Over the past week, over 2,500 Year 2 and Year 6 children from 102 Church of England schools across the Diocese of Gloucester have attended Leavers’ Services at Gloucester Cathedral to celebrate their time in infant and primary school.
Over the last term, the schools had been fundraising through ‘courageous advocacy projects’ in aid of A Rocha International and our partner schools in the Diocese of Dornakal, India.
The schools raised almost £1,000 this term for the selected charities. Leavers spent recent months working on dedicated leavers’ projects, focused on the sustainability of God’s creation.
Each class brought in a promise or a set of collected pledges displayed on recycled items to hang on the Tree of Promise and Hope at the front of the Cathedral nave (the tree itself being reused from the Literature Festival in 2019). Services took place throughout the week with worship led by Dean Andrew, both Bishops and both Archdeacons, accompanied by Bible storyteller Bob Hartman sharing the parable of The Good Shepherd.
The Education Team gave a wooden holding cross made from olive trees in Bethlehem to each leaver. Everyone joined in reciting the Creation Prayer that the children learned this term as well as sharing prayers written by the children in schools. Over 400 children at each service could be heard singing across College Green throughout the week.
Interim Diocesan Director of Education Jo Hunter said, “Some schools were unable to join the Cathedral celebrations this year, but the Education Team hopes to join the leavers in their own schools and parishes for their leavers’ services and celebrations. We appreciate the support of the schools and everyone that helps to make this an occasion to celebrate and give thanks to God as the children focus on ‘Our Journey with the Good Shepherd’.”
We caught up with Emily, who attended a service with her class last week and has been in one of the DGAT schools since reception.
“I didn’t know what to expect before I went. We’d been practising the iSingPop songs at school but somehow everything sounded much more exciting when all the schools were in the Cathedral together. There were a few different schools in the same service as us and everyone was really happy and excited. I like being part of a big community of schools as well as just my school.
“There were a lot of happy worship songs and it was really loud. I liked how loud it was. There was a video talking about climate change and encouraging us to act now. Our teacher told us we were really well-behaved and not talking, and she is hoping that we will be just as good when we go on our residential.
“My favourite part of the service was when I got to collect the candle for my school. One person from each school held a candle and walked down the middle of the Cathedral with their teacher – I was really proud to be chosen to carry the candle for my school.
“All the children were given an olive holding cross from Bethlehem to remind us of being part of our church school once we have moved up to secondary school. In my class, lots of us have been wearing our crosses on strings around our necks every day since the service. It’s a nice way to be able to find it easily and to hold it when I need to think.
“I am excited about going on to secondary school but I will be sad to leave my school. We are one of the DGAT schools and what we do at school is based on the Bible and following Jesus. We have prayer stations around school and in our church, and we help to make them and think of the ideas. I like being part of a church school a lot – I think I understand more about God and Jesus through being part of a church school and that makes my school a nicer and more friendly place to be.”