Self Service

Jon at ASBOJesus so often manages to identify the big issues around us and point a million watt light at them.  Here he has so succinctly juxtaposed the society in which we live and the way our world works with the ancient symbols of faith. 

As a Church we are at a fascinating point in history.  In the last fifty years the world has changed drastically.  We are experiencing the beginnings of a paradigm shift.  The world is changing.  Technology is altering the way in which people interact with each other.  We are becoming more consumer oriented as a society.  People work out quickly what is of worth to them and decide whether to buy into it or not within a relatively short period of time. 

As we are working out how we can follow the way and speak authentically in the modern world it is important that we don’t mimic the world at the expense of the faith.

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The Future of Religious Education in the United Kingdom

When my blog first moved here from myspace in 2007 I was not a priest in the church of England, I was part way through my ordination training and temporarily back in my previous role as an RE teacher.  I graduated from Newcastle University in 2000 with a degree in Religious Studies, looking at religion from a phenomenological point of view.  I went on to do a PGCE at Durham University and in 2001 headed into West Yorkshire to teach Religious Education in a multicultural context as part of a state school.

There are many things that secular humanists and atheists would like to accuse RE teachers of doing.  Most of these tend to bear no relation to the reality of the schools in which I taught.  Many of these are based upon the perceptions of generations gone by and anecdotal evidence of grandparents gone by.  At parents evening there would be older people who would say “in my day we learned what to believe in RI [Religious Instruction]”.  As the conversation progressed it would invariably come to light that the person I was talking to had no particular belief system to which they adhered.  Ironically, I am not old enough to remember the world of which they speak.

We must remember that Religious Instruction came about as a result of the 1944 education act when the country was concerned that the Nazi’s would invade and the people of Britain needed a strong moral compass with which to resist Fascism.  As can be gleaned from the name RI, classes were a lot different to the Religious Education of today.  To put this in context, these were the days in which a classroom teacher could turn up to their classroom and rule over their own little kingdom and teach pretty much whatever they wanted.  The government wanted to instil a moral framework for society in the face of invasion.  The decision was made during war time with all of the pressures that this entails.

Fortunately the legislation was vague and defined itself in terms of “religion” rather than “Christianity”.  In the 1970’s this resulted in a situation where academics looked to the phenomenological study of religion without any need for personal conviction.  This resulted in the disappearance of RI  and the dawn of RE (religious education).  In the school in which I taught, we actually called it Religious Studies to emphasise the need to be educated about the society in which we live.  Today the study is of the six major world faiths without the necessary need for adherance.

I taught in a West Yorkshire secondary school within a multicultural community.  It was a community that was divided largely upon race or cultural lines.  Social cohesion was fractious.  Different cultural groups lived in self segregated areas with little understanding of each other.  Teaching RE in state schools is not about “bringing people to faith” it is about generating social cohesion and understanding between communities.  My head of department was an atheist.  In my part as a person of faith, I had the same response when asked the question “what do you believe” by a pupil.  “It doesn’t matter what I believe, I can’t possibly tell you what I believe and expect you to think I have the same respect for each of the subjects I am teaching”.  RE is about living in a society that fosters within us an understanding of the people around us.  During my time at the school we lived through local race riots because of the segregated and fractured society in which we lived.  This highlighted the need to persevere in our task of promoting social cohesion.

If you will notice the banner at the top of this page you will see that I have something to promote, the RE:Act campaign.  They put their case forward as this:

In January 2011, the coalition government introduced the English Baccalaureate curriculum to secondary schools in England. GCSE Religious Education was deliberately excluded from this new Gold standard programme despite it’s popularity, academic rigour and ability to teach young people about a range of faiths and beliefs. We need your support to ensure GCSE RE is included in this crucial new curriculum and ultimately, put back in its rightful place – at the heart of humanities.

The Bishop of Oxford stresses the need for RE for social cohesion when he says:

RE is a crucial subject at a time of global disharmony over religious matters. Religious illiteracy is a major problem both in our society and all over the world. Moreover, RE is the only subject which allows students to work out their own framework of values and beliefs in order to shape their life long character.

We live in a world that so sadly lacks understanding or empathy with the other people we share this planet with.  This is not a Christian issue, a Muslim issue, a Humanist issue….or any other group’s issue.  This issue of RE crosses all divides and calls us to educate ourselves out of a world where this type of view is commonplace. That is why The Church Mouse calls us to be involved regardless of religious belief, disbelief or none.  I can understand why this may be difficult to do when there is an overt religious call to prayer on the site itself.

