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The Christadelphian | March 2014

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Some new thing
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning “In sincerity and in truth” | Hamilton Wilson
  • Studies in Matthew’s Gospel 03 “The kingdom of heaven” | John Benson
  • Tall el-Hammam A response to “Where was Sodom?” | Leen Ritmeyer
  • Archaeology in focus 03 Book Review | James Andrews
  • The purpose of the Ecclesia 02 The Ecclesia as the temple of God | Peter Anderton & Paul Tovell
  • Bible Companion | John Hignley
  • Learning English with the Bible | Luke Buckler
  • Enhancing our worship Suggestions for March | John Botten
  • Faith Alive! Manasseh | Michael Movassaghi
  • “Train up a child in the way …” A parent’s view of HCB | Joni Mannell
  • Signs of the times Riots in Ukraine | Roger Long
  • Israel and their Land A right to exist | Roger Long
  • Epilogue What a contrast | David Simpson
  • The brotherhood near and far

 

A sample article from this edition:

“Train up a child in the way …”

A parentæs view of Heritage College Birmingham

It only feels like two minutes ago Elias, our oldest son, was being born. Yet, we’ve just had to submit our application for his place at primary school in September. Decisions that I never even considered two years ago suddenly feel significant. We’ve definitely shifted from deciding which brand of nappies to use. As parents, with two of God’s children in our custody, we are now faced with defining for our own family the ethos we intend to adopt towards their educational experience.

Changing perspectives

I find myself reopening the memories of my own schooling. As is so often the case in life, the past tends to be one of the most profound influencers of present feelings and future decisions. Walking back down the mental corridors of that period in my life is easily done and I am instantly struck by how much my perspectives have changed. My whole school experience felt like an eternity, a prison from which I could never escape. Now of course it seems like a tiny dot on the landscape of my life although doubtless one that has left its mark on my character.

My recollection of school days is that they were bad, really bad, and I try to put my finger on the reason why. It’s not that I struggled academically. Whilst I should have left school with better credentials than I did, it was more a lack of application than ability. It wasn’t parental pressure. My parents set no expectations of my performance, prospects or possibilities other than encouraging me to seek contentment in my destination. It wasn’t the quality of the schools I attended. They weren’t upper class or inner-city, but the most ordinary rural Yorkshire schools with very average aspirations and a typical appetite for brass bands, rugby and cricket.

The root of my problem was a great difficulty in reconciling my experiences in the Truth with the world I encountered at school. I took for granted, at the time, the amazing blessing of growing up amongst a highly spiritually focused and motivated group of peers. My parents made great sacrifices to ensure we had every opportunity to spend time with Christadelphian friends and it was typical to use fraternals and other ecclesial events to socialise. The friendships made, in the main, matured into fellowship. For us it was normal and fun to do the readings together, even if it was part of a trip or a meal out. There was a natural attraction to, and vibrancy about, the word of God for which I owe a debt to those who enhanced it for us. It was this dichotomy, however, between my social experience within the brotherhood and its sharp contrast every day at school that, for me personally, made that environment very challenging. I remain eternally grateful that the choice of where my allegiance was going to lie was made very easily and naturally at an early point in my life.

I wonder if this conflict isn’t a natural and predictable part of our spiritual journey. Would I rather my children had no consciousness or sense of the challenge that Christ places on our feelings of comfort in the world’s environment? I will take no pleasure in seeing my children struggle to understand where and how they fit in to life’s jigsaw puzzle, but I understand that to know Christ is to have to tackle the awareness of the decisions and choices he introduces to our lives. I can’t imagine my emotionally charged youthful tears and angst were a joy to deal with on a Sunday night after a great weekend around spiritual things. I can remember deeply the depth and strength of the feelings and struggle that were provoked. When I first analysed my response to the suggestion of a Heritage College in the UK I was a definite sceptic. I instantly saw the perceived inherent flaws in the concept, such as the multiple implications of educating and ejecting cohorts of children wrapped in spiritual, academic, commercial and social cotton wool. The more I listened to the discussion, however, the more I was interested to realise that the college is not intended to be a closeted commune. Christadelphian children will be mixed in an equal or lower ratio to non-Christadelphian children and the national curriculum will be followed. In fact, in most respects, the school would be typical for the UK. The critical differentiator of Heritage College would be the ethos and culture of the school, normally the most difficult element of school life to cope with or influence. To send your child to school in a place where at least the principles and practice of the word of God are commonplace and respected would surely be a great blessing?

Spiritual development

There are many points of view and variety of issues open for debate in a project like this. Even a scriptural imperative to embark on such a project would, in my opinion, be weak. So the real question comes down to what I want for my own children. If I search deeply and honestly, what are the aspirations I harbour for them and what do I want them to gain from their education? I realise that whilst I have an inherent desire for them to explore their potential, do their best, be glad of the opportunities that life in a developed Western culture will afford them and to be enabled to secure a relatively comfortable life, I also have a stronger desire that will transcend the quality of their exam results or career prospects.

For the health and strength of their spiritual development I want my children to learn the value of godliness and its permeation through all the compartments of life. I want them to esteem moral virtue and to think on whatever is true, honest, just, pure and lovely. I want them to see their Bible as the most extraordinary text book, historical record, artefact and personally defining work of literature they will ever encounter. I want them to feel honour at the prospect of their name being written in the book of life.

How will this be done? Clearly, we have to look at ourselves first as parents and examine the primary example of our own daily lives. But surely it will be strongly conveyed in the direction we give, the reasons we cite and the choices we make that will impact on at least twelve of the most influential years of our children’s lives through primary and secondary education.

Home schooling isn’t something that many families feel is either right or possible for them personally. It wasn’t something my mother would have felt was possible for her to offer. Maybe my example is a case not to take our children out of mainstream schools. Most of us have come through them and survived. The reaction I had to my circumstances may even be an abnormally extreme case. I have a suspicion however that even the rural Yorkshire schools I attended are not the same today as the ones I left behind over twenty years ago. Even then, had there been an alternative education option available, I know my parents would have considered it.

Even without a clear scriptural mandate for such a venture, for children in our families and ecclesias, those not yet born, toddling around or already in the system, could a Heritage College at the very least be a really positive influence in their spiritual well-being to provide, within a flawed system, the best educational environment we can?

Joni Mannell

 

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