10th November 2023

I was five when I was sent to the local Anglican Sunday School. Michael-up-the-road (also aged 5) and I caught the bus to the village, went to Sunday School and came home again unescorted – unthinkable now!

Then my mother discovered that we were taught that God sat on a big cloud watching us and writing in his book everything we did wrong (God’s detention book in the sky?) Not unreasonably, she objected to this version of the Gospel and I was sent to the local small Baptist chapel – very traditional – choruses, bible stories and The Anniversary where we sat on temporary ‘shelves’ and recited silly poems. The speaker was usually from the Lord’s Day Observance Society and was aiming his address/sermon at the parents attending to see their offspring in best clothes reciting or rarely, singing solos.

Last Sunday, in London with family we went for lunch on the riverside in Greenwich. Greenwich was heaving with people, locals out in the sun eating street food and crowding bars and restaurants.

What a contrast from Sundays when everything was shut – shops, cinemas, cafes, no football at any level. Parents in crowded houses packed their children off alone to Sunday School to get a bit of peace for themselves. Where parents had no other church connection, Sunday School alone rarely led to lifelong commitment to Christ. The Senior classes were small. But at least younger children were introduced to bible stories fairly systematically.

We cannot go back. Mission to children alone is impossible now. We must reach the adults first. But how, given the current uses of Sunday?

Margaret Clements