Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Schools, Schools and more Schools

Well, actually, only two schools, but have spent a lot of time in our local primary schools over the past day or two.

Unlike in the U.S. there is still lots of scope for 'schools ministry' here in the UK and it is a huge privilege to be invited in to share something of the Christian message in our local schools. Yesterday I was invited also to join the chaos of the annual Christmas lunch in a school in a neighbouring village at which I sat with a little group of kids who were very happy to have a big hairy Vicar with them and to chat constantly to me through the meal! In the evening I went back to the same school to the head-teacher's retirement 'do' and 'thank you' for all she's done for the school. Again, felt very honoured to have been invited.

This morning was the annual nativity play by the youngest class in my local school. It was also my first year as 'doting dad' - my little girl was an Angel in the fun, musical version of the nativity story which the reception/class one put on. I then got to follow it with a few disjointed thoughts about Christmas and the idea of keeping Jesus at the centre of Christmas celebrations (something which easily drops of the radar for most of us!). I am back to the school (or rather they are joining us in the Parish Church) in the neighbouring village this afternoon to lead (with the Curate) the Christmas service. More carols, more kids, more fun - and another reminder of how fortunate we are to be able share our faith openly with these young people.

Our local village school is a Church of England foundation school, though like most state schools now it is actually run by the School itself, with the Governing body (of which I am a member) under our local education authority. There is built into the ethos of the school an expectation of worship and prayers (though these are optional no one has ever asked to be excused) in the regular life of the school and education in matters of faith is considered an important part of educating the 'whole person'. The other school I minister in is not a Church foundation, but they are still very open to the visits myself and the curate do and the assemblies we lead, and to having a weekly 'after school club' run by Church members.

It should be said that we don't go into this ministry with the explicit aim of 'proselytising' but are encouraged by staff and state to share our faith, in an open way. The children listen and ask honest questions (the best kind) and are presented (I hope) with a Gospel that is clear, engaging and offered rather than imposed. Its one of the most encouraging parts of what we get to do.

Just thought I'd tell you all about it! Got to get ready for the Christmas service for Newton School now...


Tom said...

I wish public schools in the US would allow visits like that. Public schooling in the US tends to be generally atheistic. They can't give only one side of the story so they simply won't tell the story at all.

Alastair said...

Thanks for the comment Tom, I think that ministers over here in the UK often forget what a privilege and opportunity school's ministry is. As an older teenager I was actually a schools minister in secondary schools in the North East, then involved in Christian Unions and Chaplaincy in university, so I hope I won't ever lose that sense of wanting to help young people explore faith honestly.