Looking for symbols in church

This afternoon I entertained 20 S1 pupils (12-13 year olds) from the local secondary school. They came into church armed with a work sheet instructing them to look for symbols of Christianity in church.

  • Draw the three symbols on the panels of the pulpit.
  • Draw the symbol on the cloth which hangs over the pulpit.
  • The cushions on the floor are called …………….
  • What type of cross is on the wall above the pulpit?
  • What colour is the cloth that covers the high altar?
  • On the plan of the church, mark the position of: the font; the pulpit; the eagle lectern; the altars; the hymnboard; the organ; organ pipes; choir stalls; notice board.
  • Draw the symbols you see on the front of the high altar.
  • What do you see on the ceiling of the chancel?
  • Name the 2 saints in the window at the back of the church.
  • Stand in the nave and look up. What does it remind you of? (Clue: think of the name ‘navy’)
  • Which version of the bible do the congregation read in this church?
  • Draw any other symbols you see on banners in the church.

As they were scampering about I had a look at the worksheet myself and realised I hadn’t actually had a close look at some of these things myself. I think probably because it has been so cold that I haven’t really spent a lot of time in church having a good rumage around and adoring all the bits and bobs. I know I need to have a good clear out of the drawers in the sacristy and sort out the maniples and stoles that lurk therein. There is some nice stained glass but I haven’t scrutinised it closely yet (but I fear I shall never again find a camp David and Jonathan one again).  And the congregational bibles, which are not used, are not of a version I would have chosen, that’s for sure.

After the little tykes had done the worksheet, we had a walk through what we do on Sunday. We dressed up a Crucifer who led the ‘choir’ and ‘priest’ down the aisle and we walked through all we do. We sat, we knelt, and we stood. We shook hands and we discussed how the money could go in the bag but not be nicked back again. Funny, the things kids notice. The ‘priest’ took to it like a duck to water and scampered up and down the pulpit stairs with more energy than I ever do.  Only 2 of them had heard of the Lord’s Prayer and they only managed to get half way through. Oh dear, but that did depress me. I think back to my old Junior Church and how even the little ones were taught to say it at night (and didn’t like the modern version at all!)

Questions they asked me at the end: why is the lectern an eagle? Can I take a photo of it cos it’s cool? Why are some words in the window in Latin? Are there any symbols in the [rood] screen?  (I think I got them right.)

Another batch tomorrow and then again next week. I can’t wait!

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8 thoughts on “Looking for symbols in church

  1. Well, you know my take on the eagle …

    Um, perhaps we need a story on the Lord’s Prayer. I wonder how to get to it.

    Cheer up – Mayhew found the London poor had no clear idea who God might be considered to be at all. One of them thought people thought perhaps he might have made the world. The rest seem to have been clueless.

  2. Doing something similar recently with primary school children they all knew what the Lord’s Prayer is, but it was a Church of England school where they said it (and the head named it) in the daily assembly. One child was eager to tell me about why bread and wine are used at Communion. She said it was to remember Jesus’ death and then added: “the wine is the blood and the bread is the skin”.

  3. Found the eagle! Thank you Rosemary.

    Sadly, we have no Pisky schools left, I don’t think. Or perhaps one. I think it makes a huge difference.

    The class today knew a little bit more, but not much. But one wee soul gave me 20p at the end for the collection. Sweet.

  4. Pisky schools – Glenalmond, only now, I think?

    The Education (Scotland) Act 1918 made Catholic schools the only state faith schools, I think, the parish schools having been handed over fifty years earlier.

  5. And Loretto, I think. The primary next to the cathedral in Perth was once but now comes under the jurisdiction of the council.

    But I did know a headteacher who was a Pisky who insisted on lots of old time religion in her school!

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