by Barbara Mary Hopper
Canterbury Press £12.99 (1-85311-551-7) Church Times Bookshop
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.
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