At St. Philip’s, children have a special place called the atrium, where they can explore and deepen their understanding of God and themselves. The name “atrium” comes from a space in the ancient church that would be near the entrance, in between the street and the sanctuary. It was here that people would prepare themselves spiritually and physically to enter the church and worship.
The atrium is a place where the gospel is proclaimed simply and quietly. Open-ended questions give children the time to reflect and discover great truths at a deep level. Children hear and receive the good news with great joy.
The children use hands-on materials to deepen their understanding of the Bible and liturgy. When we read from scripture, we use the same version that the children hear in church. In this way, the atrium helps the child to “establish a personal relationship with the Word, to recognize the language of our liturgical symbols, and encourages personal dialogue with the Inner Teacher [the Holy Spirit].” (Karen Maxwell, The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Journal 2010). The space is carefully arranged, so that a child may grow in his or her independent use of the materials. This ability to choose is an important part of the child’s internal growth.
If all of this sounds very different from your “Sunday School” experience, you are not alone! Parents have lots of questions about the atrium and church, and are looking for ideas about nurturing their child’s spiritual life. The catechists started this blog to support parents and to reflect on the mysterious relationship of God and the child. We hope you will join the conversation by posting a comment, talking to your child’s catechist or suggesting topics you would like us to write about.
Connecting the Atrium to Church and Home A child’s spiritual life begins at home, in daily life with their families. The work the children do in the Atrium can be a starting place for conversation.
- The atrium is about internal joy and satisfaction. When you talk to your child after Catechesis try asking, “How was the atrium?” or “What did you work on today?” rather than, “What did you learn?” (sounds like school) or “Did you have fun?” (sounds like camp).
- When you are in church with your child, try to sit where the child can see the altar. Make note of the priest’s gestures – such as the offering, when the priest holds up the bread and wine – and show your children how to follow the service in the Book of Common Prayer or the bulletin.
- Children will go home with “Catechesis slips” that will give you the name of that day’s presentation. For more information about presentations, you can talk to your child’s catechist, read the blog or check the Epistle (the e-newsletter).