Religious Education

The units, ‘Visiting a Places of Worship’ and ‘What can we learn from a Christian religious building?’ both aim to introduce children to a variety of religious practice, allowing them to compare and contrast ideas of worship. Visiting a church is central to both units and can give pupils at Key Stage 1 and 2 a grounding in the beliefs and values of Christian religious communities. It introduces them to the purpose of the building, its spaces and functions and the signs and symbols that enrich it.

For a first visit to a medieval Christian church it is necessary to choose one that has its furniture and fittings intact. St Clement’s church in Colegate is a good example.

A visit can be used to establish an essential vocabulary of terms including altar, pulpit, lectern, pew and font and to discuss their meaning and function. The shape of the church and its orientation can also be considered.

The unit ‘How do people express their faith through the arts?’ focuses on:

Signs and symbols. Medieval churches are a rich source of Christian symbolism. (St Gregory’s church in Pottergate offers particularly good examples.) Pupils can be taught to read these and to find clues to their special significance.

The cross on which Jesus died is an obvious example. Pupils can also look at stained glass for allusions to biblical stories and search pew ends and carvings for the signs of saints.

Memorials to the dead offer more secular clues in heraldic markings and in symbols of time such as the hourglass or the skull.

Things as diverse as wall paintings and embroidered kneelers can reveal further examples. Pupils can be set to find and record a variety of these and to share them with other class members at the end of the visit.

Abstruse examples of symbolism will have to be explained before the visit. For example, the letters INRI stand for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews). The symbol of the fish is a secret code that dates from a time when Christian worship was illegal in the Roman Empire. The Greek for fish was ‘ichthus’ which was made up of the first letters of the phrase ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’ in Greek.

Don’t forget to ask pupils to spend a few moments taking in the atmosphere of the church using all their senses. This exercise can be used to develop descriptive language and form the basis of class poems.

Churches managed by NHCT are highlighted in in bold below. Click to visit a church.
All Saints Westlegate St. George Tombland St. Julian St. Michael at Plea
St. Andrew St. Giles St. Lawrence St. Peter Hungate
St. Augustine St. Gregory St. Margaret St. Peter Mancroft
St. Benedict St. Helen St. Martin at Oak St. Peter Parmentergate
St. Clement St. James Pockthorpe St. Martin at Palace Plain St. Saviour
St. Edmund Fishergate St. John de Sepulchre St. Mary Coslany St. Simon & St. Jude
St. Etheldreda St. John Maddermarket St. Mary the Less St. Stephen
St. George Colegate St. John Timberhill St. Michael(Miles) Coslany St. Swithin