Director’s Newsletter – January 2015
This Newsletter was begun during the weekend when the Baptism of Christ is celebrated in our churches and the Gospel reading for that day (Mark 1: 4-11) recalls that Christ’s Baptism was accompanied by him seeing ‘the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove upon him.’ It is then followed by a statement from the Father ‘You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.’
So much that is at the core of our faith is to be found in this ‘baptismal record’. The Trinitarian and reciprocal relationship of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit is actively set out in the midst of the act of Baptism, the fundamental act of membership of God’s Church, of being equipped to cope spiritually and practically with the onslaught of evil – through human frailty - and evil’s ultimate vitiation – through faith in the resurrected Christ. All this defines the almost ‘bipolar’ spectrum of human existence and our need to understand ourselves, our relationship to human and cosmic history and our ability to comprehend those fragments that are given to us of the ultimate and spiritual reality of our lives on this earth and in the world to come.
One of the supreme privileges of school chaplaincy is to transmit as far as possible the essence and meaning of this event and to incorporate this into the faith journey and the wider educational formation of young people in our schools.
Values in Education
In day to day terms this translates into the value-systems that run through the corporate assumptions, patterns and activities of school life. Over the past year or so ‘values’ have been miraculously rediscovered by politicians and education policy makers, partly through fear that school communities could be undermined by the acceptance of values alien to our society, its culture and its historic beliefs. If churches and schools with a Christian foundation or character are not to be placed ‘on the back foot’ in the ongoing debate about values, it is vital that opportunities are seized to articulate clearly the longstanding Christian contribution to the philosophy and methodology of education and the assumptions that enable school communities with a Christian heritage to cohere.
To this end SCALA is in the process of organizing – or co-organising - a series of day conferences for chaplains, pastoral and other senior leaders in our schools so that opportunities are available to share fundamental beliefs, strategies and cultures that embody Christian values in our schools. Dates and venues are to be found on the website and email reminders of them will be circulated as the dates of them approach. We have tried to give a geographical spread to them and they are located at St Cecilia’s Academy Wandsworth on Tuesday, March 17th, Rossall School, Fleetwood on Thursday March 19th and Taunton Academy on Thursday May 7th (date subject to confirmation).
Additionally, SCALA is working to produce a booklet on ‘Values’ in time for the National Chaplaincy Conference at Liverpool Hope University from Thursday-Saturday 18th-20th June. We are hoping to acquire funds to run two seminars on the examination of ‘British Values’ and I would like to thank those who have already shown an interest in participating. They (together with anyone else who wishes to declare his or her interest in this ‘topic of our times’) will be contacted again shortly with details of proposed dates and venues.
Reference has been made above to the Liverpool Conference. Potential delegates should note that the ‘early bird’ discount has only a week or so to run. Bookings are already significantly ahead of the previous Liverpool conference and we are confident that this will be the biggest-ever national gathering of school chaplains. We are equally confident that it contains something for everyone who is in any way concerned with the vital ministry of chaplaincy in schools and who seeks inspiration from invited speakers and seminar leaders of national and international stature. Liverpool Hope University is THE place to be between 18th -20th June for anyone with any involvement with or interest in that ministry that is in the front line of commending Christian witness, faith and hope to the rising generations of young people in our schools.
Paul Hansford, SCALA’s Administrator has been making strenuous efforts to gather in this year’s subscriptions from all our members and many thanks to all those who have, from their own chaplaincy budgets or through persuasion of their bursars or business managers been able to respond quickly to Paul’s emails. A number of SCALA members have now taken up the option of corporate membership, so enabling any colleague from their schools to attend SCALA events and to have access to the members’ resources on the website. Conversion from an individual to a corporate membership can be effected at any time through Paul.
I hope that the Spring – or Lent – Term has started successfully for all school – based readers of this Newsletter. I hope too that in the midst of the many pressures that impinge on schools through the pace and urgency of the incessant demands of the school year, it will be possible for all those who represent Christian ministry within schools to shine a light of hope and optimism to pupils and colleagues under pressure so that they come to the realisation set out so resonantly by Julian of Norwich in her ‘Revelations of Divine Love’.
‘…all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well…’
Gordon M W Parry