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St James's Sunday School through the years
The June 1885 magazine reported about the flourishing
Sunday School: “The numbers still
continue to increase, and in addition to some fifty older ones who
attend classes at Mrs Fitz Wygram's and at the Vicarage, there are
now two hundred and ninety two upon the books.” Read
the article Sunday School.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s attendance at Sunday School grew so much that by 1910 it became impossible to seat all the children in church, so it was decided to have a separate service taken by the teachers for them in the church room at the same time as the service in church. The service was “short, simple and suited to the capacities of the little ones”. An appeal went out to the parishioners for help in the Sunday Schools in 1914 as classes had to be joined together through lack of teachers. There were courses of lectures to help the Sunday School Teachers. "Teachers are recommended to bring note-books and pencils, and to be in their places in good time." The January 1921 magazine reported: “The Boys' Sunday School grows bigger and bigger, but the number of teachers does not increase; there is no more important work for God and His Church than this. I want two or three men to volunteer for this work. The Girls' Sunday School is, at present, so Miss Lush tells me, fully staffed, but she cannot afford to lend any of her teachers.”
In 1936 there were three “departments”
in the Sunday School. The September edition of the magazine reported:
“The real and important work of
the Sunday School is done in the morning. The boys and girls departments
meet at 10 o’clock at the Parish Hall and Club Room respectively
and it is there that the instruction is given by the teachers……..
In the afternoon the children meet at 2.30 and are taken to Church
for the Children’s Service. The Infants meet at 10.30 in the
morning and at 2.30 in the afternoon at the Church Room in St. James’s
Road.” Read the article Sunday
In 1952 it was decided to hold the Sunday School classes on a Sunday afternoon so that the children and their teachers could also attend the morning services. Read the article Youth Work. Another request for more teachers went out and a new class was started on the Rectory Farm Estate for the "younger children of the outlying portions of the parish", with nearly forty children "on the books" and Miss Jean Western as their teacher. Then later in the year it was decided that all departments would meet at 14.30. with the infants in the hall, the juniors in the church and the seniors in the club room. More and more children came to the various classes and the older children from the Rectory Farm Estate class began to "come down to the central schools". Most of the children from the former afternoon children's service were absorbed into the Sunday School. In 1958 the younger children aged 4-7 met at Wayside, while those at Junior Day Schools met in church. The department in Rectory School continued catering mainly for those aged 4 to 9, too young to go all the way to St James's Road.
Children at Secondary Schools also met in church for the opening worship and then went to the Vicar's Bible and Catechism Class in the vestry. "The best arrangement now seems to be that they should stay here for 2 or 3 years, at the end of which time they should be attending the Services in church regularly, and receiving further instruction not on Sunday afternoons, but in week-day Confirmation classes and Sunday evening meetings of the Young People's Fellowship."
During 1960 a poll showed an overwhelming majority (98%) in favour of Sunday School in the morning rather than the afternoon. So from May 8th onwards all departments, except the one in Rectory School, met at 09.45 instead of 14.30. There was still no meeting on the fourth Sunday in the month, when "we expect the children to come to Morning Service at 11.00 with their parents". A morning's Sunday School session in 1960 began with the children altogether with fifteen minutes worship. This was an introduction to methods of prayer and well known parts of the liturgy. "The aim of our Sunday School is to train Church members." The children were given 'achievement cards' and then progressed to the Cross Bearers' badge. However the Sunday School held in Rectory School during the same period consisted of Bible stories and creative activities for the younger children and the CSSM series of lessons in the Sunday School Magazine for the older children.
After long consideration, in 1964 it was decided to continue the Infants' Department at 09.45 in Wayside with the Junior and Senior Departments meeting in church at 11.00 This arrangement made it possible for the older children to attend both the 09.30 Parish Communion and Sunday School, with breakfast in between at Wayside. Children continued to move from the Junior to the Senior Department, known as "the Vicar's Class", at the same time as they went from primary to secondary day school. This older group met for opening worship with the juniors in church, but then proceeded to the vestry to prepare for confirmation and communion. After a year these children would attend Parish Communion regularly, receiving their final instruction for confirmation in weeknight classes. The Sunday School for the younger children living at a distance from the church in the Hanworth Road and Rectory Grove area of the parish continued to meet in Rectory School. However when there was a monthly Family and Parade Service, a shorter, simpler service at 11.00 , usually on the fourth Sunday, none of the Sunday Schools met.
