‘A Little Child Will Lead Us’: Greenbelt Children’s Communion

The Festival Communion service at Greenbelt 2016 was led from start to finish by children. They wanted to make a space where it was possible for children to lead and teach everyone. A service led by children, and as much as was practical led from a child’s perspective, where everyone worships God together from that viewpoint. Andrew Graystone, who wrote the liturgy for this service and was key in drawing everything together, says:

GB Children's Peacemeal 03“Jesus gives children a special role in calling-out both the church and the culture. God uses children to disciple adults by helping them to look at themselves honestly, and especially by teaching them to laugh, love, play and discern. If anywhere can reflect this, it is Greenbelt.

The particular gifts that children bring to God’s people are needed now more than ever. Children can encourage and inspire us to recover a sense of joy, playfulness and hope that we so much need”.

As everyone gathered the children were invited to come forward and share their best jokes. These concluded with, “Knock knock, who’s there?” “Justin Welby.” “Justin Welby who?” “Justin Welby here to share communion with us this morning!”

GB Children's Peacemeal 01

The ‘Call to Worship’ was to God, ‘Who made cows moo and set snakes hissing’. ‘Who invented hugs and kissing’ (among many ideas), with the response, ‘All the world, give God praises’. The ‘Confession’ was a reminder and recognition that it is our sins that are destroying the world; nevertheless, ‘We are the people God loves’. ‘The Peace’ was shared by everyone joyfully ‘high-fiving’ each other.

The Scripture readings were Isaiah’s vision of creation at peace (11:1-6) and Matthew’s account of Jesus telling people they were like kids squabbling over refusing to play weddings or funerals (11:16-19); clearly and movingly read by a counterpoint of children’s voices.

29212074961_b6058c29f4_oThe song, “One Day” was a highlight with its joyful call-and-response refrain, not only for its humorous yet powerful vision of peace where the wrongs of the world are turned joyfully up side down, but the refrain between each verse very loudly supported by the sound of some 2,000 kazoos!

The Archbishop of Canterbury agreed that his “sermon” would take the form of answering questions posed by children.

Their mature and searching questions ranged from, “Why are you the archbishop?” to reflections on the scripture readings, “Who would Jesus be angry at today?” to the delightful, “Who would win a fight between you and the Pope?”.

Justin Welby responded to these questions brilliantly, claiming to be Archbishop because he’s got a big hat, suggesting that Jesus would get angry at church leaders, and saying the Pope would win because he had a bigger hat!

29222970451_57230c25c6_oThe prayers were shaped around the fingers of our hands. Our thumb is closest to us, so we pray for our family and friends. Our first finger is used for pointing so we pray for those who teach us in churches, schools and those who heal us in hospitals.

The middle finger is longest so it reminds us to pray for those who are in power over us and who have to make difficult decisions. Our fourth finger is our weakest so we pray for those who are hungry, sick and who are struggling in life. Our smallest finger reminds us to pray for ourselves and ask God to make us more like Jesus.

The words of the ‘Communion’ itself were called by different children’s voices with everyone responding, it also included a simple song of reflection sung in parts (to the tune of ‘Frere Jacques’).

The ‘Offering’ included a collection of Lego bricks that were to go to a children’s project in Soweto in South Africa. The final blessing carried the strains of the whole service, “You created the world in joy, in Jesus dying and rising you played the ultimate practical joke on Satan, and may we live in love and peace with all, until Jesus returns to deliver the punch line, and God gets the last laugh. Amen.”


This story of this Greenbelt Children-led Communion Service is told using resources from the website and the words of eyewitnesses who were there. We are especially grateful to Paul Northup (GB Creative Director), Andrew Graystone (who wrote the liturgy including some of the songs) and Nicola Hambridge (Producer) for their help and permission to use material.

All the photographs are used with permission of Greenbelt Festivals.

Read more about the Greenbelt Children’s Communion Service and the resources they used on the Greenbelt website.

If you would like to, you can listen to the full service online.

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