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Portsmouth: schools take sheep to cathedral in Ewe Matter project

Fibreglass sheep will flock to Portsmouth Cathedral this week (July 3, 4 and 5) – along with some of the children who have decorated them.

The sheep are part of the Ewe Matter project, which involved lifesize fibreglass sheep being delivered to C of E schools in Portsmouth and Winchester dioceses.

Staff and pupils were invited to decorate their sheep in a way that reflected their school’s identity and ethos. And the sheep will be reunited in Portsmouth Cathedral as part of this year’s three Leavers’ Services.

The annual Leavers’ Services see hundreds of Year 6 pupils who are about to leave 30 C of E primary schools enjoy workshops and services of thanksgiving. This year those workshops and services are happening on July 3, 4 and 5, and they’ll all be on a sheep-related theme. By the end of Wednesday (July 5), all 22 fibreglass sheep from Portsmouth diocese will be inside the cathedral.

The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Christopher Foster, will be among those leading the services and workshops. Similar services have already taken place in Winchester Cathedral for C of E schools from Winchester diocese.

Ewe Matter was devised by Jeff Williams, director of education for Portsmouth and Winchester C of E dioceses. It’s a way of linking parish churches and C of E schools. The fibreglass sheep can be used by churchgoers who lead school assemblies on Biblical themes, and can be brought by schools when they visit local churches. They can even be used as part of science, English and RE lessons.

Jeff said: “We’ve been thrilled that this idea has been so well received by schools. It’s amazing how often sheep can be used in school, not just in RE lessons and collective worship, but throughout the curriculum.

“We’re looking forward to seeing just how the children have chosen to decorate their sheep. There have been some really creative ideas, and many of the sheep seem to have taken on a personality of their own.

“While we are happy to see the sheep altogether, once the three services have happened, the sheep will return to their schools and they can continue to be a permanent resource for that school.” 
 
The fibreglass sheep from Alverstoke C of E Junior School will be wheeled to the Gosport ferry on a trolley early on July 5. It will stand in a pen with mock grass as it travels over on the ferry and then be wheeled to the cathedral. Other sheep will travel to the cathedral in cars and minibuses. Five sheep will be travelling across the Solent by ferry from Isle of Wight schools.

The sheep-related workshops will kick off at 10am each day, and will include a sheep trail around the cathedral, craft activities, a singing workshop with choristers, and a visit to the willow chapel outside on Cathedral Green.

And the Leavers’ Services start at 1.15pm on each of the three days. Each one will include readings, prayers and a chance for two schools to explain why they decorated their sheep as they did. Bishop Christopher will be among those talking to children about the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Each school will attend on just one of the three days.

An adult and a pupil from each school will also receive a special candle, which can be lit each time the school community worships together in the next 12 months.

PHOTO: Children from Gosport with the three sheep as they were delivered to their schools. The children are (back, left to right): Logan Mitchell and Maisie McCormack, from Leesland C of E Junior School and (front, left to right): Clancy Hamilton and Oscar Kirkham from Leesland C of E Infant School.

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