Working Together Diocese of Bath and Wells


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Working Together Diocese of Bath and Wells

  1. 1. Churches and Schools in the Diocese of Bath and Wells
  2. 2. This report provides a helpful snapshot of some of the many creative activities thathave grown out of positive relationships between schools and their parishes acrossour diocese. It is evident that these in turn offer rich experiences to children, youngpeople and their families. They serve to demonstrate that the historic partnershipbetween the church and schools is just as vital now, in the twenty-first century, as ithas ever been, as an expression of community cohesion and a vehicle for theexploration of the Christian faith.My thanks go to all the school staff and governors, clergy and parishioners whosegenerosity of service is evident throughout the document. Also to Mike Tedstone,Diocesan Schools Adviser, who had the enviable task of visiting many schools andparishes in the course of his research, for presenting the results in an accessible andlively way. There is much to inspire us here!+PeterBath & Wells Lifelong Learning with Bishop Peter! 2
  3. 3. Working Together Schools and Churches in the Diocese of Bath & WellsIntroduction‘The Church School stands at the heart of the Church’s mission to the nation’ (1998Synod resolution)What a challenge! What an expectation! What is the significance of Church Schoolstoday? ‘They should be distinctively Christian in ethos and inclusive in approach’(Archbishop of Canterbury writing in the TES, January 2002).The worship in Church schools is tremendously significant within the Parish as awhole and, at its best, can have a great impact on the local Christian community. Inmy last school, over 400 people (children and adults) participated in an act ofCollective Worship each day; that’s over 2000 worshipping in school each week –more than would fit into the local church, even if that number wished to attend! It istherefore so important that the partnership between church schools and their localparish is strong and mutually supportive. The Diocese has produced protocols forschool and church partnerships which give practical support and guidance; it shouldbe referred to whenever visits are arranged.In this diocese, 51% of all primary age children are learning in Church Schools, ahuge number worshipping together on a daily basis – add to that the school staff,parents and other adults who may join them at Christmas, Easter, Harvest, etc. Whatan opportunity!Over the past year I have visited a large number of schools across the Diocese andhave spoken with Headteachers, Clergy, and others about links between schools andthe local Church community. I visited both VC and VA Church schools and also somecommunity schools. I do not wish to mention individuals but to acknowledge withgratitude all the help and courtesy that I have been given by so many.This report is simply ‘findings to date’; of necessity it is a working document, for withalmost every school visit that I make, I discover more examples of good practice.Please let me know if you have any traditions or new ideas that you think are worthsharing; I look forward to hearing from you! 3
  4. 4. Communications within the communityIn most cases I sensed good relationships between school, worshipping community &incumbent. In one school the headteacher was fully involved in the appointment of the new vicar, assisting with the person specification etc, and took part in the interviews. In most schools the headteacher is part of the welcome at a new incumbent’s institution. Most Church schools use the Diocesan Commissioning and/or Affirmation service for their headteacher (available from the Diocesan Education Department: One head said how much she valued the weekly visit from the vicar who, after taking worship, had a coffee and gave time to share – providing each with a sounding-board, support for the head and for the vicar! In one case the head kept a tin of chocolate biscuits especially for the vicar’s visit! In many schools, headteachers said that all staff valued the support given by the local vicar who regularly arranges visits to classes and gives pastoral support. Time is also given for the headteacher – visits are there for all the staff and children. In most cases the Headteacher’s Report to school Governors includes worship & church links. Nearly all School Development Plans include links with the church community and worship. One head talked about her personal faith journey at the Alpha course, which was being held in the school. Children from schools entertain groups within their communities and take part in Church fetes (& vice 4
  5. 5.  At one school their regular newsletter is sent to all members of the Church PCC (not just Foundation Governors) and the headteacher speaks at the Church Annual Meeting. Many schools contribute items for the Parish Magazine or Newsletter which is seen as an opportunity for letting the church community know what is happening in their school. One school has a ‘grounds day’ when members of the local church community help the children working in the school grounds. In many churches there is a display area for children’s work. Most often, this is not ‘extra work’ for the school staff as work that has been on display in the school is then moved to its new position in the church. One of the best and most interesting displays that I saw was one which showed the development of children’s writing from early emergent ‘scribbles’ to well developed handwriting by the oldest pupils. It doesn’t only have to be Religious Education!Worship All schools have visitors from the local community who help with worship in school and in most cases they are involved in the planning of that worship Most schools are represented in services in church on such Sundays as Mothering Sunday and Education Sunday, with some taking lead roles on these occasions. 5
