The Hope Journey was developed in 2008 by Hope Farm Methodist Church, and is supported by Wirral Methodist Circuit. Over forty churches in the Circuit and farther afield are enthusiastic participants. Greasby Methodist Church offers four of the Hope Journey events each year. Sue Elliot offers a detailed account of how all the sessions are run, and other churches offer their reflections.

The Hope Journey is an exciting, interactive and engaging way of partnering local churches and local schools in the delivery of some areas of the Religious Education syllabus. Pupils participate in up to six workshops, each incorporating a different learning style, allowing everybody to engage in some way with the session. Whilst children engage with a Christian believer’s view, the purpose is to deepen understanding, not to convert. All are welcome regardless of faith.

Cre-8 – for Year 4 children

In October 2015 we welcomed 32 children from Brookdale Primary School to look at stories and parables through creative activities. For Jesus Calms the Storm, the children made a variety of musical instruments including shakers and water bottles, and used them to re-tell the story and discuss the concept of miracle.  Following the story of the “Feeding of the 5000”, children produced a craft demonstrating the gifts and talents they could share with others. Using drama and mime they talked about parables and re-enacted the Parable of the Sower.

Having listened to the parable of the Good Samaritan they wrote a piece of poetry to convey its message, and having discussed the meaning of ‘wise’ and ‘foolish’ and developed an understanding of symbolism, they sang and danced to ‘The Wise Man Built his House upon the Rock….great fun!  The teachers described it as ‘A lovely experience for all’.

Meet the Characters – for Year 2 children

This is presented during Advent as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas.  Over two separate sessions we welcomed 29 children from Brookdale Primary School and 60 children from Greasby Infants School. All of the children were given a passport so that they could collect a reminder of all the characters they had met. In each workshop, the character re-told their experience and children asked questions of the Angel Gabriel; Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus; the Innkeeper and the donkey; the shepherds; the wise men, and also completed a craft activity whilst enjoying the refreshments. The children loved meeting people who were really there then! They sang ‘Away in a Manger’ beautifully, followed by the loudest ‘Happy Birthday to Jesus’ I’ve ever heard. All the children left wanting more. But what did the teachers think?

• The children enjoyed it. It was aimed at their level of understanding and it was lovely to hear the true meaning of Christmas. Thank you.

• We really enjoyed all the workshops. There were a fantastic number of helpers and it was well organised. The children loved getting involved and have learned a lot from hearing the story from different characters.

Epiphany: Journey of the Kings – for Year 1 children

Over two sessions in January we welcomed 30 children from Brookdale Primary School and 58 children from Greasby Infants School. Having completed the maps of their journey from school to church (we apparently saw a wolf on the way!) the children loved the puppet show when the Magi explained their story of the visit to see Jesus. ‘Our God is a Great Big God’ is familiar from our school assemblies so the children sang with gusto. During the talk ‘What can we give to Jesus’ the children were very keen to tell us that fruit pastilles, Christmas jumpers and pampers had not been invented, but quickly grasped the message that we can give time, kindness and care to each other as our gift to Jesus.

This year the children completed three follow up activities – Stars Make and Do, Three Kings Crafts and Follow the Star (a game like snakes and ladders) over refreshments. We received many positive comments on the evaluation forms.

• Everything about the morning was excellent. The children really enjoyed themselves and the organisation is superb. Activities are well pitched and there is a great range. Thank you so much.

• Very professional. We felt we could relax and enjoy the morning because there were so many volunteers who were very helpful with the children.

Cross Factor – for Year 5 children

This is delivered during Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter time. We welcomed 29 children together with their teachers and helpers from Brookdale Primary School.  They explored the meaning of different crosses from around the world and participated in Jesus’s entry to Jerusalem on a (real) donkey singing the loudest of ‘Hosannas’. The children considered the significance of the Last Supper and heard the story from two Roman Centurions who were involved in the execution of Christ and were also present on Easter Sunday. They also thought about how Jesus is alive now, even though we cannot see him, and made beautiful Easter Cross cards to take home. 

They certainly enjoyed the refreshments – especially the home made Easter biscuits! Each child was presented with a gift bag with a reminder of the stories and activities they had taken part in. We received very positive evaluation comments – ‘Brilliant morning to remember the events of Holy Week and reflect on what it means to us. Thank you’.

We do have a wonderful team of helpers – there are a wide variety of roles including the welcome team, the workshop leaders, the guides and the refreshments team and everyone has a unique role to play which has been invaluable. I feel it is a great privilege that the schools are so willing to engage with us. Hope Journey is a blessing to us all and I thank God for these opportunities. We are getting excited for 2016-17 already! – Sue Elliott

Little Sutton

Little Sutton is in its third year of Hope Journey. Each year we present “Meet the Characters” at Christmas, and “The Cross Factor” at Easter. Each event is a whole-day affair, with different local schools in the morning and afternoon. We don’t have a real donkey, but there are one or two members of the church who play the part to perfection. Given our age profile, it can feel a bit odd to have Mary and Joseph in their 60s, but the children don’t seem to notice, and our centurion has managed to truly inspire fear on more than one occasion. We are particularly proud of our costumes, most hand-stitched by Kath, and the host of helpers, from our church and beyond, who help make these great learning experiences for the children – and a nice break for the teachers! – Pete Wildman

Trinity with Palm Grove

Each year Trinity with Palm Grove has two Hope Journey events.  At Christmas we have “Meet the Characters” when 150+ Year 2 children from four local schools meet the characters from the Christmas Story. At Easter we run “The Cross Factor” , and 160+ Year 5 children from the same four schools experience the events of Easter Week.

As an extension to this, for the last two years we have had “A Car Park Event” at Easter and Harvest. We change the car park into a street in Biblical Palestine. Children come after school to visit various stalls, do different crafts, watch puppets who tell the Easter Story in song, and the parable of the loaves & fishes for Harvest,  eat fish fingers in pita bread, have donkey rides and much more.

It’s wonderful to share these stories with children, teachers and parents, and to even bring them into the High Street. – Colin Jones and Sue Berry