Aylsham High School Festival of Faith
Do God and politics mix? How will Brexit affect the Church? How does faith motivate the work of Christians in politics? Who would Jesus vote for?
Last November students at Aylsham High School had the opportunity to explore these questions, and many others, as they investigated the significance of faith in the modern world through assemblies, lunchtime talks and RE lessons as part of the school’s inaugural Festival of the Christian Faith week.
Aylsham Parish Church, in partnership with the school’s Religious Studies Department, put on the Festival of Faith as a creative way to help the students to learn about the Christian faith and explore some of life’s biggest questions.
A panel of clergy and youth workers from around the Diocese sat in nearly 50 RE classes to answer questions from the students, and guest lunchtime speakers also explored how their faith impacts their work in subjects as diverse as literature, science, medical research, the media and politics.
The talks were delivered by academics and Christian personalities including the Revd Kate Bottley (BBC Radio 2; Gogglebox etc.); Prof Tom McLeish (Physicist, University of York); Prof Robin Kirkpatrick (Professor of English and Italian Literature, University of Cambridge), Prof Hill Gaston (Medical School, University of Cambridge) and Tim Farron MP.
Several of the guests who took part in the festival were struck by the political knowledge, insight and curiosity the students demonstrated. Tim Farron MP notably commented that the students ‘were very engaged and asked some insightful questions’ during his lunchtime session on Faith and Politics.
Tim Farron spoke to the young people from his office in Westminster, just moments after Prime Minister’s Questions, via an online video link platform. Tim said “I was thrilled to take part. In our pluralist society, it is vital that students are given the opportunity to investigate and understand the message of the Christian faith and its continuing relevance to all aspects of life. I was pleased to be able to talk to them about the way in which my faith motivates my politics. The Bible is intensely political, and Jesus told us to love our neighbours as ourselves, which means seeking the best for everyone in society. The school and local church did a great job in putting on this event.”
A year 8 boy said after the session that “It was fantastic. It was interesting that things you wouldn’t expect – like Faith and Politics – actually go together really well.” One year 9 student commented, “I couldn’t believe that Tim Farron came straight from talking to Theresa May to speak to us.” Helen Jacquet, Head of Religious Studies at Aylsham High School, noted that the talk “was a great insight into the role that faith can play in a person’s life beyond the school gates or a church building.”
Students also asked a number of questions on the subject of politics during RE classes. It was argued numerous times in different ways by the Christian panellists that when the Bible speaks about preaching good news to the poor; setting slaves free; proclaiming freedom for the prisoners; releasing the oppressed; having compassion and welfare for the vulnerable; welcoming the stranger; it is discussing essentially political ideas.
It was said on one occasion that the Bible could almost be read at certain points as a political manifesto in which the least, the last, and the lost were central. One panellist suggested memorably that their faith prompts them to try and look beyond self-interest and personal gain when voting in elections, but rather to seek the common good, prioritising policies that help marginalised and disadvantaged people. This sentiment seemed to resonate with many of the young people: one year 7 student said after that particular session: “That was the best RE lesson ever!”
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When people in Norfolk ask the Revd Philip Harvey where he's from, he pauses. The pause accounts for the fact that he left Australia in 2002, then lived in Germany, Oman, Luxembourg and, since July 2017, in Sprowston (north Norwich) as curate. He shares his thoughts on the perspective this physical and spiritual journey has given him.More
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Lee Marsden, Professor of Faith and Global Politics, University of East Anglia considers a faith response to our current geopolitical turmoil.More
Seeing Christ in those we disagree with
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Faith and politics: what would Jesus do?
Catherine Waddams, economist and professor considers Jesus' response in the political arena.More