Chaplain’s Update – April 2017 – football and faith
For a week in the first half of Spring term we hosted a former Premier League football player. Gavin Peacock played as a midfielder and striker for Chelsea, Newcastle and QPR in an 18 year professional career before becoming a pundit for Match Of The Day. After being part of the BBC’s team for Euro 2008 he moved to Canada to study theology and then became a minister of a church in Calgary.
Gavin spent a week at FBS getting involved with a range of activities. He spoke at assemblies for all four houses, encouraging them to be men who were courageous, thinkers, self-controlled and took on responsibility. He did question and answer sessions in RE lessons where boys asked him lots of things (some very challenging!) about his role as a church leader and about things Christians believed. He did talks to the lunchtime Christian Unions on the story of the rich young ruler from Mark’s gospel in the Bible. As someone who had been a young, famous, well-paid footballer he made the claim that giving up everything for Jesus is worth it, something Jesus asks the rich young ruler to do. Gavin contributed, as a church pastor, to a PSHCE session on coping with loss. And he took part in football coaching sessions with lots of the boys, passing on the wisdom of his many years in the top flight.
It was interesting to see how engaged the boys were. Sometimes this wasn’t a surprise: when he talked about scoring for Chelsea against Manchester United home and away in the same season of course the boys were gripped (although as a United fan this was a low-point for me!). But they were also really engaged by what he had to say about the big questions of life and what the Bible teaches. Some of them agreed, some of them wanted to know more, some of them wanted to argue back but they were all engaged. In one of his assemblies Gavin challenged the boys to be thinkers (one of our enterprise skills) and the week he was here certainly helped them to think more deeply about these important issues.
Chaplain’s update – November 2016 – Starting the year
It has been a busy and encouraging start to the year. We’ve had our start of year service at St Andrew’s church, where we recognised the need to endure over the course of the year and looked at the example of Christine Ohuruogu, who never gives up in her 400m races, and of course Jesus Christ, who ‘set his face towards Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51) even though he knew he would be dying there for a sinful humanity. We’ve been thinking about how Christianity relates to the subject we’re studying, with some great discussions happening in the core subjects (English, Maths and Science) in particular. We’ve had lots of boys attending the three Christian Unions (including some new Year 7s) thinking about Jesus as the ‘ultimate hero’. You can read in this newsletter about our sleep out for Glass Doors and the visit of Billy McCurrie. And we’ve had our usual regular activities of assemblies, reflection times and weekly Christian values.
Here are two things we’ve been encouraging the boys to do from the very start of the year:
1) Engage, think, question and respond. Not everyone will agree with the Bible’s teachings and the huge claims Jesus Christ makes and they don’t have to at FBS. But we do want boys who are thinkers and questioners. We love it when boys ask a probing question after assembly or let others into their own thinking about Christianity during discussions in lessons.
2) Be rivers not lakes. A lake is a still body of water – the water that ends up in it stays there. With a river the water passes through. Christians believe God has given us so many talents, resources and opportunities and we want the boys to not just use them for their own benefit but for the good of others – their fellow students, their families, their community and for the poor and needy in society. In this they will be following the example of Jesus Christ who gave up his place in heaven to die on a cross to serve us (Mark 10:45).
Chaplain’s update – June 2016
As I write this the news headlines are filled with the momentous decision the British public has just made to leave the EU, along with the consequences of the result for the various political leaders and parties involved. At FBS we want our boys to be aware of, and engaged with, events and discussions that are happening in our nation and particularly with a decision that will have such an effect on their future. With this in mind we asked four of our boys to represent the remain and leave positions in a debate in front of the whole school on Tuesday 21st June. I spent some time with them the day before, helping them to prepare their answers and to understand the complex issues involved. I was struck, as I often am, by the interest our boys have in current affairs and the passionate and compelling arguments our boys can make. They did a great job representing the two sides in front of their peers, who then had a chance to cast their vote in a mock referendum on the Thursday, at the same time as the country went to the polls.
Being a school built on the Christian faith, however, we didn’t want to stop there so some boys spent a few minutes in their RE lessons thinking about a Christian perspective on the referendum. Christians disagree on the issues involved and Christians will have voted on both sides but all Christians would agree with the teachings in the Bible passages we briefly looked at: God made the whole world and is in control (Psalm 16); God oversees all governments and rulers (Romans 13); Christians can trust in God (Psalm 8); and the mission Jesus left his followers was to go to every nation and people group with the good news (Matthew 28). As always at FBS, we wanted to give the boys the opportunity to understand the Christian viewpoint so that they can say what they think in response.
