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The blog

When two worlds meet

posted Friday 25th July 2014     

When term ends and pupils say goodbye to their teachers for the final time, there will always be tears.  I am an emotional kind of guy and can be moved to tears very easily by a poignant moment.  Whilst watching the 2009 cartoon film 'Up', my grandchildren thought it strange that their grandfather was frequently wiping his eyes.

Let me tell you of two instances which trigger this reaction in me, as regular as clockwork.  In the closing moments of the pilot episode of Endeavour, the prequel to Morse, the police detective television series, Detective Inspector Thursday asks Morse where he sees himself in twenty years' time.  Endeavour looks in the rear view mirror of the car he is driving and sees the face of actor John Thaw who played the older Morse.

In the 2000 Carlton Television version of  E Nesbitt's 1905 story, 'The Railway Children’' Mother is played by Jenny Agutter, who played Roberta in the well-known 1970 film.  It's a nice touch and provides a sense of continuity, or maybe this was done to ensure publicity.  There is a moment when the children are off to explore.  Mother gives permission but warns them not to trespass on the railway. Peter admonishes his mother, 'But you went on the railway when you were young, didn't you mother?'

Both of these scenes reduces me to tears.  Why?  I think it’s because in each case two worlds, the present and the past, collide.  It’s the same when driving along a country lane in summer, I smell smoke from a bonfire which transports me back over fifty years to the world of my childhood garden.

The best example of two worlds colliding is of course, at the incarnation, when as Eleanor Hull's 1912 translation describes the 'High King of heaven, thou heaven's bright sun' came into Bethleham's ‘dark streets [where] shineth the everlasting Light, The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee ...'  Phillips Brooks continues, 'But in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.'

I have used poetry to describe this, because the central event in history deserves good description.  How beautiful it must have been to witness the world of heaven touch the world in which we presently live.  This is the heart of our regenerated lives: 'ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven'.  Now that's something to marvel at.

My mother, a sensitive soul, would describe a spiritual moment like this, 'Someone’s just walked over my grave'.  In Russia they say 'An angel is passing'.  Let’s be sensitive to such precious moments, and if they bring tears of joy and wonder to our eyes, Praise God.

With acknowledgement to Henry Lyte, Eleanor Hull and Phillips Brooks.  

Robert Hall

Lessons from the fireman

posted Thursday 10th July 2014 by Robert Hall

Our language is indeed strange, as the term fireman can mean one who puts out fires, or the exact opposite, one who tends and encourages them.

I am fortunate to have in my house two things which come into their own in winter: an open fireplace and a cellar in which I store wood for the fire. The wood is gathered from various sources, including building materials discarded by my builder son. Even suitable garden prunings find their way into the cellar to be stored for kindling. The cellar acts as a place in which wood is sorted, sawn and split into appropriate sizes for the fireplace.

Some seasons ago I made a serious error. Cutting back an over ambitious rose bush I kept the thicker woody stems for kindling, forgetting that they would be almost impossible to handle without injury. I had to wear thick gloves which, as you will perhaps know, impair dexterity. So I fumbled about trying to avoid the thorns.

Although I have managed to burn most of the hazardous thorny kindling, I am always cautious about handling the thin sticks in the dim light of the cellar, lest I pick up a vicious thorny one.

The analogy is perhaps obvious. In Genesis chapter three we learn how a serious error of judgement led to far-reaching consequences. If only I had thought for a few seconds about the consequences of razor-sharp thorns in my woodpile!
The same is true in the world of work. Some colleagues and some pupils, cause severe pain and distress. We can try and take precautions like wearing very thick and clumsy gloves, but that reduces our potential dexterity. As the work of the fireman is all done by hand, so is the work of the classroom and staffroom. Thick and insensitive skins blunt our effectiveness, so we have to remove the protection and run the risk of pain and hurt if we are to have the best kind of influence in our school or college.

My prayer for ACT members is that in the struggles of the classroom and staffroom they will have the courage to minister sensitively and personally, even amongst troubled and prickly souls, though it means being vulnerable and taking risks. I pray that our God will protect his people from harm and that our heavenly Father will change prickly lives for the better.

Robert Hall

Hospitality - a very Christian value

posted Thursday 19th June 2014 by Gill Robins 

At the recent EurECA conference, Experience and Expertise in Christian Pedagogy, I attended a fascinating workshop on avoiding conflict in our classrooms. It wasn’t quite the standard reflection on conflict resolution that I expected – it was much, much more. It looked at some of the causes of conflict and how, as Christian teachers, we can address them. Lazlo Demeter, a Hungarian presenter who works as a trainer with ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) Europe, suggested a range of reasons why conflict arise, many of them either to do with factors external to our classrooms, or due to unresolved baggage that pupils bring with them when they walk through the door.

One word in particular grabbed my attention and got me thinking, because in contemporary use it implies an industry, which provides a service at a cost. It was the word ‘hospitality’. What does the word mean to you? The dictionary has two definitions: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers, and relating to or denoting the business of entertaining clients, conference delegates or other official visitors. Christian teachers, Lazlo suggested, should exercise hospitality in their classrooms. Well, he clearly didn’t mean ‘entertain’ which is the thrust of the dictionary definitions and which rather skates over the full meaning of the concept. So what does the Bible say?

Answer: a great deal. ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers’ (Hebrews 13:2), ‘Show hospitality to one another without grumbling’ (1 Peter 4:9), ‘You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:34) and ‘hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined’ (Titus 1:8, all quotations ESV). Clearly, God wants us to be hospitable not in the sense of entertaining, but in a much deeper sense, and it’s not an optional extra. It is fundamental to our work for God.

So, we are to welcome people, even strangers from other lands. We are to love them as we love ourselves, in other words, to consider their needs not at the expense of our own, but as equal with them. We should seek to care for others just as willingly as we care for ourselves. Hospitality is about perceiving the needs of others and doing our best to meet them and it’s also about service (1 Timothy 5:10).

So what does this mean in practice, in our schools, every day? The practice of Christian hospitality is about inclusivity. We look for God’s gift in each pupil, we treat each one with dignity and we teach each pupil according to their need. We also provide an environment where individual needs to belong are met and in doing so, we model to our pupils how to practice hospitality towards each other. If we are leaders, we have a role in helping our staff to accept responsibility for practising such hospitality to everyone in the school, not just those who conform to particular norms.

A hospitable classroom is one in which the fruit of the Spirit grows in abundance. And it’s not just any hospitality – this is Christian hospitality, because we are ‘Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man’ (Ephesians 6:7 ESV). This is what makes us distinctive as Christian teachers, regardless of the context in which we work.

Gill Robins


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