David Grant turns back the clock to the heyday of Sunday school classes and discovers from Bill Kenwright why they helped establish Everton Football Club.
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Now, children, I'm going to present the certificates.
Back in 1880, Sunday school would have looked a bit like this.
Hold your certificate for the class to see.
Nowadays, things are a little less formal,
but the message remains the same.
For over 200 years, Sunday schools have brought children together
to give them the good news that Jesus loves them.
And so on this week's Songs Of Praise,
I shall be looking at how this national movement
has shaped generations of young people.
We hear how gangs of unruly children led to the establishment of
an institution that's cherished by millions.
I've still got my certificate for a good attendance.
Bill Kenwright explains Everton Football Club's link with Sunday school.
You go to any Evertonian, they'll all know.
And music from our junior and senior School Choirs Of The Year.
For me, and millions like me,
Sunday afternoon meant one thing - Sunday school.
When I came home from Sunday school from my very first visit,
Mum said, "What was it like?" I said, "Yeah, it was fine."
She asked what we did. I said, "We sang a song about a bear."
She said, "What?" I said, "We sang a song about a bear with cross eyes."
When she asked me what it was called I told her -
"Gladly The Cross-Eyed Bear!"
Turned out it was actually a line from a hymn by Fanny Crosby.
But some of the hymns that I learned in those days
have stayed with me ever since and
our first hymn today is a Sunday school favourite that has become
a favourite of each successive generation that's discovered it.
No-one knows where and when the first Sunday school was held,
but by the second half of the 1700s, various people were teaching
children either in their homes or in churches.
But it wasn't until this man, Robert Raikes,
began his Sunday school in 1780 that a national movement started.
Robert Raikes was a Gloucester publisher and newspaper owner.
The story goes, according to Raikes,
that he was working in his study on a Sunday afternoon
and he was disturbed by the noise of boys outside playing in the street
and he wondered why they were doing that, and realised it was a Sunday.
At the time, very few children received an education.
Most of them had to work.
Children would very often start work maybe as young as five
and children in the mines and the potteries worked 18-hour days.
That was six days a week. So Sundays were the only day that they had off.
So, Raikes had the idea to set up a school for them.
During the course of the day
they would have done some reading practice, possibly a little writing.
They would then have gone to church for the afternoon
and then come to do the catechism class after church.
So, in that way, Raikes had kept them off the street for most of the day.
The women who taught in the schools also benefited.
This was enormously empowering because women at that time
had no access to any sort of higher education, career prospects,
and women really were able to use their skills in leadership
in a way that there was no other area of life
that they could do that.
Raikes published an article in his journal
that spread the idea to other towns and cities
but studying on a Sunday caused some controversy.
There were Christians who thought
that on the Sabbath you shouldn't work
and learning writing and certainly, learning arithmetic,
smacked too much of work on the Sabbath,
so this was a controversy amongst the early founders of Sunday schools.
And there weren't just worries about breaking the Sabbath.
The propertied classes were, some of them,
worried that if people learned to read,
the poor learned to read, they might read radical pamphlets.
And they weren't happy at all about the poor having uncensored access
to the Bible and discovering that God was on the side of the poor.
So, reading the Bible themselves
was about discovering good news for the poor.
ALL: Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
# Gentle Jesus, meek and mild...
# Hear the pennies dropping
# Listen as they fall
# Every one for Jesus
# He shall have them all... #
By the mid-19th century, 1.4 million children went to Sunday school.
They were the centre of community life
and each one would have its own impressive banner.
What's fascinating is the images on them.
You'll notice that one there has got a lighthouse,
so that's a very common image because it's about saving children.
-That fellow looks a bit angry, doesn't he?
That "train a child up in the way it should go"
is from the writings of St Paul, I think.
I think, actually, it's probably modelled
on the actual Sunday school superintendent.
He looks like a Victorian gentleman.
Can you just imagine the children
if that's looking from the wall down at you?
You'd think you'd be very good.
How did the banners come about?
The banners are very much like the logos of their day.
They were setting out what the Sunday school stands for and then,
of course, the real purpose was for taking outside the Sunday school
to march and you'd all march and you'd all march behind your banner.
When? When would the marches happen?
It could be Sunday school anniversaries,
but the big ones were the Whit walks.