Chaplain’s update: April 2016
Each Monday morning I lead a staff briefing covering three areas: the Christian ethos of the school, pupil welfare and staff welfare. Earlier this term we spent three weeks thinking about the best way to support boys through bereavement.
We began be recognising the reality of death and bereavement. Every 22 minutes a child in Britain is bereaved of a parent, but bereavement can also take other forms. The death of a brother or sister, grandparent, other family member, family friend, another child or anyone they see on a regular basis wills be traumatic. Boys may also experience loss in relation to other aspects of their lives: parental separation or divorce, death of a pet or moving to a new area and leaving familiar surroundings and friends behind. Even moving from primary to secondary school can be a form of bereavement. Each individual will respond in different ways to experiences of loss and bereavement, leading to a range of feelings.
We then thought about how we could best support boys through bereavement. We discussed the well-known five stage Kubler-Ross model (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) although these are only a starting point to understanding what boys may be going through. They don’t always happen and they don’t always happen in this order – it is more like a whirlpool picture. Just being aware of these stages, however, is helpful, both for those supporting the bereaved person and the bereaved person themselves as it allows them to apply some kind of framework to their emotions.
Keeping up routines is helpful for someone bereaved, as is spending time with friends. However, one of the best thing we found we could do is give them opportunities to talk and be good listeners. Good listening is a powerful tool.
We finished by thinking about the Christian viewpoint on death. As a school built on Christian principles it is important that staff and boys understand the Bible’s teaching on a topic as important as life and death, while being free to disagree with it. We considered the Bible’s teaching that death is bad: it came into the world as a punishment for sin. However, Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead mean Christians have a great and certain hope in the face of death. The penultimate chapter of the Bible says that there will be no more death or mourning in heaven. That doesn’t mean death isn’t sad for Christians now – Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died.
Chaplain’s update: February 2016
A number of boys have been attending the weekly Christian Unions (CUs), which take place on a Tuesday lunchtime for Year 8 and a Thursday lunchtime for Year7. On some weeks up to 20 boys can be at a particular CU. Last term both groups looked at parts of Luke’s Gospel, using ‘Uncover’ books and this term both groups are looking at verses in the Bible book of Romans. However, there is plenty of opportunity to just turn up and ask questions about anything to do with the Bible, the school’s Christian ethos, that week’s assembly themes, or things that have been in the news.
We asked some of the boys what they enjoyed about CU and why they gave up some of their lunchtime to come along. Here’s what they said.
Oscar found the discussions about the end of the world really interesting, as did Freddie. Freddie also liked the Uncover books we used last term. Christopher said he liked learning about Jesus and Thomas is enjoying learning about the book of Romans a couple of verses at a time.
Jack and Francis like the fact that CU is a place where they can talk about big ideas. Harry and Ricardo also liked the fact you could ask any question. James thought it was a really good chance to talk about his personal faith. Finally, Steven appreciated the fact he could say what he thought in the discussions at CU, even when he disagreed with some of the ideas that were being talked about.
Chaplain’s update: December 2015
One of the strands to our weekly assemblies is ‘Christians who have had an impact’. Here are two the boys have learnt about this term.
Va’aiaga Tuigamala is a former rugby player who played on the wing and at centre. He comes from Samoa but played for both Samoa and New Zealand, including for the latter at the 1991 rugby union World Cup. In 1993 he switched to rugby league and played for Wigan Warriors. He scored tries in the 1995 and 1996 cup finals before moving back to rugby union. In 1997 he joined Newcastle Falcons for a world record fee of £1million and put in a man of the match performance in the 2001 cup final.
Tuigamala was a powerful, fast and devastatingly effective player. With the rugby world cup taking place and boys competing against other schools in rugby he was an inspiring person to learn about. He was a Christian and his Christian faith had an impact on the way he played rugby and was noticed by everyone he played with. The boys thought about some words of Tuigamala describing his teenage years: ‘my passion was for sport, and like many youngsters, I was so caught up with it that I had little time for working out “the meaning of life”’
John Laing was a British businessman and entrepreneur. The company he headed was responsible for building projectors including the first UK motorway, the new Coventry cathedral, the Millenium Stadium, and power stations, bridges, airports, railways and hospitals all over the world. Laing took over the company in 1900 – when he died in 1978 it was 1600 times bigger and he had been knighted by the Queen. He was a brilliant business leader and embodied all the enterprise skills valued by our school but was also a Christian whose faith shaped his approach to his work. He made an effort to know as many of his staff by name as possible, introduced sick pay, pensions and poor weather lay-off pay before they became law, kept his word to clients even if that meant demolishing something and starting again to do it properly and gave away almost all his income to charities and Christian groups. Laing, like Tuigamala, is a great role model for our boys.