For the Lord is the Spirit and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom!
2 Corinthians 3:17
Freedom is the theme of this year’s Pray for Schools Fortnight, which runs from 8 – 22 May. This beautiful image, created by LesleyHollingworth, reminds us of the liberty we have in knowing Jesus. We have freedom from sin, freedom to be ourselves and fulfil His plans for us, and freedom to pray to the Father with confidence. And that’s what Pray for Schools Fortnight is all about – praying to God with confidence about our schools: their staff, their students, their governors, their families and their communities.
If you’re new to Pray for Schools Fortnight, it’s a two week period in which we are encouraged to pray for our schools, maybe by organising events, by encouraging church prayer groups or by focusing on particular issues in our own individual prayers – the form it can take is entirely dependent on your imagination, your time and your enthusiasm. To get you started, there are some excellent ideas on the Pray for Schools website , which include praying with sweets and praying with rainbow tealights – if you’ve never tried either, give them a go.
There are suggestions for prayers, a prayer diary offering ideas for each day of the fortnight, and a suggested programme for a one-off event. But you will probably also have your own ideas and you will certainly have things that you want to pray about for your local schools.
If you organise an event, do remember to register it so that the Pray for Schools team can advertise it on their website and on social media.
21 April marks the 90th birthday of the Queen, our longest serving monarch. To celebrate the event, the Bible Society, HOPE and the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity have jointly published The Servant Queen and the King she serves, a 64 page book to support communities as they say thank you to God for a faithful life and to the Queen for a life of service to the country and the Commonwealth.
Co-written by Mark Greene of LICC and Catherine Butcher of HOPE, the book primarily uses the Queen’s own words from her many Christmas messages over the course of her long reign – words which reflect her deep faith in Christ. The Queen herself wrote the foreword to the book, in which she expresses gratitude to God for his steadfast love.
Scripture Union has produced a schools version, aimed primarily at Year 6, although it would be equally useful for older and younger pupils. Just 12 pages long, it adopts a magazine style which incorporates information boxes, images, post-it notes and quizzes. Do you know, for example, how much the crown weighs in equivalent pineapples? Or how many Prime Ministers the Queen has advised?
Endorsed by the DfE, this is an excellent resource for meeting SMSC requirements. With an assembly outline and a lesson plan for support, you can explore the Queen’s attitude to service. Encourage pupils to explore the concept of service further and maybe choose a way to serve your local community as a special celebration to mark the Queen’s birthday.
Using the Queen’s own words from her Christmas broadcasts and the foreword to the book itself, you can explore how her faith has motivated her actions, through a life lived at the centre of our democracy. As author Mark Greene comments: ‘maybe someone will be surprised, impressed by the quiet fearlessness of the Queen’s openness about faith despite being a public figure in an increasingly secular society’.
Click here to purchase the full version of the book and the schools resource, which is provided in packs of 10.
According to Abba, it’s always sunny in a rich man’s world. And that’s exactly what the government would like you to think. Individual worth and personal satisfaction are measured by the acquisition of shiny new things; communities are valued solely for their economic output. Somewhere along the line, we’ve swapped consumerism for mutualism, collective responsibility for individualism and transaction for relationship. From hunter-gatherer to producer- consumer.
That’s nowhere more apparent than in education, the purpose of which, Nick Gibb informs us, is to act as the engine of the economy. Gone are the concepts of morality, compassion and altruism in wealth creation. Here instead are the concepts of acquisition and self-service. We are driven by an economic model that’s afforded deity status; a model which says that if we can fix the economy, all social ills will be fixed with it. There’s no apparent recognition of the fact that we have ourselves created the monster which dominates us.
It’s a philosophy that underpins all government education policy. There are now defined facilitating subjects. They aren’t those subjects like art, music, drama, film or literature that help us to reflect on, and understand, our humanity. No, they are those subjects that will yield the highest income: studying arts subjects can actually, according to the Education Secretary, hold you back for the rest of your life. Tax data harvested from the current work force now shows students which are the most lucrative subjects to study. Careers advice must be about maximising future income. Some Christian and Jewish schools are failing Ofsted inspections because their careers advice does not acknowledge this, focusing instead on becoming the people God would have them be. That, in the view of Ofsted, fails to prepare children for life in modern Britain and limits their opportunity for self-determination.
A post 16 maths course which became available in September 2015 aims to develop understanding of money. You can learn how to source the best mortgage. You can learn how to maximise profit. You can even learn the core skill of how to split the bill in a restaurant when you haven’t had wine and your friends have. What you aren’t taught is how to decide whether home ownership is the best choice for you. You aren’t taught how to handle money ethically, for the benefit of others, as well as yourself. Nor are you encouraged to think about using money to help those much less fortunate – maybe not having wine now and again so that you can donate items to a food bank or homeless shelter.
Money is even the motivating factor in becoming a teacher. Never mind vocation. Never mind people. No. As Sir Michael Wilshaw urged recently, Britain needs to talk up the benefits of teaching and help to solve the staffing crisis by pointing out to graduates that teachers can be ‘very wealthy individuals’.
The problem with this paradigm is the assumption that material wealth equates to human value. By government definition, I am very low in the success hierarchy and therefore of less value than some. My first degree is in the apparently life-limiting subject of music – a life which I’ve spent raising children, doing voluntary work in my church and teaching. That’s why I’m not rich and why, by current measures, I am not a facilitator.
But maybe my definition of facilitating is different from that of the government. Maybe I don’t consider financial wealth to be an indicator of success. Maybe I have other values. Maybe I believe that if we change our thinking, we can change the economic model to which we’ve chosen to enslave ourselves.
If we accept, as the Bible teaches, that every human is created in God’s image, then we see our students not as cannon fodder for the global economy, but as valued people, loved by God. We want them to flourish, because God loves them and wants His best for them. Careers advice becomes less about maximising financial position and more about becoming the people that God wants them to become.
The Bible also teaches that we are on this earth as stewards of God’s created world. We are here to nurture, not to consume beyond our needs. We are here to reflect God’s glory, not to create economic glory of our own. Once we shift our thinking to accept this, it follows that we will be about human flourishing, about creating families and communities of people that live in relationship with each other for mutual support and not personal gain.
The writer of Ecclesiastes, who seemed to know a thing or two about meaninglessness, wrote that ‘Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.’ (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NIV). However much we produce and consume, we will never be satisfied. Jesus pointed the way to satisfaction: ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’ (Matthew 5:6 ESV). That, not money, is the path to genuine contentment.