Lessons from church schools

PritchardPresented by Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, chair of the Board of Education, Church of England 

Bishop John’s theme was drawing lessons from the Church’s work in education to apply to work on health. He referenced the seven types of church engagement in health in Jim McManus’ paper and went on to give five principles, drawn from the Church’s experience in education, which he felt would also apply to the Church’s engagement in health.

  1. History is on our side and is still being made. The Church was here before the State in Education and Health and is still here, and relevant. We have experience, knowledge and intellectual capital the State can use.
  2. Churches were in a dual church-state system of schools with the state and this was the same with health (church-state). We now have a developing multi-provider system in both education and in heath. In education we have church schools, academies, free schools, state schools etc and in health we have state provision, private sector provision, voluntary sector provision and church provision. The health service map of provision opportunities is opening up and creates opportunities for the church
  3. In Education we have ethos led engagement (Christian ethos on Education.) The same is true in health. Church schools have an ethos, so should Church health engagement – every human life is made in the image of God. Faithful (faith-filled) compassion informs our practice.
  4. The Church bears robust witness to a particular theological anthropology that gives the highest value to human life and dignity. This applies both to education and to health. Christ’s life, death and resurrection give us the foundations for this. But we need a deeper theological underpinning that engages with medical science, psychology and sociology.
  5. The Church works in critical solidarity with the state. We start in solidarity and goodwill but affirm our distinctive insights, convictions and areas of work. This is true both in Education and in health.

The precious gifts we have to offer need to be recognised by our secular and post-secular world. John recounted the story of Joshua Bell, the musician. Famous and gifted, he played one day in the subway and raised but a few dollars. That evening he played Carnegie Hall and was lauded, and paid thousands of dollars. His genius was not recognised in the subway yet recognised when he played Carnegie Hall for thousands of dollars. It was the same music though. The genius of the Christian faith is not often recognised or appreciated and too often secular blindness sets in. So we need to have confidence because we have glorious music to offer.

Canon Desmond from South Africa said in a brief response that they are neither apologetic not arrogant in South Africa about their faith. In the UK he finds us very apologetic. We need to be confident, but not triumphalistic.

John Pritchard presentation

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