The Anglican Shrine in Walsingham receives 20,000 visitors annually almost 3000 of which are young people welcomed through events designed specifically for them
Including children and young people is important to help keep pilgrimage relevant in the 21st century.
The Anglican Shrine works hard to meet the needs of young people by engaging both those locally and further afield. Their Schools and Young Pilgrims Officer designs and delivers special programmes and activities and also works to integrate everyday practices around the Shrine such as creating a quiet area within the church where parents can take restless children but still have them involved in the service.
One of the key aims is to make young visitors feel comfortable in what for them can be a very strange surrounding, this enables them to be free to explore and learn. Best practice includes: clear explanations and being open to all questions; including them in real activities around the Shrine e.g. reading, serving, carrying items, sprinkling rituals, lighting candles and encourage them to take part; provide teaching, discussion and services that are tailored to age; chatting about the day at mealtimes; providing activity packs.
Organised programmes for schools are themed for example: how and why people worship, symbolism, clothes and music, and ritual. Large events such as camps (600+) are organised specifically for teenagers introducing many to experiences such as the holy mile walk and an all night vigil, as well as workshops, crafts and a disco. Family events are also held where they can visit as pilgrims but spend time doing organised activities together.
Drawing together age appropriate resources for young people. Training for staff/volunteers at pilgrim centres on welcoming young pilgrims.
Evidence of success
100% of teachers agreed that the suitability of content and the teaching was good or excellent. Schools return year upon year and there is a constant stream of new schools visiting. Comments evidencing impact also include:
“We have visited Walsingham three times now - twice with a year 4 group and once with year 6. All of the children and staff who attended these trips, have come back enthused and raving about the quality of the teaching and the well considered activities.” (School Group)
Ensuring there are activities and resources for all age ranges. Volunteer numbers can be high for larger events. Ensuring robust safeguarding procedures are in place.
Potential for learning or transfer
In natural and cultural heritage engaging young audiences often forms a key part of an organisation's outreach strategy as recognised by the proliferation of the Education Officer role for example as in regional museums and nature reserves. Such roles may be grant funded
or support themselves through paid services. Linking activities with the national curriculum provide funders with confidence of impact, and schools can justify costs of a trip from their budget. Educational outreach provides nature and heritage orgs opportunities to not only educate but build relationships with young people and their families, potentially for multiple visits over a lifetime.
https://www.inspiredclassrooms.org/ Ideas, lessons and resources to empower both schools and churches to fully realise the learning opportunities that exist within these ‘Inspired Classrooms’.
www.cathedralsplus.org.uk An association for those responsible for the care and welcome of pilgrims, tourists and visitors