This term we've been meeting lots of new young people in our Secondary Schools and enjoying fun activities, including Nativity Photo Booths and Christmas themed games! At the Alun School and Ysgol Maes Garmon we're leading pop-up style activities using school halls and other spaces, with different themes and activities each week. Working with Lowri Mitton, our Welsh Prebyterian church partner, at Ysgol Maes Garmon we've explored identity, values and character using games and music / video (Lowri's great at creating video content around themes!). Throughout December we explored the Nativity story from the points of view of the shepherds, the bewildered young couple, the magi and the angels. The immaculate conception of Jesus threw up a lot of questions - some even searched Gooogle to check if we were pulling their legs! ("What do you mean Mary was still a virgin???? But that's just not possible!" "That would be a miracle birth....oh, wait!)
Tim Byram of King's Church came and help with what proved to be a very popular photo booth for Years 7 and 8 at the Alun - we were stampeded by camels, swamped by shepherds, awed by all the angels and left on our knees along with the Wise Men!!!
It was all a huge amount of fun - but also gave some fantastic opportunities for conversation about faith, how young people feel about the many pressures of our constantly connected culture and to explore some of their questions about God and religion.
This year Open the Book celebrates 20 years of Bible Story based assemblies in Primary Schools - what an amazing milestone! Open the Book teams all over the UK got together to celebrate in many different ways; some of us were greatly encouraged by attending a Service of Celebration in Colwyn Bay, along with Storytellers from across North East Wales. Most of all though, we wanted to be sure we marked the Anniversary with our schools.
It's not hard to spot a common theme in our recent assemblies - danger and rescue! In small teams (of local church volunteers and workers) as Open the Book Storytellers, we get lots of opportunities to reflect on key Bible stories. We get together regularly to plan how we'll tell the stories in Primary Schools, planning a couple of assemblies at a time. There are often new ideas to help bring the story to life and people far more talented at such things than I am get busy making amazing outfits and props over the days to come. We've got a great selection by now, as you can see above. Some of us tell the story in schools just once, but many are involved in more than one school. For us, telling and retelling these stories leads to reflection on the millenia-long relationship between God and people. The relationship has had a lot of ups and downs - and many divine rescues have been needed! The rescuer we've presented lately have often been of a surprising nature - a boy save his nation from oppression by taking on a giant threat; an enormous fish saves a drowning runaway prophet; a prince saves his best friend from his murderous father the King and an angel closes the mouths of deadly lions!
I'm encouraged to know that, no matter what the predicament, there's a God who is able to rescue me. I may not know how the help will come, but I know who will send it - as David says:
'1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains--
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.'
Blog Author - Wendy Swan
Preparations are under way for our annual Explore Easter events. With volunteers from local churches we bring the Passion week events to life for Junior pupils. They get to take part in the story as we re-create scenes and follow Jesus and his disciples through the events that led to the cross and the empty tomb.
We've hosted the event at Ebenezer church for Mold schools to attend and have also taken the event to outlying schools and utilised halls, classrooms and outdoor areas to create a sense of travelling along.
This year we hope to be able to bring more pupils out of their schools by working with village churches who will host us and take par in the story themselves.
King's Christian Centre has undergone major repairs and renovation to the roof of their building - Pendref Chapel on Bailey Hill. Pupils from Ysgol Bryn Gwalia visited the 'Living with History' exhibition which was part of the church's re-opening on October 7th. The pupils heard from Wendy Swan of Agathos about the history of the building and of the Welsh Methodist congregation who built the chapel and occupied the church for many years. The pupils had fun exploring the renovated area and answering Treasure Hunt questions. Each pupil left with an especially commissioned book which imaginatively painted a picture of a child's life whilst teaching much about local history and the history of Welsh Christianity in North Wales. In all 500 copies of the beautifully illustrated bilingual book were given out to pupils.
By Wendy Swan
Today Wendy and I started the "Higher Rugby" scheme devised up by Higher Sports in one of our local primary schools, Bryn Gwalia, to run as a lunch time session to improve general skills and game play as well as good sportsmanship and team play!
'Open the Book' the lively series of assemblies for primary schools, is still running well in our local Welsh language schools. We lead assemblies every fortnight at Terrig, Mornant and Croes Atti schools and twice per half term at Glanrafon school, with the support of Lowri and our key volunteer Katherine Richards.
The term started with a training day to equip the new Open the Book storytellers which Trustee Lowri Mitton had been recruiting in the summer term, in line with Agathos' vision to help connect churches with their local schools.
The time I have spent so far volunteering for Agathos has been amazing. After making the decision to take a year to serve God before making plans for the future about uni or a career I know that if I wasn't with Agathos I wouldn't be anywhere near as equipped for schools and youthwork as I am now. After also only becoming a Christian in February 2014 I know I have grown so much in the faith through this work and through biblical study - with my church, my role with Agathos and with my mentor John Mainwaring, who is an important part of my training year. I am very excited to see how God will work through me during my time with Agathos as well as in schools in the new year!" I am very excited to see how God will work through me during my time with Agathos as well as in schools in the new year!
Today on some informal lunchtime schools work we went into the local high school to talk to the pupils about "body image" and what promotes and what doesn't promote a positive body image; paying particular attention to the media and the pressures on young people today to achieve the "perfect" body. I was inspired to make a poster of images from celebrity magazines, most of which were known to be photoshopped, and set these images in contrast to the Bible's definition of beauty from 1 Peter 3 - 3:4 "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfailing beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's eyes".
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