Planting for growth
Air Balloon Hill Primary School
Revd Jordan Ling & Revd Trevor Denley
St Aidan’s, Fishponds, Bristol City
Trevor invested in growing a relationship with the school by being around and part of the school community, showing an interest in what the school was up to. The school then asked if the church would be able to start an allotment project on the school grounds and a volunteer in the congregation has taken it on.
The link with the school was begun by an OLM at the neighbouring parish of St Aidan’s who approached the headteacher, offering his help. As a representative of the church, he demonstrated that the church community could be trusted and this both enabled and was bolstered by the work of the allotment group. They were inspired to nurture children in the way that the adults and children nurture their patch of garden.
The key to this involvement in the life of the school was in not imposing a model of Christian evangelism but committing to support what the school does for children’s spiritual development which is a statutory requirement in all schools. When asked by children, volunteers may share their beliefs about creation and about God in their lives.
Through the success of the allotment, the church has become known in the school and the wider community. It is this sense of generally ‘just being around’ in the school which is important to the church. They are welcomed in as they respect the organisational boundaries of the school and do not assume a right to be there.
The school has become much more confident to ask for Christian support with things like collective worship, RE and particularly with visits to the church. The staff, children and parents know that St Aidan’s is a welcoming place and so they can go there to experience Christian worship without there being an agenda. A weekly Messy Church of over 30 children has grown up as children and parents have trust in the congregation’s volunteers.
Older members of the church are energised by young children and enjoy supporting learning. There are few places left in our culture where people of all ages spend time together. Sharing work outside the classroom and the goal of nurturing the plot facilitates this well.