Monday, 29 July 2013

broadly Christian

Most of my adult life, and indeed my childhood and growing up years, have been spent not going to church. I wasn't brought up that way. Although I was baptised in the Church of England, my younger brother and sister were not (they both did it on their own initiative later) because my parents thought it was hypocritical to have them baptised when they themselves were not churchgoers. I now think my parents were wrong, although when I heard this when I was  growing up I was rather proud of them. Because baptism involves godparents, and it is they who take the responsibility, or should. Parents only have to promise to do their best, and that is what all parents want to do anyway. I go to church these days, have done so for the past few years, and every Sunday it strikes me that although there is much I have had to learn about worship in the Church of England over the past few years, a great deal in the liturgy is entirely familiar to me. This is because every morning, when I was at school, we had assembly, and these forms of words were used. We had grace before lunch int he school canteen. We joked about "the piece of cod that passeth all understanding" on Fridays, thinking we had invented it, but it is in the Molesworth books, which portray a generation a bit older than my own, so it must have been current in many schools. I hadn't read Molesworth at the time that phrase was being used by my contemporaries, and neither I think had they.  Most people my age or older know, at least from school assemblies, the words "we have left undone that which we ought to have done" and some of us remember, or think we remember (this is an urban myth I believe) being at an assembly when the trousers of the teacher intoning these words were in precisely that condition - cue hilarity.

Anyway, I got to wondering how they taught trainee teachers to do these assemblies, back in the day. That requirement, for an assembly of a broadly Christian character, is still there today - in fact the provision in the 1944 Education Act was strengthened in the 1988 Education Reform Act, which I remember well. Not all teachers are Christian, in fact I suspect that most of them are not, and assemblies no longer use the Book of Common Prayer and other bits of Anglican liturgy as they did in the 1950s and 1960s when I was going to school. I remember thinking in secondary school that the headmaster, who took most of the assemblies, didn't believe a word of what he was saying, and despising him for it more than I did already. Quite possibly he didn't. If he had had a dog-collar on we might have made the assumption that he did. But there is still an issue now. So how then, and now, do teachers of non-Christian or no faith manage with this stuff? Can anyone tell me?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

RE or 'Scripture' as it was called then, was my best subject at school. The one hour per week of RK was not 'Scripture' - the latter contained a study of contemporary religion and no exam. 'Scripture' for me was the Synoptic gospels at 'O' level, Acts and the Epistles, plus Revelation and the Apocrypha and 'the return' books from the Old Testament. I have never believed in it but was always excellent at it because unlike very devout classmates, I had no inhibitions in giving the alternative explanations for the disappearance of the body from the tomb etc. I gave loads of assemblies in all types of schools, both in the maintained and non-maintained sectors. I would pick a theme and then choose a bible reading to illustrate it, plus then a poem or a reading from literature and then a choice of appropriate hymn.Whether or not you BELIEVE that JC was the Son of God or that Yaweh creatd the earth in 7 days does not stop what is in the Old and New Testaments being a lot about how we should and should not live our lives, with some great cautionary tales. ( Look at what happened to JONAH?!)So it is always going to be relevant - just like Shakespeare. Whether it is 'Consider the lillies of the field, they toil not nor do they spin' OR 'Lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds' it is all TRUE and has something for us to learn from in the way we live our lives. I loved my assemblies - and I like to think that at least some of those kids did too. They SAID they did!!