These events were the highlight of the year
and brought the streets to a standstill.
And it wasn't just young children who would attend Sunday school.
This is extracts from soldiers' letters.
If you notice the date, it's 1917.
-It's First World War.
And it's at a time when this church
is having the Sunday school anniversary
and all these young men, who are actually part of the Sunday school,
have written letters because they can't be there.
It's really quite moving.
And like this chap here, J Partington,
and he says,
"I'm proud to say that it is the good teachings I've received there
"that have been my greatest help in times of danger and temptation."
Sunday school was all about praising children as well,
-and dignifying them, wasn't it?
-And very much encouraging them.
So, you've got medals for regular attendance.
It was about belonging.
It was where you met your friends,
it was where you had social activities.
-"Annual sports, a public tea."
-It says, "children's treat".
Exactly. So, this is the outing.
You can see here they're going in wagons -
"wagons will leave the hillside chapel."
The children's treat would perhaps be the only chance
they ever got to go outside their community.
And of course, the music was so important.
The songs were such a part of Sunday school. Here's a hymn and tune book.
And it's tonic sol-fas.
# Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do. #
Yes. You see, they wouldn't have had an instrument necessarily,
so they had to use their voices.
# Sol, mi, mi, re
# Mi, sol, sol... #
Ha-ha! We know that one.
When the state took over the education of children in 1870,
Sunday schools turned their attention
to training the body as well as the soul.
And football has a lot to thank them for.
Everton Football Club came out of St Domingo's Sunday School
and their current chairman, Bill Kenwright,
knows just how important that was.
You go to any Evertonian and you say, "St Domingo," they'll all know.
-They'll all know.
They'll all say, "That was our church."
The reverend there decided to start a cricket team in the summer,
and it was very successful and the word is -
I wasn't there, believe it or not! -
the legend is that to keep them fit for the next summer,
he started a football team and that was called St Domingo's.
And word that got round that they were good,
so they got some ringers in,
some people who weren't particularly from the parish of St Domingo's,
that didn't probably go to the Sunday school,
and so they decided to change the name to Everton,
which was the communal home of the area.
So, it started, famously, from a church.
In 1892, the football club split into two
and became Liverpool and Everton.
The team that had been St Domingo's
crossed over to the other side of the park
and established their ground at Goodison.
Goodison Park was the first
purpose-built football stadium in the land.
-I didn't know that.
-It was the very first.
And was there still the church connection,
-the Sunday school connection at that point?
It got bigger because, if you look here,
you'll see that is St Luke's Church.
That is still there in the corner of our ground.
I don't know of any other football clubs in the world
that have a church in the corner but St Luke's is still there.
So, are you saying that really,
some of the values that birthed the club still exist in the club today?
I would like to think all of the values.
I'm a Christian.
I just believe that the church
and football have to be role models to each other.
-I think community is important.
So, we started in 1988
a football in the community programme.
That football in the community programme at Everton is
the biggest source of pride to our football club imaginable.
We're there for the underprivileged, for the abused,
for anyone with a problem or even a hope on Merseyside.
If that's not based on church thinking, I don't know what is.
For many, the mention of Sunday school
brings memories flooding back.
The anniversary days, I suppose,
really became part of the highlights of the year.
Obviously apart from anything else,
one had a new dress for the Sunday school anniversary.
I used to think how good it would be to carry one of the banners
in the great Sunday school parades which took place.
And I had my eye on those poles.
First of all, you might be allowed
to hold one of the strings that steadied it.
But when you reached adolescence, you might just be big enough
and I think I just about made it to carry the actual banner.
All the other Sunday schools in the area would come to us
and when they had their anniversary, we would go to them,
all troop down to the streets together.
Over 100 of us - it was a wonderful sight.
In the afternoon and the evening,
a laud choir made up of the Sunday school children
would, in inverted commas, "entertain" the congregation.
Probably about 50, 60 children, all in their best frocks and so on,
were all arranged on the stage going up in tiers.
I could never remember my words.
I'd got words written on my sleeve,
which was quite against the rules, to sing some solo.
And it was always some daft business about birds and bees and trees
and flowers and what have you.
There was no amplification or anything.
If you couldn't be heard,
that was you off and they got somebody else in, you know.
