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A HANDBOOK FOR CHILDREN’S LITURGY

by
02 November 2006

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by Barbara Mary Hopper

Canterbury Press  £12.99 (1-85311-551-7) Church Times Bookshop £11.70

CHURCH is sometimes boring. And holding weekly all-age services can be a strain for both the children and adults, neither of whose needs is fully met. That is why many churches run a junior church, allowing both adults and children to learn and worship in an environment suitable to their understanding. A plethora of Sunday-school notes is available, all rich in ideas for stories and activities; but in some places junior church is more a crèche or an RE lesson than a creative engagement with our living God.

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This book is part of a series written for Roman Catholic lay people in positions of leadership in their local church. Some of the language is unfamiliar, and the liturgical constraints are different from those on people working in an Anglican setting. However, the similarities between the Anglican and Roman rites mean that the greater part of the book is highly suitable for those who want to introduce liturgical worship to the junior church.

It is based on a model of church as a journey, which will be familiar to those who use Common Worship baptism. The people of God gather, listen and respond to God, and leave equipped to share the good news. The book encourages the children and their leaders to reflect this in their group.

Barbara Mary Hopper bases the shape of worship for children on the adult service, from the greeting through to the Peace, with the main focus on the Liturgy of the Word. By planning effectively with a team, Hopper suggests that a leader can enable a dialogue between children and the scriptures, letting the children respond to the reading from their own experience, and inspiring them to share it with others. Dialogue leads into intercession, and then the children join the adults for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The weakness of the book is the assumption that a group of children is not already meeting during regular Sunday worship. Within a small parish, where leaders of such a group are in short supply, it could be difficult to keep within the age parameters that Hopper suggests. The book also assumes that there will be enough time during the service to fit in a complete Liturgy of the Word with dialogue before the Peace. It may be that some parts of the liturgy for children need to be missed out, so that there is time for the children to respond to the reading and to be heard.

Nevertheless, even if your church already has a junior church group, and you are concerned that the children learn how to worship as well as receive instruction and entertainment, this book is full of information and inspiration. When children are brought for baptism, the Christian community gathered for the sacrament promises to uphold those children in their new life in Christ. If we are faithful to that, we should receive this book with enthusiasm, and provide enough personnel, prayer and preparation to enable the children to participate actively in the liturgy of holy communion.

Dana Delap is a member of the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission.

To place an order for this book, contact CT Bookshop

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