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.