the snowdon challenge

31 08 2016

You cannot understand the world without understanding religion. Ok, perhaps some would dispute that. But? Think about it. Probably 90% of the world adhere to some form of religious belief. We in secular Europe like to deny that; we may think the beliefs are wrong; yet, there it is.

Young people are growing up in a world that misunderstands religion. Seen through cynical media eyes it is newsworthy only at times of abject failure, or accidental comedy, or when the Queen does something dressy.

Yet religion changes the way people behave arguably more than most other factors. Yes that can be negative – extremist fundamentalism – and also positive – food banks, youth clubs, debt counselling, schools, hospitals…

Despite being the fastest growing A-Level option, and the one subject that tackles the big questions of life from primary right through secondary, many RE teachers are non-specialist. Many know their stuff, but many, especially in Primary school, have no background in RE at all.

This is why I support Sutton Schoolswork, even enough to run 22 miles over Snowdon! Yes, you may argue I have a vested interest in promoting the good understanding of religion. Yes, I do, as I do in the good understanding of sport and geography and maths. Even maths.

2016 Snowdon Challenge.002

Sutton Schoolswork work in schools, by invitation, to support teachers in the delivery of the RE syllabus; to give assemblies on topics ranging from Christian festivals to anti-bullying; to run i-Wonder Days for primary schools and RE 6th Form Conferences on Human Trafficking; they support teachers and pupils, and work with local volunteers to run lunch-clubs and after-school clubs. They do this across 45 primary schools and 11 secondary schools with just 2 schools workers, a recently-created post of Director, and p/t admin support, alongside local volunteers.

The critics in my head say there are better places for money to go, better charities to support. Yes, there are many good ones. Yet helping children and young people to understand the world they live in is a vastly underestimated value. Thinking deeply, discussing gracefully, learning from a conversation not a textbook… all these contribute to a world in which we don’t just shout statements at each other from entrenched and unknowing prejudice, but we seek to understand each other, to work together.

2016 Snowdon Challenge.001

So on Saturday 3rd September I am taking part in Man V Mountain, to raise money for Sutton Schoolswork. As a Trustee-Director and a local vicar who works in both primary and secondary schools, I think this is a great cause, and if you are able to join in supporting it, then please follow this link above to do so.

Thank you.

Advertisements




blindspots and horizons

21 09 2015

One of my roles is a Trustee/Director of Sutton Schoolswork, our excellent local Christian schoolswork organisation. This is a spoken word vision of the future I wrote for and delivered at our annual Thanksgiving Service, for which I thought I’d get thrown out, but instead have been asked for copies. Who knew. Maybe it wasn’t provocative enough after all.


blindspots and horizons

we the church suffer from an honesty crisis
and I guess it shouldn’t surprise us
when you think about the average ages
in our congregations
which isn’t something to beat ourselves up about
except to say that if we put as much effort into schoolswork
as we do coffee mornings and playgroups
there’d be more schoolswork

we the church suffer from an honesty crisis
and actually it should surprise us
when you think about all the time spent
in our buildings
compared with time spent at work and in school
by me or you
that we focus so much on what happens in church
when most of us are mostly everywhere else

it’s a blindspot
a dark patch
the part we can’t see
when we plan all our outreach
and where to plant seeds
we think we’ve got kids sorted
because of kids church and the youth group…
yes youth work is exciting because the kids come to us
and they’re ours, our little flowers
it’s not that we’re selfish it’s just
that they’re important
an investment
the future of us
well – the present don’t forget
to be theologically correct
so yes big shout out to kids workers and youth workers
and to old sofas and hoodies

but let’s lift our eyes from the blindspot of inside
to the horizon that is outside
because I’ve seen the future and it’s much more exciting
let the workers out into schools it’s not that frightening

on the horizon I can see churches passionate for schools
so they’re equipping their youthworkers with all the tools
needed for assemblies about Jesus and forgiveness and hope
and lessons about Easter and resurrection and more hope

in the future we all know what prayer spaces are
And RE days and CUs and recognise the far far
reaching nature of teaching about Jesus
from someone who believes it

in the future the PCCs and deacons meetings and leadership teams
are sharing in the excitement of realising the dream
and releasing the potential we like to keep neat and tidy and clean, inside,
for our kids

