Families flock to service

First published on: 26th September 2023

By Jill Swaile, Churchwarden and Authorised Lay Minister at St Peter's Falstone, Bellingham Deanery, reports on how Molly, Dolly and Polly inspired a family service based on ‘The Good Shepherd’.  


Family services are always enjoyable at St Peter’s, Falstone. I love the noise and bustle of the children in church, who feel comfortable to interact and explore church during the service.

The family service at the beginning of September was all about the meaning of ‘The Good Shepherd’. St Peter’s has a stunning stained-glass window depicting Jesus as The Good Shepherd.

Mike Wilkinson, a retired Methodist minister, and I prepared the service together. St Peter’s was absolutely full of sheep - pictures of sheep, wooden sheep and cuddly toy sheep (in the pews, in the pulpit, by the hymn books and on the font).

However, thanks to the Swan family farmers (especially Emma aged 3 and Dylan aged 9 months) we had three real-life sheep in the churchyard - Molly, Dolly and Polly!

Molly, Dolly and Polly are pet Valais Blacknose sheep, originating from Switzerland. They were watched over by Peg the trusty sheepdog. The children (and adults) loved seeing the ‘girls’ who were well behaved.  

Ashley Swan told us all about the importance of being a shepherd in the 21st century and Mike explained about what it was like shepherding in Jesus’ time. We sang lots of sheep-themed songs and learned a new song called ‘Baa Baa…. He’s The Good Shepherd’, where we all had to do our best sheep impersonations! We even sang ‘While Shepherd’s Watched their Flocks by Night’ – a special request from the Swan family.  

The children were interactive during the service. They rang the bell, read prayers, played percussion instruments and coloured in prayer sheep to make a poster for St Peter’s. It was a thoroughly intergenerational service of fun and thanksgiving. The two visitors we had expressed that they had enjoyed a thoroughly great experience and welcome at St Peter’s - albeit noisy!



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