In 2017, I approached our Rector, Revd Kevin Billson, to ask if we could have a ‘Batty Sleepover’ in church. I’m not sure what he thought this entailed but he agreed.
We invited families from our two local schools to join us for a BBQ, trips up the tower and a dusk walk across fields with our very own ‘Batman’ to discover the myriad bats living in our countryside and around our church. Over 30 people came and after a bedtime story (adults and teenagers included) and prayers they climbed into their sleeping bags and went to sleep in a 600-year-old Medieval building.
In 2018 I spotted an article about a team from St Peter Mancroft teaching youngsters to bell ring. A quick call to Richard Carter and a plan was in place. This event took a bit more preparation as we started in the afternoon with lessons in bell ringing, using the skills of several of our own bell ringers. The Head of Blofield Primary School, a keen bell ringer, joined the team along with 25 youngsters and their parents. Making sure everyone had something to interest them, we invited the Raptor Trust along with an owl. The evening followed a similar pattern to the previous year ending with a bat walk and families processing around the church in the dark, carrying candles and ending with prayers.
This year the Helter-Skelter arrived in the Cathedral!
“If the Cathedral can have a Helter-Skelter, what are we going to have at Blofield Church?” asked one of our ‘Play Church’ Toddler Group mums.
An advert for Worldwide Homelessness caught my attention. The idea of a den-building sleepover grew and the date timed to coincide with Worldwide Homelessness week.
Within a few short weeks we had reached our maximum number of 50; 30 children and 20 adults. Some we’d got to know through our ‘Play Church’ Group, others wanting something different. We collected cardboard, string, tape, bamboo canes, plastic sheeting and large pieces of cloth.
We invited Revd Pat Atkinson to come and talk about poverty and the inadequate, poor housing in India and also the shortage of water. As a volunteer for YMCA I was able to share the many reasons for people being homeless and needing emergency or supported accommodation nearer to home.
The children were challenged, in teams, to build a shelter that would be big enough for six people and strong enough to stay up all night for them to sleep in. Clues were solved to get their dinner and as darkness fell, we went on a night walk with torches and glow sticks, across the fields to look at the stars and think about being outside all night. There was opportunity for songs and prayers too.
There was time for fun and also more serious conversations with comments ranging from: “Thank you for letting us be in this amazing church!” to, “When can we do this again?” and, “I don’t want to go home; can we have another challenge?” One of our sleepover friends summed up her evening as: new friends, team work, being thankful, feeling blessed, and a special calmness.
This was a wonderful opportunity for us to be alongside folk we may never have seen in our church and for them to see how much fun we have in the presence of God.
Already, emails are asking, ‘What’s next?’