in the future the numbers become even more astounding
than the fact that we reach nearly all the 35,000
children and young people in the borough of Sutton
which kind of puts into perspective how many people we’re normally preaching too,
doesn’t it

there’s all these kids sitting ready to listen in classes
meanwhile we spend all our time sitting on our…. vases
as most churches spend more on flowers than they do to schools work

now I will confess to you I’ve got a vested interest in sutton schoolswork
and it’s not because i’m a director
it’s not because i’m a dad
it’s not because I do schoolswork and would be glad
of some help
I’ve got a vested interest because I follow jesus
and I know how little kids know about Jesus
or the world beyond their own noses

I see the future when we’ve raised our eyes from the blindspot
to the horizon
when every school and every child hears the message of Jesus
form someone who truly believes it
where we can do more than skim the surface
with a fleeting assembly
but go deeper, and further – that’s the future:
can you see it? will you make it happen?
Will you walk with us from the blindspot
to the horizon?


Photo courtesy of @WarnerPidgeon


Sutton Schoolswork are in our 20th year, and are celebrating this with an exciting plan for growth, which includes the appointment of a brand-new post of Schoolswork Director. See the website for more details, and to find out how you could get involved in supporting us as we aim to increase the knowledge and understanding of the Christian Faith and support students in their spiritual, social and moral development.





education is about learning life, not becoming productive economic units

30 04 2015

People are not economic units. One reason we are so disengaged from politics is because almost every subject is reduced to economic units. Schools, homes, families, work – everything becomes about its economic merits. Low-income families are described as ‘benefit units‘, family homes are assets, and perhaps worst of all, education is described as in this local Tory party election leaflet as a

…system which prepares young people for work so that they can compete and win in today’s competitive world.”

Reading that, the rest of the political rhetoric falls into place. I know that will appeal to a certain type, and I know that one of the aims of education is that people have the skills for work at the end. But if the sole – or even main – aim of education is work-preparation to win in the competition of life, I think we are presenting an incredibly shallow, and dangerous, ideology. And for that matter, theology. 

Thankfully, there are few who are actually involved in education who subscribe to this harsh economic view. Teachers and teaching assistants and lunchtime supervisors and heads, they all know that they are preparing children and young people for life, not just for work. They are working alongside families to raise good citizens, community members, who alongside becoming adults and parents and scout leaders and athletes and musicians and friends and maybe even politicians, may also become employed. 

Our value as human beings cannot and should not ever be limited to our economic potential. The value of our education system cannot and should not ever be limited to its ability to produce workers. If so, what is the point in learning about volcanoes or Henry VIII or vascular bundles or philosophy? And that becomes pertinent as we see this government narrowing the curriculum, the side-lining of ‘non-core’ subjects, the repeated mantra of students no longer taught to read around subjects, but simply to ask “Do I need to know this for the exam?” 

I loved my time in the education system, or as normal people call it, school. I learned loads, about subjects yes, but mostly about how to be a person. And I was prepared for work by going out to work. From 13 I helped my brother do his paper round (he got the pounds, I got the pennies), from 16 I had a Saturday job in a hotel, in the holidays I worked in plastics factories and Boots and making fishing tackle. 

That prepared me for work like nothing else. If we want our young people to have good jobs, then we need an all-round education system that, alongside families, helps them become good, well-rounded people. That is what I see most teachers passionate about, when I am in schools doing lessons and lunch clubs, when I am dealing with the SENCO in my son’s school, on committees or governors and dealing with actual people, rather than economic-theorists-in-offices.  

What we don’t want is a system designed by, and intended to produce more of, the finance-obsessed bankers and politicians who worked together to produce the economic crash, which turned out to be a competition in which they were the only winners. Because when you present life as a competition, you by default place more value on the ‘winners’, therefore less on the ‘losers’.

And who are the ‘losers’, in this system? *awkward pause*

The radical nature of Jesus’s teaching is that we are valued because we are children of God, whether female or male, slave or free, productive or non-productive, educated or not. We are never just economic units integrated into God’s business, but children adopted into his family, with a mandate to love and to serve. Not win. 

Thank God for that, and thank God it’s teachers young people spend time with, not political policy-writers. 








%d bloggers like this: