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Sunday 8 September 2024 Education Sunday

Beyond the Three Rs
Mark 4:1-12

By Samantha Dennis
Anglican Self-Supporting Minister (Diocese of Derby), Deputy Director of Education (Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham)

Context: an evangelical church in an urban market town, the congregation are a mix of ages but primarily of retirement age

Aim: to consider education as a means to help each of us live life to the full

I wonder what springs to mind when you hear the word education. Perhaps your thoughts take you back to your school days. If so, I expect there will be a range of emotions in the room – some of you will have loved just about every moment of school, others will have hated every second and maybe the rest of you will be more philosophical, and remember the good and the bad. I expect you can also remember a teacher who had an impact on you.

Teaching is a demanding profession, but the rewards are great; helping pupils to grow as learners and as people is a privilege. The pleasure of working with and being with children is that it never fails to amaze us and amuse us. From the 3-year-old, having held 2 minutes silence on Remembrance Day, saying she thought of her uncle (a soldier) in her head and Jesus in her heart; to the 5-year-old consoling her teacher, when learning about the death of Jesus, by telling her not to worry as we get a new one every Christmas!
However, the challenges for our teachers are great too. Education in this country is a continually and rapidly changing landscape driven by the political party in power and the inspectorate. The foundations for these agendas are to improve exam results and close the achievement gaps between social groups – the haves and have-nots. So, a clear moral purpose but one that could go further…

… and it does!
Church schools have a vision for education that extends to the whole sector. It is a vision drawn from John 10:10, a vision for ‘Life in all its fulness’, rooted in wisdom, dignity, hope and living well together. Of course, our schools should be teaching the three Rs but so much more needs to be imparted for our young people to be the best version of themselves.
Today’s schools are places where our young people are encouraged to explore spirituality, places that develop the whole child and go beyond the three Rs; places that aim to prepare young people for the rest of their lives. None of us are ever really the finished project, so our young people are also equipped to be lifelong learners.
Our schools should be places where our children can ask those big questions, explore their spirituality and discover what it is that they believe. The same is true of our churches. They should be places of good soil where everyone can continue to learn and flourish in the love of Christ.

The reading we have just heard begins ‘Again Jesus began to teach …’. The techniques Jesus used to teach are not overly different from those used today. Many teachers will use story to explain something new and complicated. And I am sure many teachers today can be heard to say ‘Are you listening to this? Really listening?’ when a pupil fails to concentrate. As they say ? some things never change.
Jesus was telling people to concentrate. He was telling them to listen beyond the words of his stories– to listen to the meaning within. He wanted them, and He wants us, to be like the good soil - fertile soil; ready to meet with God, to really get to know Him with the ultimate reward that fully nourished we will be able to flourish.
In Jesus we have a teacher who calls each of us, of any age, to continually learn. To be wise by reflecting on our experiences and by holding Christ at the centre of everything we do. To treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of background. To live well together by disagreeing well and acknowledging we are not all the same. And he offers us hope, a hope of life beyond the here and now, a hope that in the darkest times, the light will eventually break through. A hope that everyone should know.


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