Please stand up for RE.  Don’t do it because I am a Christian asking you or because I am a priest, do it because you are part of a society that needs to become cohesive.  This can only be done through education, understanding of and empathy with our neighbours. 

[As an addendum, what I say is not to be confused with a collective act of worship.  This is a separate issue.  In my years of teaching in state schools I have never witnessed one.]

Rock Mass – Metanoia

After 4 years of playing together as a band it looks like we can’t shake each other off and we’re destined to do more \m/ \m/ worshipping.  We threw naming the band over to 100 thousand girl guides last summer but nothing seemed to stick.  In one last throw of the dice we asked twitter.  Twitter was fruitful.  Twitter heard our plea and sent @revdrach who said “Metanoia“.  @Duttyo says this shall be the sign

Married Because I Mean It

I recently blogged about fresh expressions of wedding.  I was just sent a link to an article about a “rebranding exercise” campaign for SHE Magazine.  If I’m honest, I’ve never heard of SHE Magazine but I was intrigued by what they said about marriage as an act of nonconformity.

If the current perception is that marriage is the ultimate act of conformity, the new campaign aims to shows that actually, today, marriage can be the ultimate act of rebellion and non-conformity. The work plays on the fact that getting married is actually intensely independent; the moment when a couple recognises and welcomes the fact that they only need each other and no one else. Marriage isn’t safe and schmaltzy; it’s defiant and brave.

The key image features a black and white image of a female’s left hand sticking a finger up, as if swearing. On a closer look, it is actually the wedding finger – complete with a gold wedding ring – rather than the third finger, that’s being held up. The end line reads, simply: “Married. Because I mean it.” A range of 6 sheets and 48 sheet executions have been developed, with headlines including: “Don’t want to commit? I do.” and “Don’t want the world to know? I do.”

Well it certainly is provocative.

The New Contraband: 8 Doomed Items in the New Green World

I stumbled across this post with an awesome slide show.  It is such an interesting concept that there are seemingly innocuous items that the pursuit of environmental concern is going to obliterate.  Many of them are iconic.  I didn’t know what to expect but I was not expecting the yellow pages to be the first on the list.  After the initial impact, I recalled the last interaction I had with The Yellow Pages.  I picked it off the front doorstep and said “why do they bother giving us one of these” to my wife.  “I mean who actually looks inside one of these anymore?” I continued chuntering for the next ten minutes or so…

In many respects the world has changed dramatically in my brief lifetime.  It is only ten years since I was at university and signed up for my first mobile phone.  Now I have a mobile communication device that can also be used as a phone.  In fact, it being a phone is largely irrelevant.  However, what it does do is connect to Yell.com.  There’s an app for that.

I try to live in as much of a paperless office as I can.  Everything is done electronically.  I try to be as environmentally conscious as possible.  However, you don’t realise the endangered species that this is creating.  I didn’t realise that I was pushing the yellow pages to the brink of extinction. 

As we move closer to the realm of the Starship Enterprise we are moving into a different world of environmentalism.  There are huge advances being made in all fields of technology.  The coal-fired power stations of my youth have disappeared and we’re exploring tidal power, wind power, solar power….  The emissions of vehicles are tightly controlled.  The kindle is taking over from the printed word.  With this there will no doubt come a new set of environmental challenges.

I wonder what else the future holds.  I wonder what other cultural icons will go the way of the dodo.

Yellow pages, may you rest in peace.

Worship Idea – I Don’t Belong Here

It was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.

Psalm 139

Some of my photography friends have been discussing this type of filmography and we’re exploring the possibility of having a go at it with real people.  This video was used as an example of how powerful it can be as an art form.  Needless to say, it speaks very powerfully about issues of body image, our relationship to others and our self-worth.

On a Mission

You may have noticed that I have mentioned mission a few times recently.  Doing a module in Mission in Culture and Context with all of the newly ordained in the local area can do that to you.  I have been trying to articulate what it is all about for presentations in front of my peers and contemplating what to write about for the university.  Then along came Big Daddy Whale with this clip that he’s showing on his blog and… can I just email it to the university and claim it?  No?  You sure?