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Should Christ's Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 11:53 am
by Spoonbill
The older I get, the more I perceive so-called Faith schools as being a bad thing. By all means acquaint pupils with what religion is and what the different world religions stand for - and yes, definitely inculcate into the pupils universal ideas about what constitutes decent, humane behaviour. But confine all ideas about morality to common sense morality and leave it at that, eh?

When I was at CH I felt pretty uncomfortable about Catholic kids, Jewish kids and a Sikh kid being required to attend Chapel. It made the school system look so ignorant and insensitive. I realise that partly it was to do with pupil-supervision (herding all the kids together so that the staff knew where they all were) - but it still seemed wrong and lacking in respect. Likewise, seeing today’s multicultural schoolchildren having to sing Anglican or Catholic hymns at assembly in state schools merely because their nearest state school happens to be a Christian foundation strikes me as not only wrong but arrogant to the point of brutally boneheaded.

Don’t get me wrong here: I do think it’s very important to instil some spark of spiritual awareness into young people (not that one achieves that by making kids sing hymns at assembly, mind you). But I don’t see that spiritual awareness is achieved by forcing hours, days, weeks and years of compulsory Anglican Christianity on pupils when most of them are simply bored by it. Maybe have an optional Christmas singsong each December after the Christmas Tea, make all other services optional too, then leave everything else Christian to the Christian Union. One school chaplain is surely enough.

As for Grace at meals.....Difficult to know what to say. Maybe it should simply be reworded so that all it is is an acknowledgement of how fortunate the pupils are plus a nod in the direction of the Founders and Benefactors. Certainly none of that Blessed Lord tosh, though.

I say all this as someone who has fond memories of dining hall Grace. I just think it’s inappropriate these days though, just like compulsory Chapel. If pupils want to attend Chapel, fine. If they want to join the choir, fine. I have no objection to an extant, functioning chapel, any more than I have any objection to the existence of parish churches. Why should I? I just think that the whole idea of a school where kids have a particular religion or denomination forced on them is wrong. Even if it’s their parents’ deliberate choice for them, I still think it’s wrong, like forcibly bringing your kids up as Moonies.

Not that I imagine that compulsory Christianity actually has much effect on schoolkids one way or the other. I simply think that there’s a time and a place for everything. Besides, how does forcibly boring the crap out of schoolkids help to awaken their spiritual side? An afternoon spent walking in the countryside around CH would surely be more likely to achieve that result.

But here’s the thing. Would it actually be legally allowable to drop the whole Anglican foundation thing, should the school governors ever come to their senses and start thinking clearly and incisively instead of simply wallowing in rose-tinted, conservative nostalgia re. their own schooldays? That’s to say, to how great an extent is the Church of England bound up with the school?

I realise that Edward VI was a diehard Anglican and that his own strong religious principles played a big part in everything he did, including founding CH. But so what? It was a different world back then. And heck, it’s not as if CH is run by a religious order like Stoneyhurst and Ampleforth, so what’s to stop the school from being dragged into the 21st Century? I’m not advocating iconoclasm and the total destruction of everything the school is built on. I’d just like to see the governors stand back a little way in order to focus more clearly on the school and how it can best serve its pupils in an era that’s by no means the 16th Century.

I’m guessing that there’s a foundation charter somewhere and that in the charter there’s a load of Anglican Christian stuff about the principles upon which the school is founded. But how well does that stuff serve today’s pupils, really?

(NB: In responding to this post, try not to let your own organised religious beliefs get in the way - or inevitably your response will by definition be invalid. That’s to say, if you’re a committed and practising Christian, you’ll obviously think that practising Christianity is a good thing. That’s not what this thread is about. )

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 3:46 pm
by Mark1
It's certainly an interesting question you raise, but rather futile if personal perspectives on religion must be ignored; ironically, Spoonbill, you make your views patently clear in your post.

Sticking to the issue of CH and other faiths though...
As a recent CH leaver who has spent the majority of the past year living and interacting within non-Christian communities abroad, I find myself both grateful and frustrated for the religious grounding that CH offered: grateful that I can empathise to some extent with those for whom religion is an integral part of life, in a way that many other students from secular upbringings seem unable to; and frustrated that our study of other major religions was cursory at best, and that for all our projects on Hindu death rites or Islamic calligraphy I recall not a single academic encounter with anyone Muslim or Jewish.
It's with a little shame that I find it easier to empathise with Jews and Muslims from the US, where I've spent just one year (and have non-Christian friends), than I do with those from the same religious groups from the UK (which I have never interacted with); I can certainly see room for progress at CH...

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 4:04 pm
by Ajarn Philip
Spoonbill wrote:When I was at CH I felt pretty uncomfortable about Catholic kids, Jewish kids and a Sikh kid being required to attend Chapel.
While I admire your concern for your fellow 'boy', I think it would be more relevant to hear their own views on the topic. I was brought up attending the Baptist Church and being a 'Lifeboy', so CH was a bit of a surprise in some ways. Can't say it bothered me much, and I haven't seen any evidence on here that it's a particular bone of contention for current or recent pupils. There are a lot more important issues around at the moment.

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 4:37 pm
by NEILL THE NOTORIOUS
AHA ! Could it possibly be, that "Spoonbill" likes to be controversial --- just for the sake of it --- and to wind us up ?
As a Christian, I believe, in every sense, I am able to control my immediate reaction to his remarks.
We remember his assertation that "Christ's Hospital was designed to be Gay" -- and the number of Posts which that engendered.
I recall, when at CH, that one of my very good friends was Jewish, and attended Chapel, since it was required, but made his point, by reading a "Good Book" during Services ! --- I liked that !
Should "Spoonbill", and I , ever meet, I would , of course, offer him the Other Cheek ------- but I would like to poin out that,

YOU ONLY GET ONE SHOT ! :mutley:

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 5:20 pm
by englishangel
If you read Spoonbill's previous posts he takes great delight in being contentious, Devil's advocate, whaT YOU WILL.

