It’s not often that 150 children enthusiastically flock to a church, but that’s exactly what happened at St. Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth, earlier this month (July).
Seven local schools gathered alongside the Mayor & Mayoress of Sunderland to officially launch St. Peter’s Educational Activities for Kids (known as the ‘SPEAK’ project) with an afternoon of celebration and song at the site of one of the oldest places of learning in the UK.
The event was the culmination of six months hard work by a group of eight enthusiastic members of the Church community, each dedicated to helping children learn about the amazing heritage of the ancient St. Peter’s, which dates back to 674AD, and it’s place in the life of our region.
Graham Nicol, one of the SPEAK team, said “The pupils take a journey back through the ages, walking a timeline the length of the church and moving from 2015 to the year 674 AD when the first doorway of the St Peter’s monastery was created. In fact the starting point for the project was the realisation that if the stones of the original Saxon doorway could speak, what stories they could tell!”
On their visit the children pass many artefacts that are significant to the history of Sunderland, get to dress as as Anglo-Saxon monks and take part in practical workshops and role-play activities. They also can visit the new Monastery garden, created by the “space2grow” team, to discover the significance of self sufficiency within the monastery life. Importantly, each activity is designed to run alongside the expectations set out in the latest National Curriculum document.
The launch itself gave local schools who had taken part in the pilot phase of the project a chance to come together & sing 10 specially written songs, each composed by SPEAK member Claret Hunt, that tell stories of the life of Bede and the great Northern Saints as well as exploring how monastic life might have been.
Rev’d Paul Child, Curate in Monkwearmouth Parish, said, “The SPEAK project is a great opportunity for local children, parents & teachers to come & discover not just the amazing significance of St. Peter’s, in the history if our country, but also the Church is a living, breathing, welcoming place to discover the unique love of Jesus available to all. That this has been set up & led by members of the Church community makes it even more special.”