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In the Temple, and saying, Hosanna

08 June 2009

Listen to the children talk about their faith, urges Ronni Lamont

St Francis and the birds: an illustration by Maria Cristina Lo Cascio in A Child’s Book of Saints

St Francis and the birds: an illustration by Maria Cristina Lo Cascio in A Child’s Book of Saints

Through the Eyes of a Child: New insights in theology from a child’s perspective
Anne Richards and Peter Privett, editors
Church House Publishing £19.99
Church Times Bookshop £17.99

The book, edited by Peter Pritchett (Godly Play) and Anne Richards (National Adviser for Mis­sion Theology, among other things), brings together a diversity of people who are passionate about children, and is wide-ranging and varied in style. Published to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the United Nations International Year of the Child, and to remind us that the Church in this country has dedi­cated 2009 as the Year of the Child, the book is re­fresh­ing, in that much of the input has indeed come from the mouths of children.

Among the 13 chapters included are creation, spirituality, play, sin, death, judgement — in fact, there is a chapter for most of the big issues of our faith.

The book is arranged in a logical sequence, beginning with nakedness and vulnerability: a discussion of our society’s confused attitude to­wards childhood and the naked child, through to a challenging and uplifting chapter on heaven and hell written by a 15-year-old, Phillip Fryar, who concludes both the chap­ter and the book: “Perhaps I shall laugh with surprise when I die. I have not ruled that out.”

The writers all approach their subject in a slightly different way, but for me the highlight of the book was the chapter on salvation by John Pridmore, known to the read­ers of this paper as the previous Rector of Hackney. I felt like shout­ing from the rooftops that here is someone who, having listened to what children have to say about sal­vation, is prepared to challenge the traditional approach to such a cen­tral concept, bringing the enlight­ened approach of children to rad­ical­ise the adult version.

Rebecca Nye’s chapter on spirit­u­ality reminds us that it has only been in the past 15 years that we have become interested in children’s spirituality in this country. She in­cludes a fascinating story of why some boys in her Godly Play group made paper aeroplanes, and how easy it is for adults to completely misunderstand the processes through which children engage with their own spirituality and journey of faith.

The various pieces of empirical research that undergird the writing are the way in which we hear the children’s voices. Their straightforward approach to making up broken friendships, their belief in the goodness of angels, and their understanding of sin are among the themes that gave me joy, and the hope that this book can leap the gulf between those who have dis­covered the energy and life in chil­dren’s spirituality, and the many people within our Church who have not.

For those who do read this book and decide to renew their ministry to children, almost every chapter mentions one method by which, the contributors clearly believe, children are to be accompanied on their faith journey.

This is a big book, but it is a joy to read, and should be on every minister’s desk, being read at every opportunity. The challenge is to us, the adults, to hear God’s voice speaking to us through the voice of a child.

The Revd Ronni Lamont is a freelance writer and trainer.

To buy this book go to CT bookshop

To buy this book go to CT bookshop

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