Later, in 1973, it was thought that by meeting earlier, more junior children might be able to come, so they started to meet at Wayside at 09.20 for the usual activities and then went over to church shortly after 10.00. The same arrangements were made for the infants and the newly formed over-eleven group, which started in 1977.
From Autumn 1978 the Infants' Sunday School, the Junior Sunday School and the 10 pluses all met at Wayside in St James's Road at 09.20 every Sunday, except the 1st Sunday in the month, which was then the occasion of the Family Parade Service.
As before, the children were able to join the rest of the Parish at the Family Communion Service at 10.20 or were collected from Wayside. A team of experienced leaders taught the children about the Christian faith, through stories, singing, modelling and other activities, at that time following a new scheme of work called Faithquest.
During the mid-eighties, the needs of young people within the parish were considered in great depth. It was decided that the children should play a bigger part within the worship of St James's. It was thought that "the time is right for the Sunday School to become more of a place to worship, a place to pass on our faith to our children - for they are all our children: they are the church of the future, the Christians of the future. The Sunday School has a place which is not inferior or secondary to that which takes place in church on a Sunday. It is different and is of equal value." As a result, in 1988 the Sunday School was renamed 'The Jays' - J for Jesus and J for St. James "as a place of worship, of joy, of fun - a place where children want to be. A place of welcome; a place to discover the joy and good news of Christianity and its power to change people's lives." The Jays met from 09.15 to 10.05 in Wayside and later in the new Church Hall, and any child aged from four to thirteen plus was warmly welcomed. Read the article Children 88.
By around the end of the 1980s the Jays had incorporated all the children in three age-based classes. The group for eleven to fourteen year olds eventually became called St James’s Young Church and met at 09.30 for talks, discussions, quizzes and plays. On Sunday mornings during Lent, 1995, the Young Church very successfully acted the Passion narrative.
Around 2000, Sunday School started at 09.30 in the church itself. During the last verse of the first hymn one of the children went up to the altar to receive a cross from one of the clergy (shown left). This was then taken into the hall by all the children who then had their usual meeting. The children brought their pocket money for the collection they had which was in aid of the Church of England Children's Society. At the end of the meeting, at around 10.15, they returned to church and one of them returned the cross to the altar along with the offertory. They joined with the rest of the congregation in receiving a blessing or communion and singing the last hymn. This way children were included in the church service itself and felt part of it even though they spent most of the time in the hall.
In the early 2000s the Sunday School started an annual
sponsored sleepover, in aid of charity. They also 'sold' breakfasts
to the congregation the following day, Mothering Sunday, to increase
the sponsorship. Every year the would follow the themes found in the
Christmas 2012 was started by the children holding a sale of cakes and crafts, made by themselves. They donated the proceeds to Operation Noah, a Christian charity with a focus on reducing climate change - read the article Shell Seekers support Operation Noah. See photos of the Sunday School for the first 150 years until 2013 on the page Sunday School. The children raised enough money from a cake sale to buy 20 Scholar Packs, providing basic stationery to schoolchildren in countries across Africa and in 2014 they raised £282 from their Christmas Crafts Sale which was enough to sponsor 18 olive trees for Embrace the Middle East’s re-planting project. Read the article How we helped schools in Africa. The Shell Seekers continued to thrive and learn much during the following years. See the article Going live on the web.
During their session on Remembrance Sunday, 13th November 2016, the Shell Seekers learned about why remembering those men and women who gave their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today, during the two World Wars and all the other wars and conflicts throughout the world, is so important. They discovered that both British and Canadian service men and women are buried in the churchyard and they made each one a named poppy to thank and remember them.
The All-age service at Harvest featured the Shell
Seekers and the uniformed groups. The Shell Seekers took the activity
which they based on the work they had been doing that term. The challenging
theme of “Good and Evil” was the subject chosen by the
group themselves and they decided to base the harvest thanksgiving
on the Book of Psalms. Read more detail about this in an article The
good in us. During their sessions each member wrote their own
psalm and then shared it with the congregation during the service.
Read all the psalms. Have a look at the Harvest photo album which
include pictures of the Shell Seekers reading their psalms.
The Shell Seekers led the Mothering Sunday celebrations
on 6th March 2016 with an interactive talk based on Luke's gospel. Taking
our inspiration from Jesus' desire to gather the children of Jerusalem
into his arms like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wing,
they wrote their feelings about their mums on the back of some (very
brightly coloured!) chicks.
The Parish Church of St James, Hampton Hill, TW12 1DQ
Main site: stjames-hamptonhill.org.uk