ABOUT 34,500 children have attended cathedral services for school-leavers in recent weeks.
“Church schools have always held services for leavers at the church they are attached to, but it seems a growing trend over the past few years for cathedrals to set up big events, too,” Anna McCrum, of the Archbishops’ Council, said.
“The number of special services to celebrate particular milestones, religious or school celebrations, rose from 90 in 2010 to 520 in 2014, when the last figures were published. These are just part of cathedrals’ mission to schools and pupils.”
Durham, Lincoln, Liverpool, and Southwark each hosted a series of services for up to 3000 pupils, to mark their progression from primary to secondary education, and more than 1300 Year 6 children from schools across Wiltshire and Dorset attended activities spread over five days at Salisbury Cathedral.
They included drama workshops, and writing poems about friendship, and services where each school followed a banner made by its leavers as they entered and left the cathedral. Inside, they listened to dramatised readings, short talks, and watched a contemporary dance by pupils from St Edmund’s Girls School, Salisbury.
In Winchester, 1588 children, from 54 schools in Hampshire, attended services over three days; and pupils from Bournemouth’s schools joined a service at Christchurch Priory.
Events at Winchester included singing by pupils of Ropley C of E Primary. Two of them, Ted and Abbi, said afterwards: “We feel as though we’re part of a large community of children who all share the same views about the Church and God. We are excited, nervous, and happy about moving to our new school. Some of our friends will be going somewhere different, but we will all make new friends, too.”
In the diocese of Bath & Wells, the service has become a day-long event, “Pilgrim Days”, themed around pilgrimage. Over nine days, 2700 pupils from 115 schools took part in activities at Wells Cathedral. Activities included tours, active theatre, music, and craft.
In Southwark, where 2700 pupils attended eight services, the Dean, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, said: “‘One more step along the world I go’ was originally written by Sydney Carter in 1971 to be sung at these services. Forty-five years later, we are still singing it.”
Cathedrals were there for life events, he said, including “leaving the cosiness and familiarity of primary school for the unknown world of the ‘big school’”.