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Viewpoint from Rev Betty Trinder for 2nd September 2011

Revd Betty Trinder
Methodist Minister for Gorleston and Bradwell

Has the traditional Sunday School had it’s day?

I don’t know about other denominations but of the 21 Methodist Churches in the East Norfolk Circuit only a handful has a Sunday SchooP1040368 webl as part of their Sunday worship. Stories of fifty years ago tell of thriving Sunday Schools where Christian teaching for the young members was a happy time with annual prize giving, trips out and tea parties for the Sunday School anniversary. Started in the early 19th century Sunday School classes gave teaching to children who may not have had any education other than what the church could provide, but times have changed. Sundays, as a day of rest with church attendance almost compulsory has changed. Families that are split use Sundays for parents to take their children out, car boot sales are teeming with people buying or selling, football and other sports for young people is very popular  and of course weekend shopping  is maybe the only time for busy families to do that chore. We might wish it were otherwise but that is 21st Century living, we cannot remain in the 19th or even 20th Century when it comes to how we are being Church to our communities.
Are the schools filling the vacuum with Christian teaching? Sadly we hear that Religious Education will soon be removed from the National Curriculum and that any Christian teaching has to be done alongside teaching all other faiths and humanity subjects. How will this or future generations know about the Gospel and saving grace of Jesus Christ? The traditional               CDove righthristmas Nativity Story seems to be the beginning and end for many children. How are they able to make a decision to follow Christ if they are not given the information on which to make that decision?
What seems to be filling the gap is “Messy Church”, a concept of Fresh Expression of Church started by the Anglican Church in the 1990’s. It is proving very popular with all denominations and giving young children and the adults who accompany them an experience of church that they other wise would not get.  Gathering on a weekday after school Messy Church provides a fun and creative way of hearing Bible stories, learning lively worship songs and sharing in a meal together. Over the Summer holidays at Magdalen Way Methodist Church every Tuesday afternoon up to 40 children have come and enjoyed themselves and we hope the adults have seen that church can be other than traditional Sunday morning worship. For many this is their first experience of hearing stories from the Old and New Testaments and I know or at least 5 other churches in Gorleston and Bradwell and Belton that are offering either Messy Church or something similar.
Will this be the beginning of something that will lead people to faith and maybe even want to join in with Sunday worship? Time will tell, but what it has shown the leaders of our churches is that it really does not matter what day of the week the Gospel is preached as long as people have an opportunity to hear and to respond.