  6. 6.  Most schools use prayers and or responses from the church worship, (for example: The Lord is Here with the response His Spirit is with us or The Lord be with you with the response And also with you) and there is usually agreement on which version of the Lord’s Prayer is used. Most church services/Sunday schools use songs that they know are used in school worship and vice-versa. One school is used on a Sunday morning for ‘Church in School’ (this is in addition to the usual services in church). At another school the Year 6 children take part in the Eucharist at the church six times a year with a special service sheet which fully involves the children & parents. At the end of the school year the Year 5 children are invited in readiness for their future participation as Year 6. In another, a service of communion is held in the school at the end of each term. A loaf of bread is blessed for everyone and part of this is broken off to be consecrated whilst the remainder is shared with all the children. A special Education Sunday I was invited to Hinton St. George this year, to the parish celebration of Education Sunday. This was a wonderful example of church and school coming together in the school for a joint service. In one of the schoolrooms there was an altar and in the next room (through an adjoining door) the church music group played as everyone gathered. The furniture in the rooms was set up as for a normal school day – this was not meant to be the church in another setting! People of all ages sat on the tiny (!) chairs around tables on which were pictures and pieces of writing done by the children in school for everyone to look at. There were also sheets for the younger ones to colour and a word-search specially devised by the Rector for the occasion. Pictures of the village in past years were passed around as well as pictures of groups of past pupils. The service, led by the Rector, began with the school recorder group playing and this was followed by the celebration of a past pupil’s eighty second birthday which included a beautiful cake and a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ accompanied by the Chair of Governors on his violin. Everyone then introduced themselves to the people around them. The first half of the service included prayers written and read by pupils; present pupils interviewing past pupils and a retired teacher (they 6
  7. 7. were very interested in the cane and entries in the Punishment Book!). We sang several lively hymns with the words on the Smartboard and two groups of children (one in each room!) entertained everyone with their country dancing. The Rector then continued with the second part of the service beginning with the prayer of consecration and shared the bread and wine with everyone. The service ended with more prayers written and read by the children and the final blessing. The whole event was followed by fellowship and a warm feeling that the spirit of the Lord was truly in that place.Celebrating FestivalsMost schools hold services in their church especially at Harvest, Christmas, Easterand at the end of the School Year. Many festivals of the Christian year are jointlycelebrated:Harvest  Many schools link their harvest celebrations with those of the church; gifts are brought by the children to the church’s Sunday services and are distributed along with those of the congregation.  At one school the children take part in a service in their church at which they take part in five separate processions to present: harvest produce; harvest of their own work (writing/pictures/crafts/models, etc); a Bible, prayer book and a book of their own prayers; bread, water and wine; and offerings of money. The harvest produce and children’s work is then left in the church for the Sunday services. At the end of an exciting day on a cereal farm, children take part in a harvest act of worship in a barn 7
  8. 8.  In one school the children join in the village Harvest Home, together with members of the church, helping to lead the act of worship and dancing and singing in the celebrations that follow.  At one school the children wrote personal letters to members of the local community to go with each harvest gift that was distributed. Names were given to the school by the church. Most of the recipients replied personally to the individual children (via the school).ChristmasThere are so many examples of schools and churches working together at thisspecial time. Schools are invited to take part in church carol services and membersof the church are invited to school services and concerts.Christingle services are held in manychurches. In one school the children aregiven collection boxes for the Children’sSociety and take them, two weeks later, tothe Christingle service on the second Sundayin Advent. During the service they sing aspecial Christingle song and receiveChristingles as they donate their collectingboxes. At another school the school children are involved with the church and community in the annual Tree Festival at the church. The children make all the decorations for the trees themselves and write about their reasons. All this is displayed in the church over a weekend in mid-December. 8
