Happy Yorkshire Day

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The News

It has been a week of strange experiences.  I mentioned in passing to our lovely local journalists that I was involved in a service at Dewsbury Minster called the “Rock Mass”.  Obviously we have done a few of these before but this time it seems to have legs.  Something to do with it being in a “Minster” and something about it being a “diocesan event”.  I talked with our lovely local journalist for a whole three minutes whilst she wrote everything down in short hand.

Last night I discovered that our paper had a massive pic of me in it and a half page article about the event.  I was a little shocked at how much it focussed on me (I’m shy).  For our local paper this makes sense as the Rock Mass isn’t happening here.  For the people who live here I am the curio.  The Dewsbury paper has a preview of the event in todays issue and it is very much about the event.

Yesterday, I received a phone call from the Dewsbury Reporter asking if they could do a photo shoot for the event.  Could I bring my motorbike down?

The next thing I knew, I was riding a Harley into the Minster and plonking it in the centre aisle.

That is a sentence I never thought I’d be writing!!  I’ll link you to the proper photo when it has been published.

It Is Finished

It Is Finished

Originally uploaded by The Muffin Man

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

Worship Idea – The Trial

Each year all of the churches in town walk through to the town square and have a short act of remembrance on Good Friday.  Last year I had no idea what they were expecting.  I put on a Death Row shirt and slung a giant wooden crucifix over my shoulders and carried it at the front of the procession.  This year they asked me to do some form of bible reading in the Town Square when we get there.  It is a public performance really.  I suppose I’ll put on the convict outfit and hold a life-size cross whilst I do it this year.  I have rewritten John 19 (abridged) based upon The Message.  Please bear in mind that many of the phrases are easy to say in a broadish Yorkshire accent as I use the tools I’ve got.  Also, the bold parts will be practiced with a baying mob so that they don’t all shout them in unison.

The Trial (based upon John 19)

Pontius Pilate was the man responsible for governing Jerusalem.  He’d had Jesus publicly whipped because he was a troublemaker.  They were worried because too many people were following him. The soldiers who did it made a crown from thorns for him and rammed in down onto his head.  They kept giving him grief.  They had thrown a purple robe over him like he was royalty whilst shouting “Hail, King of the Jews!”.  Then they kept slapped him in the face.

Pilate went to the baying mob and said to them, “I present him to you, but I want you to know that I don’t find him guilty.  He hasn’t committed any crime.”

In a frenzy the crowd shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

But Pilate told them, “You take him. You crucify him. I find nothing wrong with him.”

Pilate did his best to pardon him, but the Jews shouted him down: “If you pardon this man, you’re no friend of Caesar’s. Anyone setting himself up as ‘king’ defies Caesar.”

When Pilate heard those words, he took Jesus outside into the square and sat down at the judgment seat.  It was noon on the day everyone was preparing for the Passover festival.

Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your king.”

They shouted back, “Kill him! Kill him! Crucify him!”

Pilate said, “You want me to crucify your king?”

The religious leaders answered, “We have no king except Caesar.”

At this Pilate caved in and sent him to be crucified.

They took Jesus away. Carrying his cross, they led him out of the city to the place they called Skull Hill.  Here they nailed him up, they crucified him with two criminals, one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Pilate wrote a sign and had it nailed to the cross. It read:

   Jesus the Nazarene
   the king of the Jews.

Rock Mass

If you are anywhere near the North of England it would be great if you would come to The Rock Mass in St Michael’s Wakefield.  It is an evening eucharist and will have a full rock band playing with lighting, smoke and the full works. This will be a culturally authentic experience as we come together to worship in a way that feels natural as we come before God as we are. There will be a combination of music from the charts/kerrang/scuzz and other music that could be!

Please come along and bring your friends. Spread the word!  There is a facebook event here.  If you need anymore info, please ask.