How much time have you spent in the churchyard? Perhaps a loved one is buried there, and you take time to reflect and remember. Perhaps you use the bench in the spiritual garden for a lunchtime breather. Maybe your children race around on their scooters exploring after a service or on the way home from school. Or maybe like me, your visits have been very much an in- out thing as you pass through without much time to think about it.
But even when I’ve been in a hurry, I’ve often stopped to chat to Steve working on the weeds. Or I’ve met a family watching the squirrels. Or a jay has flashed past and made me pause. Sometimes a phrase on one of the tombstones had given me pause for thought. And of course, at Easter time the special wonder of a churchyard has come to life as we’ve used it as a journey from Gethsemane to the empty tomb for Experience Easter Outside.
Children are very good at exploring with their senses, and marvelling at the natural world. They have a deep sense that God is close and the world is amazing. Our new Wonder Walk seeks to tap into that spirituality, and to help the adults to catch it from the children as they see things afresh through the eyes of a child.
The trail is marked on the Wonder Walk maps, (pdf, 49kb) they are also available at the car park gate. It takes you to five different parts of the churchyard, where there is something to think about, something to do or to touch. Each station is linked to one of the senses (I wasn’t brave enough to go for taste so the fifth one is a sense of “wow”!) Each season there will be a new trail to follow.
I wonder what passers- by will think when they see you deep in the undergrowth looking for beetles, or tracing the patterns on a Celtic cross. I hope they will stop and ask you what you’re doing. I hope it will remind them that God is God of the living as well as the dead. I hope that it will encourage school parents to set off with the children for a few minutes rather than letting them have all the fun. I wonder in what other ways our churchyard could become a place of life.
You can adapt the trail to suit the age of the children you bring with you. Or you can try it without children, entering into their mindset to receive “like a little child”.
So do have a go. It would be great to have any feedback about suggestions, problems and ideas for the future.
Anita Dobson, Family Worker