2021 Review Fresh Expressions report

Build as a guest

This post is part of a series forming a review of Quartz activity. For an introduction and overview of the report start here at the “Sabbatical” post.

Sometimes the church is invited to contribute to the life of the community. As a guest there are responsibilities, but also there is a welcome and a recognition of worth. School chaplaincy was one of the first ways I was involved with St John’s in activities which led to the setting up of Quartz. I started by working on an art project with St Ninian’s Primary, a school originally set up by the St John’s community along with a mission church. This developed into a programme of regular assemblies. It then broadened to include more schools, both primary and secondary and occasional nursery visits.

Hidden Histories

In 2017/18 I worked with a Sleeping Giants project called Hidden Histories. I was employed in my capacity as an artist, Wordsmithcrafts, but this led to opportunities to participate and involve volunteers as Quartz. The project aimed to give people access to their heritage and develop better futures. This involved exploring general spirituality, and alternative models of group descison making (such as The Ways of the Council).

My main role was as a living history advisor, and to do this I adopted the character of a time travelling culdee from “The Floating Monastery“. As a guest, and associate worker with, Sleeping Giants in a community context it was important that my actions were conducted professionally and inclusively. When you are walking through a landscape shaped by Christians for over a thousand years, the story tells itself if you know where to look, or have someone inviting you to ask questions.

A review of some of the activities carried out as Hidden Histories

As Quartz I was able to follow up interest generated by Hidden Histories after my employment with them came to an end. This meant I supported weekly craft sessions, and this also provided an opportunity for a visitor to Dumfries from the American Episcopal Church as she describes here:

I also attended events continuing the now familiar character of Cathbad. This included two “Abbey Antics” events. The first was actually held at the Abbey (Lincluden Collegiate Church). We provided some “Time for Reflection” activities, demonstrated manuscript-making skills and gave tours of the ruins communicating its significance to those who lived there, as well as the continuing living tradition. The second year there was a yellow weather warning, so we adapted and I have described the experience here.

School Chaplaincy

My involvement in schools chaplaincy started with St Ninian’s Primary School. Following a review of Religious Observance in schools by the Scottish Government, St John’s responded to a request by Dumfries High School. I became part of a chaplaincy team, primarily delivering four assemblies a year. This developed into classroom work in the lead up to the assembly, which improved pupil engagement. I also contributed to RMPS classes and ongoing continual professional development after attending council run curriculum for excellence training sessions in Religious Observance/Time for reflection. At one point I was working with four primary schools and one secondary school. I delivered four assemblies a year in most of them, and contributed to classes and worked with teachers in others.

Two of the schools closed and merged into a new superschool. The new rector at St John’s was keen to take a hands on approach herself rather than the previous model where I delivered on the ground, following up leads and supported by the previous Rector who had a strategic role on the council education committee. With the changes to the schools and having been active in this field for over five years I was ready for a change. I continue to work with Dumfries High school.

Instead of an assembly in person, a lockdown video to be played during registration.

When schools shifted to working from home, and visits to assemblies were no longer possible I moved online. I recorded video presentations, and developed a Pandemic resources page with a mixture of Wordsmithcrafts and Quartz activities. I also transmitted three sessions a week from “The Floating Monastery” on Facebook as part of the LIFT activities progamme in the run up to Easter 2020. Not strictly school chaplaincy, or purely Quartz activity, but working in the same community as the Hidden Histories project.

A sample primary school assembly:

A pdf version of the powerpoint presentation used in the assembly (with speakers notes)

The RO plan for the classroom vist

The RO plan for a Pentecost assembly

A pdf version of the follow up assembly powerpoint used after the related interweave

I also visit schools as Wordsmithcrafts (currently described as the Cluaran Living History Project). In this activity I am hired by a school to contribute to the curriculum by turning the classroom into a day-long interactive story. I use a combination of props, stories and activities, either solo or with a team. When I first met the current year group at the High School over half of them remembered me as having visited their primary school as a Viking, usually when they were in P5 , so about six years previously. I meet pupils in pubs and the street who remember me from doing assemblies too!

This area was not a conscious “Fresh Expressions” activity as the main objective held by St John’s was to try and attract people to its regular activities, or perhaps those newly developed as described in “Planting and Adoption”. Involvement in the community did however increase the confidence of the volunteers involved, and provide opportunities for them to discuss their faith in shared spaces. It also maintained the public profile of St John’s, and contributed to the development of “Spiritual Literacy”. I also used these opportunities to develop the material for schools into a community learning and development context.

Some statistics for the number crunchers. One primary school requires four assemblies and two lesson visits per class a year so 16 hrs for a primary school and 86 for a secondary school annually. Multiple same stage schools or team working can share preparation time, but I haven’t included team meetings or teacher CPD in these estimates.

ActivityAssemblyPrimary School
~25 pupils
High School
year group ~140 pupils
craft club sessionAbbey Antics type event
Resources requiredOffice softwareOffice softwareOffice softwarecraft equipment
As craft club + tent and historical clothing
Stipend Hours Invested~4~5~35511
Voluntary Hours SupportedrarerarerareVaries (some skilled)32 (some specialist)

Link back to Simon’s Sabbatical report

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