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 7:52 pm
by kerrensimmonds
When I was at Hertford, there were two (to my knowledge) girls who were not C of E. One was a Roman Catholic and was allowed to visit an RC church locally, the other was a Jewess and allowed to exit the campus to attend a synagogue in Hertford. Curiously, both were brilliant musicians (I seem to remember both as organists....) and so within the school Chapel they both performed musically in a faith setting which was not inherent to them. The latter complained, many years later (and after the demise of Hertford) that she had not been presented with a Leaver's Bible when she left (we might note her onward progress to a reputable higher education college within the University of London and her subsequent glittering career as Head of an Oxford College, later with numerous highly acclaimed public appointments and now she is a member of the House of Lords). The then Headmaster at Horsham rectified the omission immediately upon hearing of her complaint.... so she now has a CH Leaver's Bible, of which she is very proud.
So I don't think that the 'faith' focus of Christ's Hospital is necessarily prescriptive.
I hope that this religious tolerance may continue, but I would resist any opening of the floodgates. CH is pre-eminently C of E but the C of E has always been tolerant, and a 'broad church'. I would wholeheartedy resist any move to dilute this situation as far as admissions to Christ's Hospital is concerned.

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 8:21 pm
by englishangel
Kerren I seem to remember there was a girl in your yer in 3's, very straigh short blonde hair, who was a strict Baptist. No music, no makeup, not TV, movies etc. Unfortunately I was a Baptist and DR got very huffy when I wanted to go to the cinema (to see The 10 commandments"!) and then swung the other way when I didn't get confirmed.

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 9:17 pm
by Jo
Gosh, this is a really difficult one. The only thing I'm absolutely certain of is that faith schools shouldn't get any government funding. I've said elsewhere that I'd like to see the C of E disestablished, and society becoming much more secular.

However, CH has an irrefutable C of E history and in many ways I think it has a right to expect that its pupils will follow the normal C of E rituals, at least outwardly, and at least to a basic level. Chapel on Sundays, etc etc. If people have a problem with that they they should question why they want to send their kids to CH at all. If I'd had kids I would have had a real dilemma on my hands wanting them to have a secular education but at the same time thinking CH might be a good option for educational and sentimental reasons. I'm glad I didn't have to face that one :)

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 9:20 pm
by lonelymom
Jo wrote: However, CH has an irrefutable C of E history and in many ways I think it has a right to expect that its pupils will follow the normal C of E rituals, at least outwardly, and at least to a basic level. Chapel on Sundays, etc etc. If people have a problem with that they they should question why they want to send their kids to CH at all.
I agree totally! I have said exactly the same thing on occasion.

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 9:28 pm
by midget
I agree. Some time ago I read an interview with the Lady to whom Kerren referred. She appeared to condemn CH for not taking enough notice of her Jewish faith. Did she or her parents not know that CH was founded on CofE ideas?

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 9:41 pm
by englishangel
One would have supposed that the name of the school would have given a bit of a clue.

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 9:59 pm
by kerrensimmonds
Probably, Maggie. But it was just after WW2, and the family were marooned in London. If there was any prejudice about her Jewishness it was almost certainly not on behalf of her family, but on the school side. That she has turned out to be such a credit to CH (despite the faith dislocation) is remarkable. I last saw her about six weeks ago - she came to give a 'distinguished lecture' at our University and as the 'contact' I was in evidence as the taxi driver etc. Not only was the lecture an absolute triumph, but she acknowledged not only me but also the CH connection in her 'public' acknowledgement of the University's 'grateful thanks'.
She was really lovely. If I cast myself back 50 years or so (when I can still see her, a pretty fearsome figure, walking across the playground behind 2's, to go to the synagogue) I could never have imagined sharing a hug and a kiss nearly 50 years later, as we did in February.
I felt very humbled..

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 10:11 pm
by kerrensimmonds
Mary...re the 'Baptist ' with straight blond hair in my year, are you thinking of Chrissy Barnett - 3's?

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 10:24 pm
by onewestguncopse
CH is an Anglican foundation and the Chapel is at the heart of the school (geographically and to a lesser extent philosophically). The school does allow pupils from all faiths and none to join us but also makes it clear that Chapel is an itegral part of the school's life. Chapel services do not 'force' faith upon students but I would argue (as a TP teacher) that a significant number are religious, some more active than others, but very few are anti spirituality. Many find Chapel boring but that is our problem to solve rather than a reason to bow to the humanists.

Re: Should Christ’s Hospital Stop Being a Faith School?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 10:40 pm
by J.R.
As I've grown old(er), I've come to realise that religion is elitist.

I was baptised and confirmed in the CH Chapel.

I refused to enter a Catholic Church until I had been married some 5 years, when a relative of Jans, (a Catholic), died. She comes from CofE/Catholic parents, hence we married in a registry office and had a blessing in a CofE Church for ANYONE who wished to attend.

Nowadays, I believe every religion should make more effort to integrate, maybe family wise and by visiting each others places of worship.

No - We don't attend Church these days, apart from 'Hatches, Matches and Despatches', bending now more to the old pagan way of life.

Too many people are being killed and persecuted in this world in the name of religion !