The Walking the Way theme was reflected at St James’ Methodist and United Reformed Church, Woolton.
Over one week in December more than 160 children aged between 6 and 14 years old visited the church to join in The Journeys of Christmas. Equipped with a specially designed ‘passport’ each child followed a trail of footsteps around the church, calling at four stations to hear the travellers’ tales of around Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.
Beginning with Mary and Joseph leaving Nazareth, the children followed the shepherds from the hillside into Bethlehem and heard of the wise men’s efforts to find the new baby king and foil Herod’s evil schemes. The children ended their own journey with the less familiar story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, and what it might mean to be a refugee then and now.
The session concluded with a chance to write a welcome message to someone who is a stranger in our own country, and the children’s postcards were simple, welcoming, friendly and heart-warming.
At every station there was discussion and an activity to help the story come to life, for instance how long did it take Mary and Joseph to reach Bethlehem on foot, and how far could we travel today in a similar time using different types of ‘transport’ (including our own feet!). And at each station the children could have their passports stamped, as a record of where they had been and what they had heard and done.
Each full journey round the church took just an hour and ended back at the manger, with time to share what everyone had learned and enjoyed most. There was a reminder that we are all on a journey every day of our lives, and we do not have to travel alone, before reading out the prayer on the Walking the Way bookmark.
As they set off home each child received a bookmark, a Christmas Story picture book and a Walking the Way footprint on a prayer cord. One of the leaders reported, “The children were just clamouring to get the little footprint” and nearly every child went home with it hanging proudly round their neck.
The Christmas Experience was also open to adult groups, including a group of young adults with learning disabilities on a training course with the Salvation Army, so just short of 300 people had the opportunity to ‘make the Journey’ this year.