I can remember we had this afternoon when we were pretending to bake.
I don't think we had any ingredients whatsoever
and then the teachers took away our cake tins
and they came back with all these cakes that we'd made.
I think what they were trying to teach us is that miracles do happen.
The thing that really stays with me is the beginning of faith
and it is, I think, very important that children are able
to have that starting place
and from there, your spiritual journey develops.
Songs, definitely. I can still sing them.
# Now, Zacchaeus was a very little man
# And a very little man was he... #
You have to have the actions!
Father, just before we go, here our prayers tonight.
We are all thy children here, this is what we pray -
keep us till the morning light and throughout the day.
Nice little sample hymns in a very nice way.
I remember particularly singing There Is A Green Hill Far Away,
which helped to explain, with the music,
helped to explain the Easter story
in a way that children could best understand.
Since the 1950s,
fewer and fewer children have attended Sunday school.
These days, there are so many other options.
Shops and restaurants are open,
there are countless leisure activities.
Sunday schools face a lot of competition.
And here in this cinema in Manchester,
loads of children come every Sunday.
But it's not to see the latest blockbuster.
# Our God is a great big God... #
They're here as part of Ivy Church
and whilst their parents are worshipping in screen one,
they're next door.
# And he holds us in his hands. #
Dave, why do you meet in a cinema?
Well, the church is over 100 years old.
We've got our own building, but we outgrew it several years ago
and trying to find somewhere where there's a big meeting place
for everyone to meet together, but also lots of separate rooms.
It's blooming cold out here.
I wish the weather would dry up
cos I don't want to be as cold as last night.
I know what you do in here, you do in a really contemporary way,
but do you feel like what you do
owes anything to the original Sunday school movement?
Yeah, definitely. We're still telling the same stories.
If you go to some of the younger groups,
you'll hear that we're singing some of the same songs as well.
You know, children have always wanted community, friendship,
and those are the key things here.
Sometimes it seems like there isn't a link to Jesus but actually,
it's quite a big link to Jesus.
I've learnt that it doesn't matter how you look like,
God still loves you.
What you see here today are the youth, the secondary school children,
leading the primary school children, the younger children.
I enjoy coming because I can teach the younger ones
and then have more of an empowering role.
For me, it's more the confidence.
It's definitely given me a real sense of right and wrong
and I take everything I've learnt in church out into the real world
and I can pass that on to my friends.
The best thing about Sunday school - it's very fun.
It's great where I am.
'One of the things that has changed
'is that children are fantastic critics
'and they know when they're bored.'
So, I think kind of doing the similar stuff as has always been done,
but just more and more through the language of fun.
'Children today have big questions. They perhaps always have done.
'You know - Why am I here? Who am I?
'Does my life have meaning, purpose? Is there a God?'
I love the idea that this can be a place where, for some children,
it might be the only place
where they can begin to unpack some of those questions.
Jesus wrote a different rule.
He wrote the rule which was "love your neighbour." Love everyone.
'I don't think Jesus is just for those that have been'
brought up in the Christian family.
I think Jesus came for everyone, Jesus loves everyone
and his message has always been for everyone.
Our next song is performed by
our Junior School Choir Of The Year from Derry-Londonderry.
We're going to sing a song about a deaf boy and how he sees the world.
This song reminds us what the church teaches us
about our faith - to respect everyone and to treat them equally.
Father God, thank you for the dedication of Sunday school teachers.
May you continue to speak through them
so that we know that you love us.
Thank you for all the songs
and stories that bring the message of Jesus to life.
May they help and guide us as we travel through life.
Over 200 years ago,
when Robert Raikes began his Sunday schools, he wrote,
"If good seed is planted in the mind at an early period of human life,
"though it show itself not again for many years,
"it may please God at some future period
"to cause it to spring up and bring forth a plentiful harvest."
Little could he have known how successfully that seed would grow
and what a lasting impact it would have.
Next week, as we all get older, we focus on retirement.
And Pam meets a number of people who've found that
being retired is not what they expected.
Plus, treasured hymns from around the country
and music from Tessera and Lara Martin.
David Grant turns back the clock to the heyday of Sunday school classes, discovers from Bill Kenwright why they helped establish Everton Football Club and introduces evergreen hymns and songs from congregations and the School Choirs of the Year.