Children spell-bound as Easter Journey transports them to the Holy Land
By Charles Gardner for ASSIST News Service
DONCASTER, UK (ANS – March 31, 2017) — Schools are queuing [lining up] to hear the message of Easter creatively told in an interactive, child-friendly way.
Some 10,000 primary pupils in the South Yorkshire town of Doncaster — statistically at the bottom of the church attendance league table at just 2% — have been discovering the amazing story of the death and resurrection of Jesus over the past seven years.
Christians around the country have been taken by surprise at the openness to the gospel now found in the teaching establishments of this northern metropolitan borough — geographically the largest outside London but with a population of only 300,000.
For the eighth successive year a project known as the Easter Journey is being offered to Key Stage 2 (aged 7-11) pupils of the town, with Tuxford in north Nottinghamshire also now benefitting.
A total of 1,300 pupils from eight schools will experience the unique journey this year, taking them through five stages of the Easter story — Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Cross and the Resurrection — each told by volunteers (some in costume) in different classrooms specially set up with appropriate props and backdrops, creating a peaceful, eye-catching atmosphere in which the children are encouraged to interact with the story and think about what they are hearing.
At the Last Supper, for example, the children are asked to gather round a long table laden with jars of water and ‘wine’ along with bowls of grapes and pitta bread, candles and serviettes – and even a money-bag (for Judas). We explain something of the significance of the feast of Passover and, with the help of a basin and towel, enact the servant nature of Jesus in washing the disciples’ feet, though due to practicalities and time constraints we usually invite just one pupil to have his or her hands washed instead!
Often spell-bound by what they see and hear as they are transported to the Holy Land at the time of Jesus, the pupils leave the 75-minute experience wide-eyed and excited while matching enthusiasm from staff means there is always a waiting list of schools wanting to host the event.
Because there are simply not enough volunteers to meet the need – “the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few” — a rota ensures that those missing out get priority the following year or instead have the chance of hosting a Christmas Journey, which is restricted to Key Stage 1 pupils.
Backed by the Doncaster Schools Worker Trust, supported by a number of local churches and in associating with Scripture Union, the project is headed up by Linda Gardner, who has been teaching Christianity in the town’s primary schools for over twenty years through RE lessons, Bible classes and assemblies.
With the addition of a secondary school worker, Dan Budhi, and a host of teams taking assemblies using the Open the Book (Lion’s Storyteller Bible) method, the Trust is currently supporting over 50 of the town’s schools.
The Easter and Christmas journeys follow the success of a project celebrating the Pilgrim Fathers when coach-loads of pupils enjoyed a day of discovery in the nearby village of Scrooby, where the founding fathers of the United States first gathered 400 years ago before being hounded out of the country for their passionate faith.
Along with all the other regular school visits throughout the year, the journeys allow the Trust not only to help schools meet their curriculum requirements on religious education and outside visitors, but also to carry out the Great Commission in spreading the gospel.
Photo captions: 1) Illustration of the Last Supper. 2) Illustration of Palm Sunday. 3) The departure of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620. 4) Charles Gardner with his wife, Linda.
About the writer: Charles Gardner is a veteran Cape Town-born British journalist working on plans to launch a new UK national newspaper reporting and interpreting the news from a biblical perspective. With his South African forebears having had close links with the legendary devotional writer Andrew Murray, Charles is similarly determined to make an impact for Christ with his pen and has worked in the newspaper industry for more than 40 years. Part-Jewish, he is married to Linda, who takes the Christian message around many schools in the Yorkshire town of Doncaster. Charles is also author of Israel the Chosen (Amazon) and Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com. He has four children and nine grandchildren, and can be reached by phone on +44 (0) 1302 832987, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
** You may republish this, and any of our ANS stories, with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). Please also tell your friends that they can receive a complimentary subscription to our news service by going to the ANS website (see above) and signing up there.