“I can hear the bubbling and fizzing of kids coming down the street,” laughs the Reverend Sophie Chatten, just moments before the doors of the church burst open and the grinning crocodile of about 25 excited youngsters pours in.

They’re all around nine or ten years old. They’re the first of two groups from their school due at the church on this warm July day.

They’ve been invited to King Charles the Martyr Church as part of a series of events exploring ideas of pilgrimage and transition, aimed at children in their senior stages of primary school.

The morning’s events included shared reflections upon the Gospel story of the disciples meeting the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and discussions of spirituality and prayer.

There were also opportunities for modelling clay, decorating stones and dramatic performances, all based around the themes of pilgrimage and growth.

Similar events have taken place over the past month in the villages of Budock, Flushing and Mawnan Smith.

They’ve been organised by Jane Wheeler. After three years of such work in Falmouth, she’s now had the scope of her activities extended across a broader region, as the newly appointed Schools and Families Lead for the Anglican Deanery of Carnmarth South.

A dramatic moment with Jane

“It’s amazing,” says Sophie. “This is the sort of thing that Jane does brilliantly. It’s what happens when you have someone with the right passion, experience and gifts. It really speaks powerfully into the life of a local school.”

Jane is herself a retired schoolteacher, and is therefore well qualified  to tailor these sessions to the RE curriculum. She adds a specifically Cornish twist, bringing the history of local churches and the lives of local saints into these explorations of spiritual journeys and growth.

“We’re looking at the idea of walking with God and moving on with God,” Jane explains. “We’ve had a lovely response from the schools. I think teachers recognise we can bring something a bit different.”

This is a sentiment with which Catherine Coles, one of the teachers from Falmouth’s King Charles Primary School, clearly agrees.

“The value of these immersive experiences is so great for the children,” she says. “They’re especially important after the limitations of the pandemic. Just being able to walk around a place of worship and having the opportunity to explore it had been something we hadn’t been able to do. It really enhances the learning experience.”

Her colleague, teaching assistant Jordan Matthews, is also enthusiastic about such events.

“It’s great to be able to come down to the local church,” he says. “One of the things about RE is that you can be open-minded and it allows the kids to ask really insightful questions.”

Jordan, Catherine and Revd Sophie

One of the morning’s most popular activities was the “mini pilgrimage” which allowed the children to explore the inside of the church on their own, guided by a photo trail.

“It’s fun and it’s good for team-building,” says Ru. “I really enjoyed the pilgrimage round the church. I enjoyed finding things in the church, especially all the intricate wooden carvings. It’s nice to have this time together.”

“It was lovely trying to find all the things,” says Emma. “It’s a lovely sacred place. It’s wonderful to spend time with people here, to hear God speak to you and to let God hear your voice.”

Emma was also very enthusiastic about having the chance to do some work with clay.

“I love clay,” she explains. “It’s one of my passions.”

Their classmate Charlie also says he enjoyed the morning.

“I like all the activities,” he says. “And I’m learning stuff. I didn’t know anything about any of this before. I didn’t even know what a pilgrimage was.”

Ru, Emma and Charlie

Their school takes part in a range of activities at the historic church, including Advent Adventures and Exploring Easter events.

The year six pupils also lead a popular nativity show at the church, involving stories and songs performed for an audience of parents and staff by all the children at King Charles School.

“It’s a great community atmosphere here,” says Jordan, TA at the school. “It’s really cool.”

“To build that connection with the school is really important,” adds the Reverend David Baylor. “It’s wonderful to explore new beginnings and our journey with God in this space and to do that in such a creative way.”

Revd David Baylor