The first Super Learning Days for this year took the Year 7 students on an alternative journey across the city. Liverpool has a great reputation as a city of faith and the students experienced first-hand what this means to the community and how the community responds.
As the song goes, ‘if you want a Cathedral we’ve got one to spare’! Of course, Liverpool would not be without either of the Cathedrals that link together across Hope Street. From its sombre exterior, the inside of the Anglican Cathedral drew gasps of wonder at the soaring architecture, the luminous windows and the many memorials and chapels that remember the people of Liverpool who have dedicated their lives to making faith come alive. The War Memorial chapel held an interactive exhibition to remember the Centenary of the First World War with an invitation to sign pieces of artwork with prayers and thanksgiving. The students took time to reflect and share their memories of family members who have been involved in conflict.
The Catholic Cathedral, Christ the King, was a ‘home from home’ experience for many who have visited the Cathedral before with schools or families. For this visit, the students took time in the Children’s chapel, where they left prayer cards, and the Reconciliation Chapel where they thought about the importance of faith in having the courage to forgive. Despite the gloom of the weather, the Cathedral was ablaze with the light from the stained glass and the students studied the art and architecture that makes the Cathedral unique.
St Francis Xavier Church in Salisbury Street is one of the first and largest Catholic Churches in Liverpool. The church, and the parish it cares for is looked after by the Jesuits, the same order as Pope Francis belongs to. Debbie, the parish assistant, was on hand to offer the students a great insight into the history of the parish. The church is full of statues, paintings, hangings and more stained glass that show how important it is to the people of faith who worship there. The students were greatly moved by the War memorial which was watched over by a Pieta – Our Lady holding her dead son. SFX parish (as it is known) lost hundreds of men during the Great Wars with not enough room for all the names to be displayed. This was another opportunity to light candles and place prayers in the book of intentions. On a brighter note, Debbie showed the students a unique shrine to the first Catholic chapel in Liverpool since the Reformation – which included a statue of Our Lady of Liverpool – holding the Liver Bird in her hand.
The Walker Art gallery provided a welcoming space to look at artists of faith and how they had portrayed Jesus across the centuries. Paintings of Mary with Jesus as a baby caused discussion about the reality of being truly human, ‘just like us’. An icon of when Jesus was lost in the Temple made more links for the students with family stories of their own. The painting of Jesus with the children echoed the Children’s chapel at the Catholic Cathedral and reminded all of us that faith begins in childhood and that in our faith, children are valued most of all.
This was a day full of new experiences, thoughts and reflections and the students and staff look forward to continuing their journey into faith back in the classroom.