in our church", so now is our chance to look for some real symbols, and find out their meaning.

My class of seven-year-olds look at me eagerly. A chance to be out of the confines of the classroom is not to be missed. For some weeks we have been studying "signs and symbols" in our RE lessons, but nothing is a substitute for hands-on experience. A happy "buzz" goes round the class.

What is that David?

Is there a toilet in the church?

Well, I expect there is a toilet for the vicar to use, but perhaps we had all better use the one in school before we start out. Any girl who needs the toilet go now, and then the boys can go.

Now then, I need two sensible people to lead us down to the church - Dawn and Natalie. Walk steadily girls, then no one will be left behind.

What did you say, Clare? Is it God's house?

Indeed it is and we behave in God's house the way we would behave if we were visiting a friend's house.

You what, Simon?

You jump on the bed in Richard's house? Then I wouldn't blame Richard's mummy for saying you couldn't come any more. Listen everybody. We're going out of the school gate and up Church Road. Leaders - stop at the gate until we all reach you.

Wait leaders. You must wait for us all to catch up - Philip, can you really not walk any quicker? What? You're not used to walking - well, walking is good exercise, Philip, and you will reap the benefits later.

Can you hear something?

A bell - indeed. Welcoming us to the church. Someone is ringing it for us - not a ghost, no - don't be silly, John. Miss Davies, the churchwarden, is ringing the bell to welcome us into church.

The church door is old and heavy, and gives a ghostly creak as we enter.

Miss Davies, however, is large and jolly, and we are soon divided into groups, each with information to find out, and each, in turn, to be taken to see the wonderful shining chalice.

I heave a sigh of relief. The children are engrossed, drawing symbols of crosses, doves and keys. Many have not been inside a church before - or at least, not since their baptism. Their behaviour is exemplary. I call them together for our walk back.

Just before we go, Miss Davies would like to ask us a question.

Can you see the wonderful picture on the wall by the altar? That is a copy of a famous painting by a famous artist called Leonardo da Vinci. Can anyone tell us what it is about?

Silence.

Well - it is of some men sitting together at a table, isn't it? One man in the middle looks as if he is talking to the others.

The silence becomes uncomfortable. Scuffling breaks out. Miss Davies looks reproving.

A hand shoots up.

Yes, Simon, tell us what you think the picture is about.

Please Miss - he says happily - it's King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Jean Emes is a former primary teacher in Newcastle upon Tyne who took early retirement last April

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