  9. 9.  Another school has a similar event. The children make tree and other decorations for the church and put them up in the church at the end of the term. At one school the children organise fund raising and then invite members of the local community, via the church, to a tea party at which they entertain their visitors and acts as hosts. When all the students of one church secondary school walk to the parish church for their carol service, there are serious implications for the town centre traffic! One church holds a special service for the school (on a school day) at which the crib is assembled as the service progresses. This is completed at the start of the Spring Term when the Kings are added at an Epiphany service.Ash Wednesday At St. Mark’s, in my last year, a local vicar took the service in school on Ash Wednesday. He first burned palm crosses in a special burner in front of the children (one teacher had his hand on a fire extinguisher!) and then mixed the ash and put a cross on the heads of two of the children. He then knelt down and had one of the children put a cross on his head – a very moving moment. At the end of the year at the school open evening, when I was talking with the child and his parents he said ‘Remember when I had that cross on my head, Mr. Tedstone, I can still feel it now’ and that was six months later!Palm Sunday Many churches invite schools to take part in special services, which seem to invariably involve a donkey or pony leading a procession to the church. At one school the vicar demonstrates the making of a palm cross during his school service and this is followed during the day by groups of children making their own crosses with help from members of the church.Easter Most schools end the term with services in church that re-tell the events of Holy Week, finishing with the joy of the Resurrection. 9
  10. 10. Ascension Day One school celebrates Ascension Day by all the children taking part in practical workshops in the church led by church members – workshops include handbell ringing, the church building, the organ, church flowers, stained glass, church treasures, decorating candles, etc. The children take part in two activities and work in ‘family’ groups across the whole age-range starting at 10.00am. After lunch there was an act of worship after which they could go home if their parents were able to collect them. Otherwise they had to return to school until the end of the afternoon! At one church secondary school, after a service in the parish church, Year 9 young people are given fruit buns at ground level while the sixth form ascend the church tower!Leavers’ Events Most schools take part in the Leavers Days organised by the Diocesan Education Department in and around Wells Cathedral. Each school has a banner and in several cases these have been made with the help of members of the church and often reflect the church/school link. Nearly every school has a service for leavers in their church and at many of these services the leaving children are presented with a gift of a Bible or some other appropriate item (including a relevant book or, in one case, a specially made bookmark) from the church.Other activities  The church community is a very valuable resource for schools in many aspects of Religious Education, especially the people, church building and all the activities that go on in it. 10
  11. 11. In many schools the clergy talk about their role and will often demonstrate baptism, marriage and church ‘ritual’ with opportunities for role play. This may well be in the school or the church  In more than one school, church groups run Christian Clubs during term time and Holiday Clubs in school breaks.  One school needing more space realised the potential of the church building which was empty most of the week during the day, so now they use the church for all sorts of activities. They purchased display boards that are in the church with children’s work. The congregation really enjoy and value this direct link with the school and children! One school has become involved with their church’s link with Zambia and recently organised a teacher exchange. They now have a joint church/school link with Zambia Many schools mentioned the support that they received from the church at times of local or national crisis (eg a death or serious illness, the tsunami, etc). Some schools have active prayer groups, which pray for the work of both the school and the church; in two schools there are weekly meetings of such a group. The headteachers especially value this prayer support. 11
  12. 12. In many schools members of the church community help in school with such tasks as hearing children read, art & craft activities, supporting visits, etc.  Schools often make their resources available for the church to use, and several schools have helped their churches with such things as training/sharing expertise in such areas as Child Protection.  A number of schools and parishes have now held a special service to affirm and celebrate their historic and on-going ‘covenant’ relationship At a special service the youngest member of the school signs her name on a covenant document to renew the school/parish partnership.In conclusion….Church schools are a kind of church, a gathering of people invited by God, not neutralinstitutions with religion bolted on. They provide a major opportunity to serve,nurture and witness to children and young people. Schools have been through atremendous amount of change over the past few years, the experience and expertisegained could in turn be of great help to the church, especially as part of the currentChanging Lives initiative. Church schools, which in this diocese seek to serve theirlocal communities, are today indeed a ‘gift’ to the church. 12
  13. 13. And finally, I would like to mention Chris – an 11 year-old at my school. One day in abad state he said to me “I wish I didn’t have to come to this Christian School!!”I was so taken aback – where was all this coming from, I asked myself? “If I was at******** school where my friend goes I could hit back when someone hit me”.Although I knew full well that this would not be so, he really understood something ofwhat we were about!! THANK YOUI would like to acknowledge the help of the following schools & parishes:Bishop Henderson, TauntonBrent KnollFlax BourtonHinton St. GeorgeHorsingtonNorth CadburyOld CleeveSt. Andrews, BathSt. Dubricius, PorlockSt. John the Evangelist, ClevedonSt. Johns, Midsomer NortonSt. John & St. Francis, BridgwaterSt. Marks, WorleSt. Pauls Shepton MalletThorncombe, St MarysTickenhamUbleyWraxallWorlebury St. PaulsAnd many more for all their help, support and precious time.Mike TedstoneDiocesan Schools Adviser 13